Sharon Stone began her four-episode guest-star turn on Law & Order: SVU in an episode filled with such clunky dialogue and improbable details that by the end, she seemed like a “special victim” herself.

Stone played ADA Jo Marlowe, and how unlikely is it that, with all the time Christopher Meloni’s Stabler and Mariska Hargitay’s Benson have spent together, he never mentioned that his old partner Jo wasn’t a “Joe”? Looking great even when doffing her heels for rubbery firefighter boots while investigating a possible arson blaze, Stone had to revive her best hard-boiled Catherine Tramell tone to sell hokey lines such as, “Let’s cut Pizza Face loose” and “Let’s light this baby up.”

If the guest star was failed by the script, Meloni and Hargitay must be wearily used to it by now; SVU has long been the most mawkish and overwrought Law & Order franchise. This week’s case was about two children dead in an apartment fire that investigators think was set by an acne-ridden pyromaniac — no, a desperate dad; no, a… aw, who cared? Stabler and Benson cared, of course: They continue to embody righteous indignation; no crime is too small to evade their angry glares and pious speeches when cuffing a perp.

L&O: SVU loves to find new kinkiness to exploit, and last night hit upon “pyrophelia” — a real condition in which the sinner gets off on fire (unfortunately literally, as we were shown tape of the jerk pleasuring himself while gazing at the apartment conflagration).

The interrogation scenes would have been almost laughable in a sitcom. In one, “Pizza Face” went into a swoony erotic trance as soon as Stabler lit a match in front of him. In another, Stabler wiped away sympathetic tears with his handerkerchief to build trust with the dead kids’ father, only to reveal to Stone and Hargitay that he’d used a wily trick I thought only worked in Bugs Bunny cartoons: He’d hidden a Bermuda onion in his hanky!

Even a stern cameo by Sam Waterston (yay, a new episode of the superior Law & Order next Monday!) or a nice brief turn by Brad Dourif as an arson expert couldn’t save the show for Stone’s debut. She got to have nice, big, table-turning scene in the final courtroom showdown, but it was too little, too late.

Did you watch SVU? What did you think of Sharon Stone, and the deadly fire episode?

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