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Byline: > DAVID KRONKE

Two "Law & Order" series hit milestones this week: "Special Victims Unit" commemorates its 200th episode with Robin Williams as guest creep, while the original series bids adieu to Jesse L. Martin's Detective Ed Green after nine seasons with an exit far more respectful than it gave its first departee, George Dzunda.

In Dzunda's final episode, series creator Dick Wolf reportedly requested the fattest body double available to serve as his corpse.

"SVU's" episode offers a fairly inspired mash-up of the 2004 strip-search hoax in a Kentucky McDonald's, the random New York troupe Improv Everywhere's prank in which participants became human freeze-frames in Grand Central Station and professor Stanley Milgrom's disturbing experiments in torture and mind control.

Williams stars as Merritt Rook, who is accused of leading a fast-food manager to sexually abuse an employee but is exonerated in his trial because, you know, he's really good at mind control. He becomes a folk hero for his railing against conformity.

It might seem a little ironic for the most successful franchise in TV history to decry conformity -- then again, since it's the bad guy who's doing it, maybe not. Still, the premise is presented in a most intriguing fashion: One rally finds the leader shouting, "We refuse to conform!" and the assembled masses replying, "Yeah!"

It reminded me of the scene in "Monty Python's Life of Brian" in which Brian told the worshippers he had reluctantly lured, "You've got to think for yourselves," and they naturally responded, "Tell us more!"

So, an interesting episode, except that anyone could've played Williams' role (except near the end, where he overacts a storm; until that point, he's basically channeling his character in "One Hour Photo" here) and there's a lot of "just trust us" narrative: Some pretty damning evidence seems to be overlooked at Rook's trial, and detectives Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) just sort of seem to give up too easily at the end.

Many, many recent episodes of "Law & Order" have seemed to give up too easily in recent years, cribbing shamelessly from those torn-from-the-headline narratives and twisting them in tortured ways.

But the writers really stepped up to give Martin -- and his character -- a decent Viking funeral.

Opening: Dead guy found, ho-hum. But: He had a gambling problem and a witness fingers a perp that causes Green to react significantly.

Soon: Perp is dead, and Green killed him. What now?

The episode also introduces Anthony Anderson, who will replace Martin (in case there was any question as to Fox's "K-Ville's" fate, here's your answer); he plays Detective Bernard, an internal affairs detective gunning for Green who, this episode's narrative hints, does sloppy work. Which could make for a pretty interesting dynamic as the show goes forth.

It's up to Detective Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) to save -- or utterly botch -- the investigation.

Freed from the constraints of having to reconfigure a news story that briefly entered the public's consciousness, then make it just different enough to avoid a lawsuit or two, this episode of "Law & Order" offers more intrigue than camp and allows Martin to exit on something resembling a grace note.

But "L&O" hasn't replaced both its leads in the same season before: Will Sisto and Anderson be able to convince viewers they're still watching the same show they've dutifully tuned into for nearly two decades? Especially when Robin Williams has told them the night before that they need to rebel against the status quo?

-- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:" 10 p.m. today, NBC (Channel 4).

-- "Law & Order:" 10 p.m. Wednesday, NBC (Channel 4).

David Kronke, (818) 713-3638 david.kronke(at)dailynews.com

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Robin Williams as Merritt Rook in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 22, 2008
Words:624
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