Law & Order is touchy. Maybe it’s age—after all the show is an admirably ancient 20 years old, which in TVworld means Willard Scott should’ve offered them congratulations about five seasons back. But this past episode had the reigning Queen Mum of procedurals wagging a bony finger in all sorts of directions, including—perhaps unwittingly—its own.
The ripped headline was actually a hybrid, as they do more frequently these days, of Gosselin greed and Octomom blind ambition. (I suppose the Duggars were spared because they haven’t catapulted lawyers at each other…yet.) The “Jon” (Jim Gaffigan) of the married pair comes home with a van-load of kids, only to discover the “Kate” (Geneva Carr) dead on the floor—blunt force trauma, as they say. He is, of course, the immediate suspect, as is the grasping mother of multiples competing with the couple to get a reality show.
Things get interesting when the reality producer (Michael Showalter) asks Rubirosa (Alana de la Garza) to be on the show, and McCoy (Sam Waterston) insists she do it to get the DA’s spin out there. She’s annoyed, her eyes roll, stomach churns—almost audibly, so we know that we’re supposed to be disgusted by the very idea of Connie lowering herself to be on reality TV. Of course the whole thing backfires when her super secret lawyer notes end up on camera, tipping the defense off to a key witness, just in time for them to get him out of town.
The kicker, though, was the final scene. Rubirosa, McCoy, and Cutter (Linus Roache) are all huddled together, when Cutter and Rubirosa tell McCoy that the reality show is putting “Octomom” (Nina Lisandrello) and “Jon” in a house together, with a human lie detector, “You know, one of those guys who can tell you’re lying by the way you blink,” sneers Connie. And are you ready for the best part? “They’ve asked Arthur Branch to be the judge,” adds Cutter. Boom! There it is! After nearly an hour of mocking Octomom, Jon and Kate, and all of reality TV itself, they couldn’t help getting in parting shots at Lie to Me and former castmate (and Senator, and passing-fancy presidential nominee) Fred Thompson. (Should we be wondering whether or not the conservative pol and the liberal media parted on kissing terms?)
The question is: Was that last scene fair? Tweaking Thompson was funny but graceless, and what’s the point of getting in a lick on Lie to Me? But what was truly egregious was going after reality TV. Hey, I’m no apologist for the genre, but I do have a long memory. Raise your hand if you recall the short-lived series Crime & Punishment. No? Maybe this will help: Sometimes it was referred to as Law & Order: Crime & Punishment, because it was a Dick Wolf-produced reality series about the criminal justice system—as in, assistant district attorneys on TV prosecuting cases. Just like Connie! See that’s the thing, when your boss produced a series juuuuust like the one you’re mocking (sometimes even listed with your brand), maybe you oughta get your snooty little nose out of the stratosphere. If L&O’s producers want to wrestle with the pig that is reality television, fine. But they’ll walk away covered in stink.
We might as well talk about House, both because this was the last new episode until November, and because Chase (Jesse Spencer) is losing it. What’s with lying to Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) about offing Darth Dictator (James Earl Jones)? Isn’t she the one with a history of keeping things from him? At any rate, I’m still terribly curious as to how this story line doesn’t play out with Spencer leaving the show, in addition to Morrison. Is he just somehow going to get over it? Will we be doing a slow fade-out, á la Zack (Eric Milligan) on Bones? Lock him up, visit a few times, then forget he’s there? I’m just saying it’s a long walk back from agonizing guilt to no-thanks-really-I’m-fine-with-torching-the-Hippocratic-Oath.
We can talk about Bones and Castle together, since both episodes were essentially about each of these investigative pairs realizing what they mean to each other. I really appreciated Bones addressing Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth’s (David Boreanaz) attraction, because it seemed to be a dead issue after episode 2 or so. And Booth was right to feel betrayed that she’d shared his story about eggs in meatloaf looking like eyeballs. It was their thing. Castle was just pure cute, with Beckett (Stana Katic) secretly miffed that Castle (Nathan Fillion) would dump Nikki Heat for a little Bondage, and Castle tweaked that she’d want to be rid of him. One tiny quibble: A dead man could see where that plot was going, and that the kid was hers. But I am willing to forgive Castle many things, including the occasional obvious plot issue. You can coast for a minute or two on charm.
One programming note, Coppers. The column is going on hiatus because somebody feels like they need to go on vacation. I don’t want to call anybody out, but her name sounds like Melinda Tweet. So there will be an open thread Friday and next Tuesday for y’all to talk about whatever procedural business comes up, and I’ll be back in action on Friday, Oct. 30.
So let me know what you thought about the past few days. Did Castle disappoint just a twinge? Were you as annoyed by L&O’s sanctimoniousness as I was? Does House’s comment to Cuddy, “You do make me feel funny,” count as the sweetest thing he’s ever said? Holla. And remember, let’s be careful out there.