Through the 20 years of its existence, we’ve seen the “Law & Order” franchise go through many different incarnations: “Criminal Intent,” “Special Victims Unit” and even a British adaptation simply known as “Law & Order: UK.” Now in its 21st year, “Law & Order” is heading out west to the bright lights of Los Angeles. And even in a new city, the series hasn’t lost any of its spunk.

“Law and Order: Los Angeles”

Wednesday’s at 10 p.m.
NBC

The first episode centers around two detectives, Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich, “Jericho”) and TJ Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll, “Salt”), as they investigate thieves targeting the homes of young celebrities, such as Chelsea Sennett (Danielle Panabaker, “The Crazies”) and her mother Trudy (Shawnee Smith, “Saw”). As Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Morales (Alfred Molina, “Spiderman 2”) works to uncover who’s really at the bottom of the robberies, it’s suspected that Chelsea’s own mother is somehow involved with one of the thieves.

Los Angeles brings to mind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the crazy celebrities and their extravagant homes overlooking the valley. “Law & Order: Los Angeles” delivers on all fronts. The show starts right in the middle of a young celebrity’s “night on the town,” and we can see why it was a smart move for the franchise to make the 3,000 mile jump from New York City. The Los Angeles installment has the feel of the old series — everything from the intense court battles to the ever-familiar “dun dun” between scenes. But where else besides L.A. would a young celebrity’s mother get put on the stand for exploiting her daughter?

Morales is one of the exceptional characters in the premiere. From his first appearance, he exhibits a very apparent “get down to business” attitude. Watching him cross-examine Trudy at the end of the episode is almost uncomfortable; viewers are made to feel like they’re in the hot seat themselves. His thirst for justice provides a sense of confidence and audacity that is somewhat lacking from the other main characters.

On that note, the roles of Winters and Jaruszalski are rather dull and unconvincing. Perhaps they need an episode or two to come into their own, but protagonists, especially two veteran Los Angeles policemen, should bring some excitement and emotion to their roles. Fortunately, Terrence Howard (“Iron Man”) is scheduled to join the cast starting this week, hopefully providing a boost.

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” should still prove to be a hit with fans of the series and newcomers as well. It takes an old, familiar formula and transplants it to a new city full of endless possibilities.

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