Law and Order [1953]

Dick Wolf (Law & Order) has claimed that Arthur Conan Doyle inspired him to create Criminal Intent. Indeed, the brilliant--if socially awkward--Robert "Bobby" Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) and cool-headed partner Alexandra "Alex" Eames (Kathryn Erbe) do come across like a modern day Holmes and Watson. Rather than England, however, they're members of New York's major case squad. (Trivia buffs may find it of interest that D'Onofrio played Holmes's arch-nemesis Moriarty in the 2002 made-for-cable movie Case of Evil.) The show, which premiered in 2001, added "criminal" to the successful "law" and "order" equation. Each episode moves back and forth between the efforts of Goren and Eames to track down "the worst criminal offenders" and the efforts of the offenders to evade capture. The detectives report to plainspoken Captain Deakins (Jamey Sheridan) and work closely with urbane ADA Carter (Courtney B. Vance). Criminal Intent could hardly be mistaken for a comedy, but it can be lighter on its feet than Law & Order and Special Victims Unit--even if the crimes are just as grim. The fun comes from watching Goren and Eames do whatever it takes to catch the perps. As long as it's legal--they'll do it. Highlights of the first season include "Jones" with Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London) as a philandering lawyer, "Badge" with Viola Davis (Solaris) as a corrupt ex-cop, and "Phantom" with Michael Emerson (The Practice) as a desperate family man. The last is based on the same real-life case that inspired the critically acclaimed French film Time Out (in the movie and teleplay, the protagonist pretends to work for the UN; in reality, Jean-Claude Romand pretended to be a doctor). Other cases, also often suggested by actual events, concern burglary, forgery, and money laundering--although murder is always mixed up in there somewhere. Featuring guest appearance from Law & Order detectives Green (Jesse L. Martin) and Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) in "Poison" and Lieutenant Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) in "Badge." --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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