Holidays are excuses for television stations to run marathons of popular series like Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Burn Notice, NCIS or Law and Order — although it’s hard to distinguish between a normal Law and Order schedule and a marathon.  It always on.  Like that boast about the old British Empire – “the sun never sets on Law and Order.”

Nevertheless, being glued to a series marathon can reveal flaws not noticed when you  watched it weekly, or even daily.  Same with films.  Take a look at Sixth Sense three or four times in a row and tell me you don’t find more holes than in a gopher field.

I didn’t find plot holes in the Law and Order’s this marathon holiday as much as I noticed the clichés, which is always an indication of writing laziness.  It’s understandable.  Having written TV series for close to twenty-five years, no one is more aware than I of how hard it is to come up with fresh dialogue for a series going into its fifth to fifteenth season.

The L & O people hit a writing wall in a couple of areas, notably the exit line defense attorneys say to abruptly end their first meeting with the prosecutors – “We’re done here.”

You know the scene: Jack McCoy and the eye-candy assistant D.A. of the season righteously spit out the evidence implicating the defendant.  The defendant’s attorney listens smugly, sneers at the case’s weakness, stands and says, “We’re done here.”  And out they go.

“We’re done here” was once a crisp, original line, like “Pond scum” or “I think not. ”  But it’s now the defense attorney default exit line and the L & O writers don’t seem to want to click on “dialogue options” and change it.  I’ve heard it at least thirty times.  As an avid consumer of the Law & Order industry, I’m disappointed that this is the best retort these really smart defense attorneys and writers can come up with.

I don’t expect anything unique like Monty Python’s famous “I fart in your general direction,” just something completely different.  I’d settle for lines as boringly simple as “We’re going now,” “This meeting’s over” or just a simple, “Buh-bye.”  That’s three or four episode’s worth of scene endings right there.

Others possiblities are “It’s time for us to go home,” “I can find my way out, thank you” or a snide, “I presume the door still works.”   Nature could be an excuse as the attorney rises and says “My client and I have to pee.”

An exit line could reveal a defense attorney’s character if he walks out saying “My back is killing me” or “It’s time to pick up my kid at rehab.”  Some could be downright belligerent — “Is this the best you clods can do?” “I hope you’re not drawing your salary this week!”

If the writers really stretched their imagination they might have a defense attorney drolly say “Excuse us, but spring training’s about to start,” “We’re due at the soup kitchen,” or “We’ve got to leave now if we want to beat crosstown traffic.”

So much for that one.

I could also use a change in the pro-forma “I’m sorry for your loss” Law and Order detectives say when they visit the victim’s nearest and dearest.  They’re always “sorry for the loss.”

Loss?  You lose a wallet or your purse.   Losing a close relative is a friggin’ disaster.

Be that as it may, they’re still sorry for it.

“Sorry for your loss” is now ubiquitous.  Everybody says it.  I’ve seen sympathy cards that are “sorry for your loss.”   I heard a local TV field reporter say it to someone who’s house just burned to the ground.  “I’m sorry for your loss.  How do you feel?”

“Oh, how about I just want to go out and kill myself.”

I’ve even heard people say it when someone’s car was totaled or a friend laid off.   I’m sorry for your loss.   At least the person can get another job; a grieving parent can’t get another son or daughter.

How hard can it be for the writers to come up with something real or heartfelt in those situations.  Granted, it’s tough.  The nature of the series is that it needs a dead person or two each week and it would be a real challenge to come up with something different for each one.  Until then, listen for “I’m sorry for your loss” as the one-size-fits-all condolence.

Another Law and Order line you can bank on when our detectives are seriously questioning the victim’s husband/boyfriend/lover/life-partner as the perp is  “I would never kill her, I loved her.”  A variant is “Why would I kill my wife?  I loved her,” or  “I wouldn’t kill her.  We were going to be married.”  This is quickly followed by an outraged “Instead of accusing me, you should be out there doing your job and finding the bastard who did this to my little girl/wife/son/sister/mother/dog.”

The person is right.  Elliot or Olivia or Briscoe (it’s a marathon, remember), Ed Green, Lupo or Bernard should be out there finding the bastard because the victim’s husband/boyfriend/lover/life-partner is often the first person questioned and in the series’ painfully predictable format the first person questioned is never the perp.  Unless he’s a famous guest star like Robin Williams or Patricia Heaton.  Then you know right away they’re the guilty ones.  Count on it.

So, next time you watch a Law and Order, look for these telltale signs of writing fatigue and see how many you can come up with.

I’m done here.

Be Sociable, Share!