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Mystery . Crime . Drama
 

In their investigation of a prisoner's death, Benson and Tutuola learn that he was assaulted before being incarcerated.

 
Episode Title: Rotten
Airs: 2003-01-24 at 21:00
  • Phil Gallo

    First episode lacks the energy and grit of the first season of "Law & Order," but Anthony Jannelli's camera work reveals the guilty, and director Jean De Segonzac and editor Doug Ibold keep the action taught even when it's apparent exactly where things are headed.

    Variety Full Review
  • Michele Greppi

    If the crimes that drive "Law & Order" have the cops who solve them and the lawyers who prosecute them shaking their heads, the sex crimes dealt with by Special Victims will have the cops - and viewers - holding onto their stomachs.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Robert P. Laurence

    When the hour is over, one is left with the distinct impression that the story could have been told just as well, if not better, on the original "Law & Order." And one is reminded yet again that network TV seems to be recycling old ideas just when it desperately needs new ones. [20 Sept 1999, p.E1]

    San Diego Union-Tribune Full Review
  • John Levesque

    At times, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit flashes the same no-nonsense style of its sire: spare writing, quick pacing, ripped-from-the-headlines plot. But for much of the time, tonight's premiere is enervating, plodding and dull, which seems kind of odd when you're dealing with crimes of passion. [20 Sept 1999, p.E-3]

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer Full Review
  • Mike Antonucci

    There are lots of problems with the Special Victims premiere, chief among them being the focus on Olivia Benson, the female detective played by Mariska Hargitay. In a misguided rush to establish the character's background story and motivation as a cop, the episode's key moment is a revelation about an intimate detail of her life. It comes way before we have enough reason to care about her. [20 Sept 1999, p.7C]

    San Jose Mercury News/Contra Costa Times Full Review
  • Joel Brown

    Meloni is smirky, Hargitay whiny, and transferred-from-"Homicide" detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) seems out of place. But Wolf has proved an expert at integrating cast changes on "L & O," and we have to believe he'll iron all this out. [20 Sept 1999, p.36]

    Boston Herald Full Review
  • Jonathan Storm

    The most disappointing new show of the TV season...SVU helps you appreciate the "order" part of Law & Order. Though it will have the same crazy-quilt plot twists, this one's straight police work and seems a little drawn-out, not nearly as richly satisfying as a puzzler as its progenitor.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Matthew Gilbert

    It's subject matter that speaks to the train-wreck spectator in all of us, and designing a weekly show around it is a little uneasy-making. It's dangerously close to "reality" programming. That said, Special Victims Unit is an uneven hour that could improve with some aggressive fine tuning.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • David Zurawik

    Neither Meloni nor Hargitay is a great actor, and both are guilty of overacting here...The limited range of each is suggested by their over-reliance on one or two basics moves. Meloni purses his lips and bugs his eyes out to tell us he's intense and/or getting mad. Hargitay runs her hand through her hair to tell us she's stressed. She does the hair thing so many times tonight you fear she'll have pulled all her hair out by midseason. [20 Sept 1999, p.1E]

    Baltimore Sun Full Review
  • Hal Boedeker

    The problem is that the new show makes the original look far better...There isn't enough special yet about this Special Victims Unit. [19 Sept 1999, p.F1]

    Orlando Sentinel Full Review
  • Rob Owen

    As a loyal "Homicide" viewer, for me Munch is the best part of SVU, especially in tonight's scene where he explains his departure from Baltimore. [20 Sept 1999, p.B-1]

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Full Review
  • Phil Rosenthal

    The key here is that the emotional payoffs are dead-on. [20 Sept 1999, p.38]

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Gail Pennington

    The absence of the familiar law-order yin-yang gives the spin-off its own identity, but in the beginning it feels like a loss...What may turn out to sink this sharply written, well-acted show, however, is the premise itself. The prospect of tuning in every week to confront a creepy new sex crime, with most of the victims women and children, simply isn't very appealing. [20 Sept 1999, p.E6]

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Howard Rosenberg

    Despite a bizarre courtroom sequence that strains credibility early in the episode, this is a very good start for Special Victims Unit, which promises to be a solid cop drama capable of occasionally stretching toward greatness.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Ann Hodges

    And we learn more about the lives of Stabler and Benson than Wolf usually reveals in a whole season with his L&O detectives. [20 Sept 1999, p.1]

    Houston Chronicle Full Review
  • Robert Bianco

    It takes a while to pull you in -- but once it does, you're likely to stay. [20 Sept 1999, p.1D]

    USA Today Full Review
  • Aaron Barnhart

    Time will tell whether this spin-off of NBC's cops-to-courts standby can lure an audience to Mondays. There's plenty here to work with. The question is, in what direction will creator Dick Wolf move it all? [20 Sept 1999, p.E1]

    Kansas City Star Full Review
  • Ed Bark

    Victims Unit also imports Mr. Belzer's sardonic John Munch character from NBC's canceled Homicide: Life on the Street. His wise-guy asides are a little forced in this first hour, as are some of the recurring sexual references. But the featured case gets more compelling by the minute. [20 Sept 1999, p.1C]

    Dallas Morning News Full Review
  • Terry Jackson

    It's only measured against that formidable benchmark that the spinoff falls short of those expectations. It's a solid drama, but it's no Law & Order - yet...On its own, it's a good show. But it's got the genes to be great. [20 Sept 1999, p.1E]

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Caryn James

    A crackling-sharp spinoff...The show swiftly finds its balance. Not every series lends itself to cloning, but the essential qualities of "Law and Order" seem made for it: headline-generated stories resolved in self-contained episodes; a no-nonsense tone; a cast large enough to vary the focus.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Tom Shales

    Sparse, tough, nuts-and-bolts, hit-and-run TV. You'd need a magnifying glass to find a nuance. But it works, and grippingly.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Mark Dawidziak

    The cast is first rate, delivering sympathetic and believable performances. The writing is intelligent, providing intellectual grist to the grisly moments. And the direction is as crisp as it is clever. [20 Sept 1999, p.1E]

    Cleveland Plain Dealer Full Review
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