The Dick Wolf Dilemma

The classic Law & Order: SVU format, that is to say: everyone is a potential suspect. And yes I’m aware that Ms. Agatha Christie is possibly the originator of this structure, but it took Mr. Dick Wolf to beat it into the ground, set it on fire, roll it into a burrito, and use it to scare old people into staying into their homes.

The Wolf/Christie format requires no internal logic (and so creates no tension) as the situation requires that anyone can be the killer, until for the sake of ‘drama’, we discover, much to our relief (relief, that is, that the story has only six more fake endings to go) that it turns out to be the one person it couldn’t possibly be.

I know. Sounds fantastic! Where’s the dilemma? Well, within this type of turgid construction, when anyone could have done it, we as an audience don’t really care who did.