The first thing you see on the new Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent is the CN Tower.

It is part of a Toronto skyline shot from the perspective of a luxury yacht where a party is being hosted in the Toronto harbour area.

After years of having to digitally remove the tower from horizon shots where Toronto was standing in for New York, Chicago, Boston or wherever USA, nice that it is finally ready for its close up.

The city gets plenty of face time on Thursday night’s premiere episode of Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent. You see the main detectives played by Canadian-Australian actor Aden Young and Karen Munroe, rush walk-and-talk past the bright Toronto sign in front of City Hall. Restaurants and other landmarks are also in view. Two extras playing homeless men are glimpsed in one shot on a sidewalk in a nod to the fact that this isn’t Toronto the Good anymore.

For those wondering, yes, the “Ta-dum!” sound is heard on this new L&O edition. The familiar wah-wah guitar wails as the theme is played. A narrator with a deep voice and a hint of Canadian accent intones a version of the usual “In the criminal justice system…” disclaimer.

If you’ve come to watch Law & Order, therefore, you won’t be disappointed. All the usual bells and whistles are there. The producers, however, have also taken care to get he differences in the justice systems right. Our DAs are called Crown Attorneys and they wear black gowns — not toques and scarves — on their way to court.


Showrunner Tassie Cameron has stuck close to the L&O playbook perfected years ago by another Canadian, Rene Balcer, the Montreal lawyer who wrote on franchise creator Dick Wolf’s original. Balcer later helped create the original Criminal Intent. The leads have that right mix of dogged determination and professionalism but also a hint of world weariness and dark humour, especially the Inspector back at the station, here played by the versatile Karen Robinson (Schitt’s Creek, Pretty Hard Cases). Follow this link to hear her as my latest podcast guest.

The one who elevated things the most for me in Episode One was Young. Some viewers will know him from the Sundance series Rectify, but he spent many years as an actor in Australia. He brings a very unique voice to the role, almost as if he is trying to re-kindle his Canadian accent after too many years Down Under. It plays to my ear as an FM radio voice, circa mid-’70s, very Q107. It actually draws you in. Like some of the great L&O characters from the past, and who can forget Richard Belzer who died almost exactly one year ago, Young’s character seems preoccupied, in thought, a touch eccentric. He seems to know a little about a lot. You can’t take your eyes off him.

The pilot also features a very good performance by former Burden of Truth co-star Peter Mooney as a character of interest. Daniel Kash makes an impression in a brief scene. Other Canadians will get to strut this stage over this season’s 10 episodes.

Veteran Canadian director Holly Dale lets her actors fill their crime scenes, moving in only when necessary and generally to good effect. Some of the walk-and-talk outdoor scenes seemed more like sprints, but that kept the series moving.

Kudos to Rogers for taking the bold step of bringing one of TV’s most storied franchises north of the border. Canadian viewers who still find comfort in broadcast over streaming seem to favour familiar surroundings. All the alphabet shows — NCIS, FBI, CSI — still draw an audience here as imports. Why not shoot it and base it in Toronto?

The bar, however, is set high for Law & Order, where actors such as Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Paul Sorvino, Mariska Hargitay and an earlier Canadian — Jill Hennessy — have all shone. Casting is everything, and the Toronto leads have big police and law shoes to fill. They all show promise in the pilot, as does Toronto itself. One way or the other, casting the city the rest of Canada loves to hate should unite the country.

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