At first glance, the set of the latest Law & Order, looks familiar. Binders are marked "homicides" and "robberies." But, there are detailed city maps — of Los Angeles. Upon closer view, there's a Dodgers cap. Outside the window lie the ever bustling 101 and 110 freeways.
It doesn't look like we're in New York anymore.
After 20 years, Law & Order is moving west for its fourth spinoff, Law & Order: Los Angeles, premiering Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC.
"At first, I thought it was ridiculous. Law & Order is synonymous with New York," star Corey Stoll tells TVGuide.com. "Then I realized it's what the show needed to expand and take on new life. I really think the die-hard fans are going to love it, even the most begrudging New York snobs, myself included."
New York is the only backdrop Law & Order has ever known — including spinoffs Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Trial by Jury. The Los Angeles version, LOLA for short, will premiere barely six months after the unexpected cancellation of the original series just short of what would have been its record-setting 21st year on the air.
"I don't think there would be a LOLA at this moment if the mothership was still on," longtime Law & Order executive producer and LOLA showrunner Rene Balcer says. "For us, its evolution, it's a new creative challenge. Rebooting the franchise is always a good thing."
This change reaches far beyond just trading the classic walk-and-talk for the ride-and-talk (thanks to Los Angeles traffic).
"For 20 years, Law & Order existed in almost the same New York every week," executive producer Blake Masters (Brotherhood) says. "Southern California is like a mosaic of little neighborhoods that don't really blend into each other that much and that's great. Instead of fighting that, we decided to make that the core idea of the show."
Star Alfred Molina, who remembers watching the original when he and his wife immigrated to the States, says this new series is also a little bit darker than the original. "I think that's one reason why the writers wanted to set a version of the show here. There's a whole side to this city that's waiting to be seen," he says.
Although producers say there will be slightly deeper backstories for the characters, the producers know not to tamper too much with the structure that has given the franchise such legs.
"At the same time, it's important to allow the characters to be different and to give you different shades of what it is to be a cop. [Also], by coming to LA, to give you a whole new world to explore where crime is a little different," Masters says. "It will always be Law & Order because there will always be new and interesting ways" people commit crimes.