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DVD Review: Law And Order: Trial By Jury – The Complete Series

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For a show that was supposed to be about jurors, Trial By Jury didn’t give them a lot of time. Trial By Jury, the latest in the series of Law And Order spin-offs, felt more like a retread of the original. The “Jury” part was touched upon near the end of each episode. This provided more interesting scenes than the ones with the prosecutors and the detectives.

While under the guise of being a different Law and Order, it also served as the vehicle for Jerry Orbach, who played Lennie Briscoe on the original Law and Order and had left for this spin-off. In between shooting the first three episodes, Orbach had passed on — so did any sort of hope for the series. The excitement was Jerry’s character and his passing made a bigger mess of an already poorly executed series.

Bebe Neuwirth and Amy Carlson were basically the female counterparts of Michael Moriaty and Richard Brooks, except without the soul. As prosecutors, they didn’t have nearly the internal conflict that Brooks and Moriaty had. They were too busy frothing over the victims of each episode and seeking justice regardless of evidence or the lack thereof. The detectives who play a part in the show aren’t any better.

Without the familiarity of Briscoe around, his replacement (Scott Cohen of Street Time) came in to take his place – as an egomaniac. The partner (Kirk Acevedo), having been an equal to Briscoe, now felt like Jimmy Olsen to Clark Kent. Hey, the detective side was always better than the prosecutors in the original L&O. They had the better dialogue and were fully developed characters in the early years. With that missing here, there’s nothing to turn to when one part gets irritating. Speaking of which, what were all those extra people?

It might have been just me, but it seemed they always had a few people on the prosecutors’ side and the detectives’ side who randomly appeared without much explanation. Sometimes there would be ten to a room, including the main characters on both sides. Law And Order benefited from having a lot of to do with a small ensemble. Here it felt like they had invited a small but noticeable portion of the audience in for the ride.

As for the episodes, they all seemed too fast and too hurried to judgment on cases. Suspects were guilty either because victims and/or relatives said so or because they were hiding it all along. The proof was barely existent and assembled sloppily in the name of putting the focus on the jury. As I said, they were only given a few minutes, even if the name of the show was Trial By Jury.

I didn’t bother with the special features of the DVD set. I’m pretty sure even Special Victims Unit’s cast could out-act the cast of TBJ (The episode “Night” features two members of the former cast working with the latter). “A Different Look at Law and Order” is the usual public relations fluff piece. I’m sure the Deleted Scenes would be of no interest to me when the scenes they put in were bad.

I will say, the saving grace for the series – in it’s original and the spin-off’s – has to be composer Mike Post. He knows how to set the tone for what a day of New York’s law enforcement is like (he did so several other times, including Hill Street Blues). Sadly, that wasn’t enough for me to finish watching the rest of the short-lived series.

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About Matthew Milam

  • http://childoftv.blogspot.com Brent

    The show’s major flaw for me was always that it was the unadulterated embodiment of what happens in most of the “Law & Order” series. The cops always get the right man, the prosecutors always clad themselves in the armour of righteousness, and the only thing lower than the criminals are the attorneys who defend them despite knowing that they’re guilty Guilty GUILTY. Real life isn’t as clear cut as Nancy Grace and Dick Wolf seem to think it is.

  • http://insidebrain2005.blogspot.com Matthew Milam

    That’s the problem with most Crime TV. They should take a page from the British.

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