Let’s Talk about the Show First
Premiered on the 13th of September, 1990, Law & Order is a TV series that originally aired on NBC. The drama was shot on location in New York City and showcased the sometimes complex procedure of determining innocence or guilt while lives hung in the balance. The series followed a crime, usually loosely based on true crime stories which have acquired media attention while the show calls it “ripped from the headlines”.
The storylines highlight legal, personal, or ethical dilemmas which are relatable to the common masses. It shows from two different vantage points; hence, the episodes are usually split into two halves. “Law” is the first half which follows two detectives from the New York City Police Department Homicide Unit investigating a crime. The crimes were not always attempted homicides or homicides, especially during the initial nine seasons of Law & Order and before the premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Sometimes, the crime would involve kidnapping or rape. The second half (“Order”) of the show mainly focused on Manhattan District Attorney’s Office working for convicting the suspect(s) in court.
The Concept of the Show
It was in 1988 when Dick Wolf came up with a new TV series concept that would showcase a comparatively optimistic image of the criminal justice system in the United States. Initially, he toyed with the idea to call it ‘Night & Day’, but then the title ‘Law & Order’ struck him. Every episode would have two halves. The first half would focus on a senior detective, junior detective, and commanding officer investigating a violent crime.
The episode’s second half would follow the courts and the District Attorney’s Office as two prosecutors work towards convicting the accused. The District Attorney himself keeps advising them all through the second half. Through this, the show would be successful in investigating some of the day’s bigger problems by emphasizing stories based on real-life cases that hit the headlines.
What Happened Next?
4.Woolf shared his idea and concepts with Kerry McCluggage. McCluggage was the president of Universal Television at that time, and he pointed out Law & Order’s similarity with Arrest and Trial, a 1963 television series which last just one season. Woolf and McCluggage sat down to watch the pilot of that show wherein Ben Gazzara plays the role of a police officer in the first half and arrests a man for armed robbery.
Chuck Connors plays the defence attorney, and he is successful in proving the accused as the wrong man in the second half. This was how the show was telecasted every week. Even though Wolf’s detectives would also be fallible, he wanted a fresh and new approach to this genre. He wanted to move from police procedures to prosecution with a higher degree of realism. Not just that, he wanted the prosecution to be the hero, and that was a reversal of the typical phenomenon in lawyer dramas.
Getting the Show Started
Initially, 13 episodes were ordered by Fox, and it was just based on the concept, without any pilot. Barry Diller, then-network head, reversed this decision. Even though he loved the concept, he did not consider it a “Fox show”. So, Wolf approached CBS then, which asked for a pilot. Wolf, “Everybody’s Favourite Bagman” was about the corrupt city officials who ganged up with the mob.
Although the pilot was liked by the network, it was not ordered as there were no breakout stars. In 1989, the show was screened by NBC’s top executives, Warren Littlefield and Brandon Tartikoff. They liked it but were concerned that repeating the show’s intensity after a couple of weeks would not be possible. However, by 1990, the show made the NBC executives confident enough to be innovative and appealing to a huge audience. It made them order the show for an entire season.
What is Said at the Beginning of Every Episode?
Every episode of Law & Order begins with the narrator saying, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.” However, this is the opening line of just the central Law & Order. Its spin-offs have little different opening lines. Law and Order: Criminal Intent opens with “In New York City’s war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad.
These are their stories.” On the other hand, the opening lines of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit are “In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offences are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.” The episodes of Law and Order: Trial By Jury begin with “In the criminal justice system, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, either by confession, plea bargain, or trial by jury. This is one of those trials”. Lastly, all the Law and Order UK episodes start with “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime, and the Crown Prosecutors who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories”.
The Cast of Law & Order
Over the years, Law & Order has consisted of a revolving cast. The longest-running primary cast members include Jerry Orbach playing Detective Lennie Briscoe from season 3 to 14, Steven Hill playing District Attorney Adam Schiff from seasons 1 to 10, Jesse L. Martin playing Detective Ed Green from seasons 10 to 18, Sam Waterston playing Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy from seasons 5 to 20 and later District Attorney, as well as S. Epatha Merkerson playing Lieutenant Anita Van Buren from seasons 4 to 20.
The Filming of Law & Order
The TV show was filmed on location in the city of New York. Law & Order is revered for its extensive usage of local colours. The show’s later seasons feature Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, the mayors of New York City and Bronx Congressman José Serrano, and attorney William Kunstler. All of them appeared on the series as themselves. You will also see recurring cameos of local personalities as fictional characters. It includes Fran Lebowitz and Donna Hanover as judges. A road in NYC heading to Pier 62 of Chelsea Piers was renamed as “Law & Order Way” on the 14th of September 2004 as a tribute to the show. It was where most of the show was shot.
Why was the Show Cancelled?
It was the 14th of May, 2010, when NBC announced the show’s cancellation to pick Law & Order: LA instead, for the first season, while renewing the twelfth of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Soon after the last-minute conversations between Dick Wolf and NBC for extending the show, the cancellation took place after the show failed to lead towards an agreement. Almost precisely a year later, on the 13th of May, 2011, Law & Order: NBC canceled LA just after one season. It was due to a drop in the ratings due to the retooling and moving of the show to Monday nights. (See Lights Out Movie Explanation)
Awards and Recognitions
Law & Order has received nominations for several awards in the TV industry while the show ran. Its wins include Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1997, followed by Sam Waterston and Jerry Orbach winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series in 1999 and 2005, respectively.
Orbach was awarded posthumously after his death. The show also bagged several Edgar Awards for Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay. In 2002, the show was positioned at number 24 on the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time by TV Guide. Entertainment Weekly placed Law & Order at number 27 on its list of “New TV Classics”. In 2013, it was ranked at 14 on TV Guide’s list of 60 Greatest Shows of All Time.