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Friday, March 04, 2005

Wolf vs. Bruckheimer

In the ongoing battle between TV production giants Dick Wolf and Jerry Bruckheimer, Wolf has raised the ante with his newest permutation of the Law and Order format, “Law and Order: Trial by Jury.”

Premiering Thursday night, Wolf’s latest effort once again displayed the kind of tight scripting that has built the franchise into such a solid force. In the production wars, Bruckheimer, creator of the CSI franchise, may win for snazzy production-value, but Wolf takes the scripting prize hands down.

I’ve heard that Wolf’s group of writers is the only writing team in Hollywood whose average age is over 40. It shows, and I mean that in the good sense. Of course, my opinion on this is immediately suspect, seeing as how I’m well north of forty.

But, discounting my bias, there’s something to be said for writing that’s forged out of some longevity of life experience. The perpetually clueless television executives, who lust after the coveted youth audience (because these are the people whose buying habits are still in a state of flux), have all concluded (Wolf excepted) that they have to employ writers who aren’t dry behind the ears in order to be relevant to the desired audience.

Suffering one flop after another, they’ve now figured out that they can dispense with the writers altogether by going for the “reality” format.

Despite Wolf's capabilites, I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the new show: what is a guy with a slow southern drawl (Fred Thompson) doing as the New York District Attorney? Everybody knows that real-life NY DA’s are rapid-tongued Italians or Jews, spitting out words at the rate of an AK-47.

And, as always with all the Law and Orders, the assistant (Amy Carlson) to the assistant DA (nicely played by the talented Bebe Neuwirth ) is eye candy. Not to disparage Carlson’s abilities (the jury is out on that—pardon the pun), but can’t they come up with a normal-looking person? The men aren’t hunks. So why do the women always have to be so fetching?

I’m stupid for asking, you would retort—and you would be right. Next you would ask, “why would I mind?” You got me there. If the woman can act--then what the hell—bring on the eye goodies.

Anyway, Bruckheimer and Wolf are certainly ruling the roost for the time being (in standard broadcast TV, that is. I’m not including HBO greats like Brad Grey and Alan Ball. It may be TV, but it’s hardly the same medium).

Alas, nothing is permanent in TVLand. Despite their current domination, the force of these two whirlwinds will at some point begin to fade and pass on, just as it did with the previous king of the producers, David Kelley. Here’s hoping that the next big producer phenom will possess the ability to combine both the slick production-value acumen of Jerry Bruckheimer and the scripting chops of Dick Wolf.

Most likely, he/she will have to be extra-talented in both areas in order to compete with the Reality-TV juggernaut that threatens to take over the airwaves.


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