HomeTelevisionTV Recap: Law & Order: SVU, 'Producer's Back End'

TV Recap: Law & Order: SVU, ‘Producer’s Back End’

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Plot: Lindsay Lohan-esque former teen star Tensley Evans (Stevie Lynn Jones) is arrested for drunk driving (again), then making false accusations against arresting officer Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) and then statutory rape. The investigation into Tensley’s past leads to a history of potential sexual abuse by a major Hollywood producer.

You’ve got to hand it to the writers this season on Law & Order: SVU, they are taking storylines that should be absolute train wrecks and are turning them into some of the best episodes in the post-Stabler era of the series.

Olivia Benson arrests a perp.
Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/NBC

“Producer’s Back End” is a Lindsay Lohan meets Roman Polanski mash-up that, on paper, should fail miserably. Remember last year’s abysmal Polanski-themed episode, “Reasonable Doubt?” Outside of performances by guest star Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Donal Logue, the episode was rancid. It typified the past few seasons of SVU – poor writing, inconsistent acting, and half-baked direction.

However, this episode works and it works really well. Sure, some of the twists and conclusions were a little clumsy (Amaro’s reinstatement to SVU was a bit ham-fisted) and you could see then coming a mile away, but at the end of the day “Producer’s Back End” felt like a vintage SVU episode. It had drama, it had a little bit of levity and it kept you intrigued throughout. This has really been the M.O. of Season 16, and it’s been a hell of a fun ride so far.

One of the main reasons the episode worked was an emphasis on the actual case and a de-emphasis on the personal lives of the detectives. Far too often last season, episodes relied heavily on the personal struggles of the detectives – Rollins’ (Kelli Giddish) gambling, Nick’s crumbling marriage, Olivia’s (Mariska Hargitay) relationship with Cassidy (Dean Winters), etc. “Producer’s Back End” mentions the personal – Olivia’s son’s illness (which is being suggested as enterovirus, which came off as unnecessary and forced at the end of the episode) and the relationship between Amaro and Rollins, but uses them to add depth and dimension to the characters, not definition.

Scene from Law & Order: SVU.
Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC

The highlight of “Producer’s Back End” from a performance standpoint was guest star Stevie Lynn Jones, portraying the Lohan-esque, Tensley Evans. Besides physically reminding us of Lohan (Mean Girls-era, not current), she handles a role that screams overacting wonderfully. She’s able to temper the outlandish and hammy aspects of the character and delivers a performance that makes you both despise and sympathize with her character. It’ll be interesting to see where this young actress goes from here.

The episode also featured a heavier focus on Raul Esparza’s district attorney, Rafael Barba. One of the true crimes this series has perpetrated is the misuse of this fine actor (check out his work in NBC’s Hannibal and you’ll truly see how awesome he really is). Previously, we’ve seen as a harried D.A. hampered by the ineptitude of the SVU detectives, often fighting losing battles thus making his character look like the weakest D.A. in the Law & Order franchise (yes, even worse than Linus Roache’s Michael Cutter). “Producer’s Back End” gives Esparza some nice, firey scenes and some meaty dialogue to chew on. Hopefully, the writers have realized they have underutilized this actor for too long and make him a bigger part of the show.

“Producer’s Back End” was another strong entry into the 16th season of SVU. It’s proved to be case-oriented, back-to-basics season that really is taking the sour taste of seasons 14 and 15 out of our collective mouths. SVU seasons are notoriously long, so here’s hoping that the writers remember this season is a marathon not a sprint and the quality will not suffer over time.

Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

Most Recent

Stay Connected