I would like to preface this by saying that I do not like cop shows. I do not like the whodunit mystery, the forensic clues, the poorly made up “corpses,” the predictable story lines, the standoffs, the badge flashing, or the too violent interrogations. The CSI: Every Major City trend only disgusted me when it was prevalent. The appeal, however, was not lost on millions of viewers. They asked, blood, bugs, and blondes? What’s not to like?
Nothing, I replied. There is nothing to like about a murder that is punctuated with a bad pun every episode (I’m looking at you, CSI: Miami. Actually, I have an eagle eye on you in particular, Horatio).
And then, one day, I saw the light. Well, actually, I saw an episode of Law and Order: SVU. And it wasn’t like I had never seen an episode of the series before. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard from classmates that they had skipped classes just to see who murdered who in the end and how much time he or she had to serve. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know that it was a great show. I guess I simply hadn’t paid attention before. I guess I had never let myself be invested in the characters, both the cops and the victims. And when I finally made an effort to watch, well, I couldn’t look away.
From Mariska Hargitay’s flawless portrayal as the strong female lead that we all want and need from television to Ice T’s hardboiled act that is tempered by his caring nature for his partner, Amanda (Kelli Giddish). Even with Elliot (Chris Meloni) leaving his longtime role for a short stint on True Blood, SVU has never faltered.
Sure, they rip ideas from the headlines. A lot. And yeah, maybe there are a few too many plot lines that cross into the lives of the cops themselves that inevitably create unneeded melodrama. But if you thought that Law and Order: SVU was just another cop show like I once did, then you would be dead wrong. (I know, I know. I’m no better than Horatio at this point.)
Because it’s not. The entire process is shown, from arrest to courtroom, a side rarely developed in this genre. Usually, the cop in question just stares off into the distance once the baddie is thrown into the back of a squad car in other shows. But not SVU. We see justice at work, or more often, not at work, noting the fallacies in the system. We see cops interacting with criminals at every point, showing the gray areas of the case instead of just the clinching evidence at the end.
But the best part of Law and Order: SVU is what I can’t quantify, what I can’t name. The chemistry of the characters in the precinct. That really iconic dun dun noise when there is a change of scene. The twists and truly insane turns that any episode can take. And, of course, the way that I am completely enamored with it all.
In the end, it’s amazing what good television can do. But really, it’s all about good storytelling. And if after all all of my testimony, you still think I’m crazy for not liking any other cop shows, well, I’m guilty as charged. (Seriously, that was the last one.)