Law & Order: The Complete Series

Law & Order: The Complete Series

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Cast: Angie Harmon, Benjamin Bratt, Dick Wolf, J.K. Simmons

     
 

From September 13, 1990 through May 24, 2010, and spanning a whopping 20 seasons, the NBC legal series Law & Order not only captivated audiences around the world but became something of an American institution. As conceived and designed by creator Dick Wolf, episodes presented criminal cases from two different angles - that of the police who investigate crimes,…  See more details below

Overview

From September 13, 1990 through May 24, 2010, and spanning a whopping 20 seasons, the NBC legal series Law & Order not only captivated audiences around the world but became something of an American institution. As conceived and designed by creator Dick Wolf, episodes presented criminal cases from two different angles - that of the police who investigate crimes, and that of the prosecutors who try accusations in the courtroom. The program sported a who's who of actors in its regular cast at various points, including the late Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, Steven Hill and Angie Harmon, and featured hundreds of iconic guest stars - everyone from Richard Belzer to Cara Buono. This sprawling box set caters to the most devoted fans of the series, by offering all 456 45-minute episodes, full and uncut as they originally aired on network television."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." With this pithy but all-inclusive prologue, thus began each hour-long episode of Law & Order, American network television's longest-running police drama. This was not the first such program to equally divide its time between the arrest and the trial; indeed, there had been a series precisely titled Arrest and Trial back in 1963. But Law & Order was easily the most popular and successful of the batch, and as the series eased gracefully past its 11th, 12th, and 13th season, it was very likely that its creator and executive producer Dick Wolf would fulfill his dream of matching and even surpassing the longevity of Gunsmoke, which lasted 20 years, setting a record as American network television's most durable dramatic series. Although Law & Order boasted a large and fluid ensemble cast, there were no real "stars" per se, save for the city of New York (a point made by scores of TV historians, notably Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh). Virtually every episode starts out with the discovery of a dead body or evidence of a violent crime. A pair of NYPD detectives arrive on the scene, begin gathering evidence and eyewitnesses at the behest of their superiors, and -- generally after a handful of frustrating dead ends and false leads -- manage to collar the principal suspect. The story then shifts to the offices of the DA, where a team of brilliant prosecuting attorneys do their best to build a case against the accused, dodging the obstructive tactics of defense lawyers all along the way. Even when the case gets to court, the story is far from over, with several twists and turns -- and usually a shocking and unexpected denouement -- awaiting both the prosecutors and the viewer. The series made its NBC network debut Thursday, September 13, 1990, moving to its originally scheduled Tuesday-night slot October 23. The original cast included, on the side of "Law," chubby, hard-boiled veteran detective Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza) and his younger, more athletic partner, Mike Logan (Chris Noth). Their supervisor was Captain Donald Cragen, played by Dann Florek. Once the detectives had completed their share of the work, the scene changed to the "Order" team of District Attorney Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill), who appeared in all but the pilot episode, and a brace of intense, dedicated assistant DAs, the Caucasian Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) and African-American Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks). The program's first season had several distinctions: In keeping with network's promise of delivering TV's top "action series," the scenes in which Greevey and Logan track down the perp are top-heavy with noise and violence (generally implied, but not always so), vertigo-inducing handheld camerawork and punchy background music. Also, individual scenes run a bit longer than the later short-and-sweet vignettes that would become the series' stylistic trademark. And unlike the relatively dispassionate detectives seen in later seasons, Greevey and Logan tend to become emotionally involved in their work; similarly, lawyers Stone and Robinette seem to take every legal setback personally, much more so than their successors in the series' subsequent years, although DA Schiff exhibits as much calm, stoic integrity in his first appearance as he would in his last, a decade later. Even in its earliest episodes, however, the emphasis is on the story rather than personalities: All we learn of the regulars' private lives is revealed in fragmentary fashion, and only when it bears some relevance. Fans of the latter-day Law & Order will notice that the first season lacks the gender balance of the series' later years -- or, put more bluntly, the series was pretty much an "all boys' club." Although dozens of prominent actresses appeared in supporting roles, there were no regular female characters, a fact that tended to weaken the series' ratings in its formative seasons. Still, it would not be until the fourth season began in 1993 that any distaff characters would be added to the weekly lineup. One element of the series was established early on and would remain in place forever afterward: Most of the stories on Law & Order were "ripped from today's headlines," often with only the names changed to protect the innocent (?). In season one alone, the series offers fictionalizations of the Bernard Goetz subway shootings, the Menendez killings, the Central Park "Preppie Murder," the "Mayflower Madam," the Tawana Brawley imbroglio, and the Steinberg child-murder case. So close did the last-named episode come to the actual facts that the series' producers were compelled to include a disclaimer at the beginning of several episodes, assuring viewers that, although the story was inspired by real happenings, the script itself was otherwise purely a work of fiction. The fact that Law & Order was frequently pre-empted by network specials indicated that NBC wasn't all that sure of the series' success. By the end of the first season, however, the ratings, if not spectacular, were good enough to warrant a renewal -- while backstage intrigues assured that the series would undergo the first of its many abrupt cast changes.Not yet a hit, though certainly sustaining decent ratings, Law & Order entered its second season with the first of its many cast changes -- and a spectacular one it was indeed, with Detective Max Greevey being shot down and killed in front of his own house. In truth, George Dzundza, who played Greevey, had already left the series, so his "death" largely occurred off-camera. Reportedly, Dzundza felt that the series' format gave his character no room to grow or develop, though some reports indicate that he was asked to leave because of his inability to get along with