'Homicide,' 'Law & Order' in another fun get-together Preview: New York- Baltimore case is a reach, but there's no jurisdictional problem for two pro lineups.

November 12, 1997|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Two detectives in dark suits are walking toward the first tee of a posh country club in suburban Baltimore. They don't have golf clubs, but they do have attitude.

A club official hustles out to intercept them.

"May I help you, gentlemen?" he asks.

"Depends on who you are," one of the cops responds.

"Well, I'm Tim Chandler, club pro."

"Well, I'm John Munch, and this is Lenny Briscoe. We're a couple of Jewish cops. You think we got a shot at joining this club?"

Call it a "Homicide"/"Law & Order" sandwich: a big dose of class consciousness served up with wry laughs by two of the best wiseacre cops on American or British television.

Two seasons ago, the two celebrated NBC dramas pulled a crossover with several of the characters from each series moving back and forth between their Wednesday and Friday night time periods, as well as New York and Baltimore locations, to solve a crime.

It wasn't a great critical success, but it did help "Homicide" reach a wider audience during a "sweeps" ratings period.

A similar crossover starts tonight on "Law & Order" and concludes Friday on "Homicide." While neither episode is likely to make the year-end highlights reel, the merger does have more than its share of delights for true-blue fans of the series.

Among them is the reunion of Munch (Richard Belzer) and Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). Remember that Briscoe slept with one of Munch's ex-wives, Gwen? Munch still doesn't really want to hear about it, but Briscoe still wants to share. What a pair.

Once they're done reminding Mr. Club Pro that he works for an institution built in part on discrimination against people like themselves, Munch and Briscoe move on to take one of the club's members in for questioning. He's a prominent Roland Park plastic surgeon (Tom Tammi) who has become a prime suspect in the death of his 14-year-old fashion model daughter. The girl's death is the motor that drives the two-parter. She died of toxic shock in New York, but the autopsy reveals that she had been raped two weeks earlier. It appears that the assault, which led to her death, took place in Roland Park.

It is not the smoothest premise in the world, but such "sweeps" crossovers are not for skeptics. The true believer suspends all disbelief and delights in seeing how McCoy (Sam Waterston) will fare in a Baltimore courtroom with shifty Ed Danvers (Zeljko Ivanek) as co-counsel or in comparing the suits of Munch and Briscoe to see which has a cheesier shine to it.

There is an added delight in the performance of Dan Hedaya as the super-sleazy, high-priced lawyer hired by the prominent parents of the dead girl. He's the best money can buy, and he treats the cops as if they were a bunch of rats gnawing at the feet of the Lincoln Monument as they go about their investigation.

In this corner: country club pros, high-priced attorneys and prominent residents of Park Avenue and Roland Park. In that corner, the guys who drive the Chevy Cavaliers, eat powder-covered doughnuts on their break and dream of retiring to Florida on a city pension.

Go get 'em, Munch. Go, Briscoe, go.

'Law' & 'Homicide'

What: Crossover episodes of "Law & Order" and "Homicide"

When: 10 p.m.-11 p.m. tonight and Friday

Where: NBC (WBAL, Channel 11)

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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