By Michael Slezak
Updated December 29, 2006 at 08:34 PM EST

PopWatchers, once again, I’m feeling conflicted. On one hand, I’ve already marked my calendar for the Jan. 16 installment of Law & Order: SVU that’ll feature two rising big-screen stars, Flags of Our Fathers‘ Adam Beach (at right, who EW’s Dave Karger is calling a safe bet for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) and The Namesake‘s Kal Penn (at left, who I found oddly compelling while barely uttering a word in Superman Returns). I mean, seriously, the writing on this episode has to be a pretty sparkling if it attracted a pair of actors who’ve most likely got their pick of big-screen roles. (For the record, Beach will play a Brooklyn SVU detective who pairs up with Ice-T’s Finn, and Penn will play a suspect in a college rape case.)On the other hand, I’m always a little ambivalent when network crime procedurals cast big-name thespians in guest spots. Think about it: Penn’s not going to sign on for a 30-second scene as a bystander who describes the perp’s parka, right? The minute his character gets introduced, you pretty much know he’s either the guilty party, or at the very least, intimately connected with the crime or criminal. In that sense, it negates the mystery and suspense that might’ve existed if some unknown Joe Thespian played the role.I dunno. Maybe I’m overthinking things. These days, the Sleepytime Fairies are usually circling my head by 10:45 pm. If not them, then it’s the Are My Credit Card Bills Due Today? Gremlins. In other words, am I really looking for Law & Order: SVU to blow my mind? And what’s your take on A-listers invading the L&O/CSI universe?addCredit(“Kal Penn: Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Adam Beach: Michael Germana/Everett Collection”)