What is happening with the Law & Order: Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys?
Last night’s episode, “Harbor City,” saw another unengaging performance in the courtroom from DDA Peter Morales (Alfred Molina), who may have pulled out a win in the final ten minutes, but was clearly not as interesting as either his defendant or opposing counsel. Morales is sharing screen time with DDA Jonah Dekker (Terrence Howard), and while Dekker at least has a more aggressive personality, neither of the two really click. Not in a role that, on the show it replaced – the original Law & Order – became the one to watch thanks to a succession of great actors in the part. Whichever man filled the EADA role on the original, you knew you were going to get a solid performance.
No one is going to argue that veterans Molina and Howard are bad actors (I’m sure everyone is still associating Howard with his great work in the first Iron Man film), but perhaps their characters could learn a thing or two from the men they replaced. Let’s take a look back at Law & Order‘s three great Executive Assistant District Attorneys, and see how Law & Order: Los Angeles could benefit from their experience.
(Allow me to note now that this argument is strictly based on the three EADAs that filled the same role on the original series that Morales and Dekker play on Los Angeles. Therefore, there won’t be ADAs like Claire Kincaid on this list. Furthermore, I’m restricting myself to comparing only these two Law & Order incarnations for purposes of clarity, so please don’t tell me I left off SVU‘s Stephanie March, Criminal Intent‘s Courtney B. Vance, or UK‘s Ben Daniels. I like them, I’d just rather keep the argument simple.)
EADA Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty), 1990-1994
The first Law & Order chief prosecutor was my favorite for many years, even after he’d left the show. Why? Stone had a conviction that came out in everything he said. No matter what he was talking about, he said it with gravity, not to mention that he was either armed with a memorable one-liner (“Although justice must be tempered with mercy, it must still maintain a sense of retribution”) or impassioned speech to shut up defense lawyers and give the audience food for thought. When he was giving an opening or closing statement, you were paying attention, because he was saying things you wanted to remember. You really believed that he was the best man for the job. (“American Dream,” a Stone-centric case, remains one of the series’ best episodes.) If you were a victim, Stone was the DA you wanted on your case.
Although his tenure was cut short due to behind-the-scenes conflicts between Moriarty and various parties, there’s no denying that Ben Stone set the table for how much potential was in the EADA role.
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