Law And Order: Special Victims Unit “Liberties”

TV Review by Chief Film Critic Joe Viglione

Law & Order: SVU is one of the best shows on television today, though by default.  Without the acuity of the original Perry Mason series with Raymond Burr as his predictable, clever and entertaining-by-genius self, or the sincerity of The Fugitive or Route 66, television audiences of the new millennium are force-fed “human interest” injections.

These added extras generate “the cringe factor” and mar what would be – otherwise – superlative television.

This episode is almost brilliant…and here’s why.  Elliot Stabler, played by Chris Meloni, gets to emulate his character from Oz, the man you love to hate to love, Prisoner #98k514 Chris Keller.  Heck, if you put “Chris Meloni  OZ” in google the first thing you get is some pretty shocking imagery,  which is only part of the anti-hero’s attraction.

However it is the core of Keller’s OZ personality, missing from SVU’s Stabler much of the time – his dark sense of purpose – that is what is so compelling. It is as key as Ashley Judd saying to Keegan Connor Tracy (the Boutique saleswoman) in 1999’s Double Jeapordy ““I haven’t felt this good since the day my husband died

Meloni plunges into the depths when a judge asks him to rough up a prisoner.   Officer Elliot Stabler is far more convincing as the criminal cop than he is as a family man with constant marital troubles which deflate the show on a constant basis. The officer relishes requests to engage in Dick Cheney-styled “enhanced interrogations” – torture – and he comes close to killing the person he is torturing as surely as Chris Keller would in the land of OZ.

Perry Mason was a successful program that lived long and prospered because it gave the people what they want…and they want good drama.  The myriad coincidences with Dann Florek’s Captain Donald Cragen having a drinking problem and Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson dealing with her daddy being a rapist and her mother having a…you guessed it …drinking problem (Like the song Harper Valley P.T.A. by Jeannie C. Riley, most of the vices centered on alcoholism with all other vices being somewhat incidental) … well, this episode almost escaped it until Alan Dale as Judge Kohler also displays his humanity.

And it isn’t that humanity which irks the viewer, it is the gull darn coincidences which just keep popping up on episodes of this show…oh the defendant just happens to have some connection to this jurisdiction – be it the judge on “Liberties” or  other episodes that may feature Hargitay seeking out her long-lost half-brother  or Elliot Stabler’s wife with Hargitay in some dilemma while going through childbirth, ho hum, the producers just don’t get it.

These incidents detract from the show and the reason we keep coming back is for the Perry Mason-styled drama.  The other stuff is a drag and this episode, “Liberties”, almost escapes unscathed.  Almost, but not quite.  Still, it blows away American Idol and all the other drivel on television today, so it wins by default and is entertainment that will only cost you a dozen or so visits to your mute button when commercials seep through the saga.

Television Philosophy 101

“Liberties”,  Season Ten, Episode 21, can be purchased online for $2.00, which kind of defeats the idea of tv, doesn’t it?  So along with my review and the general synopsis from the powers that be (see below) allow me to give some philosphy on television 2009: When we have futuristic televisions implanted into the walls of our living rooms toprint out what we want from the daily newspaper and get our TV programming “on demand” it might make more sense, but  the days of anxiously awaiting a special show like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or even the Sopranos on cable TV, is becoming a lost art, and that is not a good thing.  Iconic television needs a place in society and $1.99 downloads makes about as much of an impact as some singer selling 5 million music downloads without John Q. Public knowing the tune because those 5 million are a specified audience whereas the 300 million people of America and 6 billion people on the planet won’t have a clue

Here’s the synopsis:When Pamela Galliano (Guest Star Sprague Grayden) seeks to have a restraining order reinstated against her ex-boyfriend, Tyler Gleason (Guest Star James “PJ” Ranson), the assigned judge has something else on his mind. In order for some peace of mind, Judge Koehler (Guest Star Alan Dale) asks Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to question a convicted serial killer about the whereabouts of his son’s body, which adds a new twist to the case.

Episode Cast and Crew

Guest Cast
o Linda Park TARU Tech
o Victor Arnold Roy Lee Dotson
o Silas Weir Mitchell Owen Walters
o Joe Grifasi Hashi Horowitz
o Alan Dale Judge Joshua Koehler
o James Ransone Tyler Gleason
o Sprague Grayden Pamela Galliano
o Frank Page Bailiff