Monday, June 27, 2011

‘Intent’ Comes to an End, Still Tormenting Its Star

New York Times, 6.27.11

There are plenty of worthy cop shows, and “The Good Wife” has brought a fresh thrill to the ripped-from-the-headlines procedural. But it was still hard to watch the final episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” without a pang of regret.

The Dick Wolf empire is waning. After 20 years “Law & Order” shut down for good last year. The short-lived spinoff “Law & Order: Los Angeles” was canceled last month. When “Law & Order: SVU” returns in the fall, Christopher Meloni won’t be in it, and Mariska Hargitay will appear in only about half of the episodes.

And “Criminal Intent,” which lasted for 10 years, 6 on NBC and 4 on the USA Network, had its final episode on Sunday night on USA. (NBC, its sister channel, plans to broadcast the finale on Aug. 1.)

The entire season had a valedictory feel. Vincent D’Onofrio returned to the show to reprise his role as Robert Goren, the brilliant, tormented detective who channels the criminal mind while his more prosaic partner, Alex Eames (Kathryn Erbe), looks for evidence.

Dick Wolf, who had “Dragnet” in mind when he created the first “Law & Order,” devised a case-based formula that no casting change could derail. “Criminal Intent” was a little different, however. Other actors, including Chris Noth and Jeff Goldblum, rotated in and out of the series, but the show was always wrapped around the oversize persona of Goren, a former altar boy burdened with a schizophrenic mother and a disturbing ability to bond with killers. Viewers of “Criminal Intent” usually knew who the culprit was. The payoff was in watching Goren agonize — each case a personal Gethsemane — to solve the mystery.

His last season was only eight episodes long and tailored to the character’s mental state, and the city’s. Goren, who had been suspended from the force for psychiatric reasons, was allowed back as long as he saw a psychiatrist. (When a character angrily says to Goren, “Are you insane?” Goren replies, ruefully, “The jury is still out on that one.”)

And the cases served as time capsules of current events and hot New York scandals: drug-addled fashion designers, predator priests, Wall Street hucksters, Internet hackers and even a spoof of the star-crossed Broadway show “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” Cynthia Nixon, who won an Emmy in 2008 for her guest appearance on “Law & Order: SVU” as a woman with multiple-personality disorder, here did another star turn as a mercurial director not so loosely modeled on Julie Taymor.

The final episode was less campy, but no less topical. In a nod to the creation of Facebook, or at least as it was portrayed in the movie “The Social Network,” Goren and Eames are called into the offices of a social networking site, an online matchmaking service. Aryan-looking twins, like the real life Winklevosses, are suing the site’s founders, claiming they helped develop it. It wasn’t the best or most challenging case Goren ever tackled, but it served its purpose, which was to show that Goren’s intuitive skills didn’t diminish as his psyche healed.

Fewer and fewer dramas are set in New York City, let alone filmed on location. “Criminal Intent” lasted 10 years without leaving the city or changing its formula, and that’s a milestone worth noting.

Thanks Linda and Marian!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'Suspended from the force'? I guess we had a mass hallucination he was FIRED - and by his partner! - in 'Loyalty' ;0)

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'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
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