There simply is not a better television franchise than NBC”s “Law & Order.” You can catch the original on Wednesday nights, “Special Victims Unit” on Friday and starting this season, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” on Sundays.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of NBC

Like most other NBC primetime shows, “Law & Order: CI” is set in New York City. You”d think a network with a head of entertainment whose title is “President, NBC West Coast” would have a bit more geographical diversity. Go figure.

Fortunately, “Criminal Intent” does not dilute the “Law & Order” brand name something every spin-off runs the risk of doing. If the season premiere, which features the police chasing a gang of coke-addicted jewel thieves, is any indication of what to expect from the new series, it promises to be a pretty interesting series.

Vincent Donofrio”s (Gomer Pyle in “Full Metal Jacket”) Detective Robert Goren plays a very logical and calculating detective, willing to do whatever it takes to apprehend the suspects.

For example, in the premiere, he lies to the girlfriend of the gang”s ringleader by saying her boyfriend gave her HIV. His clever action is so effective she leads Detective Goren right to him. Donofrio plays the character well, but he is written as if he is omnipotent. Hopefully his character will show some faults in upcoming episodes, since infallible heroes really are not any fun.

Goren”s partner, Detective Alexandria Eames, is competently played by Katherine Erbe, but at times she delivers her lines rather woodenly. This may explain why she hasn”t been in anything notable since “What About Bob.”

Jamey Sheridan”s Captain James Deakins (“Chicago Hope”) role so far just seems like a typical hard-nosed, cynical captain, but hopefully he will get a bit more character development as the season goes on. Rounding out the regular cast is Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver, played astutely by Courtney B. Vance (“Space Cowboys”), who, like the detectives, has no problem lying to suspects to get them to do what he wants.

Some cheesy lines mar the script (“Bad guys do what good guys dream”), but for the most part “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” is a well written show with well-researched characters. While there are certainly a plethora of cop shows on TV these days, this one stays fresh throughout. Let”s just hope the inevitable crossovers with the other “Law & Order” shows is kept to a minimum, there is no way I can spend two more hours watching TV a week.

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