The weird things I watch

Is it just me, or do the casting people on Law & Order: Criminal Intent have a thing for redheads? Alicia Witt is a redhead, Julianne Nicholson is a cutely freckle-y redhead, and Saffron Burrows goes deep auburn in natural light. The first two are very definitely natural gingers, and if Burrows isn't she has one of the best, most meticulously-maintained red rinses I've ever seen -- red hair dyes of all kinds fade to brown with a terrible rapidity.

A strangely large number of extras and single-episode parts are also filled by redheads. There's even an episode -- with one of the redheaded detective ladies -- where red hair is a huge plot point. It causes problems once or twice in season 9; Detective Stevens happens to have a very common haircut, and there are a couple of scenes where she's interviewing another woman involved with the case who also has dark auburn hair in the same common haircut, and the usual-over-the-shoulder camera angles make things rather confusing.

I do not, of course, watch this show for the redheads. If I wanted to stare at red hair for an hour I'd just go find a mirror. I watch this show because their detectives are goddamn weird. The leads they got for their first season were Kathryn Erbe, a tiny blonde lady who mostly works on stage, and Vincent d'Onofrio, a very large man who specializes in being very strange on screen. Even if you managed to miss him in, say Full Metal Jacket, you probably remember him as Edgar -- or at least the bug in the Edgar suit -- in Men In Black. Their characters, Alexandra Eames and Robert Goran, have probably the most successful approximation of a Holmes-and-Watson vibe that I've seen in a long time. Goran is odd, very odd, and aware that he is not particularly easy to deal with when out of his element. Or in it, really. Eames apparently asked for a transfer early on, but his strange way of doing things rather grew on her, and she withdrew it. Bizarre as he is, even by the time the series starts, she's figured him out to the point where she is his best, and probably only, friend.

I thought that when d'Onofrio and Erbe took a hiatus season the show would just go straight down the tubes, but somehow they managed to bring in Jeff Goldblum as a temporary substitute, and goddamn if he is not just as successfully weird as his predecessor. Less socially-awkward, but also less insulated against the effect his own actions have on others. Basically, he's playing himself, only as a cop whose parents are both psychiatrists. (An interesting counterpoint -- Goran's family history includes an absent father, a mother who was untreated paranoid schizophrenic most of his life, and a brother who was a mentally ill junkie. You find all this out over the course of several seasons, then you watch him and think: Wow. He was the normal kid.)

Criminal Intent, more than the other L&O series, likes to take clichés and turn them on their head. There's one case where the plot starts shaping up to point at a powerful but very closeted CEO murdering the personal assistant who blackmailed him over it, but when they hauled him in for questioning, he laughed in their faces -- he was out to his family, his friends, his co-workers, and in fact had formed an old boys' club (so to speak) around it, which met at an upscale restaurant about weekly. And he didn't chase secretaries, even if they were young and handsome.

Like Columbo, they usually show you the crime (or at least the lead-up) in the teaser, but the solution isn't always what you'd think. They also generally don't cheat with the clues, which I appreciate in a mystery.

[Edit: Jeff Goldblum must be a hell of a pianist. I count at least three times in one season they have basically invented reasons to let him tinker on a piano on camera.]


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