'L&O's' new order

Milenagovich_laworder_nbc_240The times aren't really a-changin' that much in the world of Law & Order, but the faces sure are. All three shows in the franchise -- 'scuse me, brand -- have new cast members (SVU temporarily, while Mariska Hargitay is on maternity leave). All are female, and as of Tuesday they've all made their first appearances. First impressions:

On the mothership, Conviction refugee Milena Govich is playing the show's first on-the-street female detective, Nina Cassady. As a character, her lack of experience is more notable than her gender: There's always been a sense that the other homicide detectives, even younger ones like those played by Benjamin Bratt and Jesse L. Martin when he joined the show (a full seven years ago now), had paid their dues. Not so with Cassady, who's dismissively referred to as "Detective Beauty Queen" because she happened to be a client at a salon that was robbed and nailed the perps. We've never really seen a green detective on the show before, so that could make for an interesting wrinkle in the future.

L&O classic also has a new assistant D.A., Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza, late of CSI: Miami). The premiere didn't give her a whole lot of screen time, but she appears to be in the Angie Harmon, "Yes, I'm gorgeous, but I'll put you on death row as soon as look at you" mold.

On SVU, Connie Nielsen is taking over for Hargitay for the next several weeks. Nielsen had but one scene Tuesday, but based on that, she's pretty much a female Stabler (Chris Meloni). here he and Benson have a yin-yang, tough-sensitive relationship, the next several episodes look to be full of bad cop-bad cop.

Another ex-Conviction star, Julianne Nicholson, is Logan's (Chris Noth) new partner on Criminal Intent. This was a piece of casting I couldn't quite see when I heard about it. I've always kinda liked Nicholson, but CI is often the darkest of the three shows, and given her past credits, I couldn't quite see her in that world.

I see it better after Tuesday's episode, and she and Noth convincingly brought off the awkwardness that's inherent in any new relationship. Her character, Megan Wheeler, isn't quite as steely as Kathryn Erbe's Eames on the Vincent D'Onofrio half of CI, but you get the idea that she's insightful and maybe has a background in psychology, which would be a useful counterpoint to Logan's old-school approach to detective work.

And what about you, you L&O obsessives out there? What are your impressions of the new folks?