Law & Order: Los Angeles premiered to solid ratings last week, proving that the venerable franchise still resonates with viewers even after a coastal relocation, and creator Dick Wolf offers new details about the series' shifting L.A.-area locales and true-crime inspirations after its decidedly "Hollywood" debut.
"The one on Wednesday night is really interesting because it harkens back to the Charles Manson era and has some really interesting twists in it," Wolf told TV Guide Magazine about the episode which details the mysterious Venice Beach murder of a female follower of a murderous Manson-esque guru after her release from prison.
"You have no idea where it's going. It's a really strong episode and it's Terrence's [Howard] introduction, which is exciting," Wolf said. "[It] has a great moral mystery at its back half. And that's when the show works at its optimum: The first half is a good murder mystery, and the second half is a good moral mystery. And I think the second episode is more in that paradigm than the first one, which was deliberately designed to be 'Wow, see — we're different!'"
Wolf said he's enjoying looking at West Coast headlines and history books for story inspiration, including from infamous figures like the Manson family, after decades mining East Coast crime lore. "There's a history of great crimes here and that's part of the playbook on LO:LA, that we're not limited to today's headlines but sort of anything that's been a three-day story in The L.A. Times for the past hundred years. There is a wide variety of great stories, from the Hillside Strangler to the Night Stalker — but also going much further back than that to things like Fatty Arbuckle. There is a history here."
Wolf also revealed that each episode will draw its title from one of the diverse and wide-ranging L.A. communities where they're set. "This first season, all the episodes are actually called by different neighborhood's names," said Wolf. "The first one was 'Hollywood,' the second one was 'Echo Park,' next week is 'Harbor City' and after that is 'Playa Vista.' We're literally trying to get around town. Next week is a surfing episode — we sure couldn't do that in New York!"
Despite strong early ratings, Wolf says he's still waiting for LO:LA's real day in court after a few more airings before judging his show a hit. "The first week was great. The second week is telling. The third week will probably be more definitive. But you live week to week."