Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Seventh Year

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Seventh Year
Having been around for over 20 years, in various incarnations and criminality specificities, the Law & Order franchise has reiterated the notion that formulaic, template television is a sure-fire hit for those that take comfort in the familiar and predictable. Law & Order: Criminal Intent does vary slightly from the original series, insomuch as the case of the week is followed only to the confession stage, never reaching the courtroom, but ultimately adhering to the prescribed structure of crime setup and resulting investigation, as told through actors doing their best to give life to dry exposition. This pro forma approach to mainstream entertainment caters to the needs of an older demographic, never surprising or challenging on a narrative or intellectual level. Each episode of the seventh season is split between two sets of partners from week to week, again shaking up the formula with minimal invasion. Detectives Mike Logan (Chris Noth, aka Mr. Big) and Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson) poke at dead bodies and harass grieving families one week, while Detectives Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) solve seemingly humdrum cases with an inevitable twist. Sometimes, these cases even get a little blue, like in the episode entitled "Lonelyville," wherein a young Russian girl is bound fetishistically for sexual gratification and ultimately murdered, potentially shocking and titillating the core demographic while reassuring with a timed climax and resolution. Even some moderately well known actors pop up throughout the season, such as Christopher Lloyd playing a magician and Denis O'Hare as a priest, helping pad viewer numbers with advertising gimmicks. Cheap viewership ploys aside, the strength of Law & Order: Criminal Intent comes from the actors and their occasionally quirky interactions. The writers of this particular series do a solid job of subtly integrating the detectives' personal lives into the overall storylines, providing us with a sense of external connection to their jobs. It's not enough to distract from the case of the week or how it unfolds, but the effort does afford the actors a bit of flexibility. This decent writing, strong cast and overall familiarity of the franchise make Law & Order: Criminal Intent an easy viewer experience, but at times, it's a bit too easy. No supplements are included with the DVD set. (Shout! Factory)