certain other cast members. At any rate, he was replaced by Paul Sorvino as Detective Phil Ceretta, who, likewise, departed the show early on (a few weeks into season three, in fact). As was the case in the first season, the regular Law & Order cast lineup was still all male, although a few recurring female characters were given sporadic moments to shine, notably police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, played by Carolyn McCormick. Again, viewers were given only brief and tantalizing glimpses of the off-duty lives of the detectives and lawyers, in keeping with creator Dick Wolf's edict that the show would be story-driven rather than character-driven. Having received one Emmy nomination during the 1990-1991 season (Michael Moriarty as best leading actor), Law & Order chalked up six more nominations during season two, winning the award for Best Sound Editing (David Hankins). Also, with its move from Tuesday to Wednesday evening, the series increased its viewership, though still not enough to crack the Top Ten -- or even the Top 25.Another major casting change occurred during the third season of Law & Order, although not until the series had offered eight episodes. In "Prince of Darkness, an undercover police operation goes tragically awry, and Detective Phil Ceretta (Paul Sorvino) ends up seriously wounded. Though Ceretta would recover sufficiently to take up a desk job, Sorvino himself decided to leave the series for good; like George Dzundza before him, the actor felt that the series' format was too confining for his talents. Brought in as Mike Logan's (Chris Noth) new partner was Jerry Orbach as laconic veteran detective Lennie Briscoe, a recovering alcoholic with a multitude of family problems (which, in fine old Law & Order tradition, were only revealed to the audience on a "need to know" basis). At the time Orbach joined the series, there was much speculation (usually tongue-in-cheek in nature) as to how long it would be before he, too, was shot down in the line of duty, just like Logan's two previous partners, Greevey and Ceretta. As it turned out, Orbach not only outlasted Noth as Logan, but by season 13, he had been on the series longer than any other regular. A few stylistic changes marked season three. The "street action" was more or less cut to the bone, as was the background music. Also, in answer to viewer demand, the handheld camerawork became more steady and less distracting. One thing still remained constant from season one: the series' lack of regular female characters. At least Carolyn McCormick, in the recurring role of police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, was spotlighted in the compelling episode "Helpless." Once again, Law & Order was honored with several Emmy nominations during the 1992-1993 season. This time out, the series copped the Emmy twice, for Elaine Stritch's guest-star turn in "Point of View" and for Constantine Makris' photography. Ratings remained steady, if not spectacular, but things would change dramatically during the next season.It can be said with some assurance that during its fourth season on the air, Law & Order finally came into its own and assumed the form and texture for which it became famous. For one thing, the producers finally responded to audience demand that there be more of a "female presence" on the series. Thus, Richard Brooks as Assistant DA Paul Robinette was given his walking papers, as was Dann Florek as Police Captain Don Cragen. Replacing these two regulars were Jill Hennessy as new Assistant DA Claire Kincaid and S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Anita Van Buren, freshly transferred from the narcotics bureau to homicide. It was explained that Robinette had retired from the DA's office to go into private practice (in fact, the character would return in a later season as counsel for the defense, opposing his former colleagues). As for Cragen, the character returned to Law & Order in a guest-star capacity, and was returned to full "regular" status in 1999 on the spin-off series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. (Actor Florek also directed several Law & Order episodes).The biggest news surrounding Law & Order's fifth season was the acrimonious exit of series regular Michael Moriarty, who, since the program's inception, had upheld the "Order" part of the program as Executive Assistant DA Ben Stone. According to the script, Stone quit the DA's office in disgust and despair after a witness to whom he'd promised protection was murdered. In truth, Moriarty had long been dissatisfied with the diminishing amount of screen time afforded the DA's office -- and he was also worried that then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno would make good on her promise to purge network TV of "excessive violence," a move he felt would emasculate reality-based series like Law & Order. With the departure of Ben Stone, a new face was added to the series' judicial lineup: Assistant DA Sam McCoy, played by Sam Waterston. Like his colleagues, McCoy was a basically decent, but decidedly imperfect, human being; famous for walking a very thin line between ethics and legal flim-flammery, he was also a renowned womanizer, having slept with virtually all of his former law partners -- a fact that added a fascinating dimension to his relationship with State's Attorney Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy). Despite its so-so ratings, Law & Order had enough viewer support and industry clout to survive its fifth season, passing the 100-episode mark with "Progeny" (although NBC, refusing to acknowledge the existence of the series' 1990 pilot episode because it had been commissioned by CBS, insisted that "Rage" was Number 100). One indication that the series was supported by its network was the fact that the producers were given enough production money to complete 23 episodes, rather than the standard 22. In what was rapidly becoming a Law & Order tradition, the 1994-1995 season ended with the exit of still another character. In the season finale, "Pride, Detective Mike Logan Chris Noth was yanked from homicide and reduced to pounding a beat on Staten Island after punching out a homophobic councilman. In real life, producer Dick Wolf decided not to renew Noth's contract, feeling that the actor had reached the limits of his character -- and that the world-weary Mike Logan did not provide enough contrast with his equally hard-bitten, acerbic partner Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). Although Noth never returned to the weekly version of Law & Order, he was able to persuade the series' producers to fashion a spin-off TV movie, 1998's Exiled, which tied up the loose ends of Logan's career.Law & Order launched its sixth season with the addition of yet another new character, Detective Rey Curtis, played by Benjamin Bratt. As the replacement for Mike Logan (Chris Noth), previous partner of Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), Curtis exuded enough youthful idealism and self-consciousness to counterbalance Briscoe's hard-boiled, world-weary persona. Ever so carefully, and without disturbing the plot-driven ambience of the series, the producers continued to provide quickie glimpses of the private lives of the six principal characters. The various casual affairs indulged in by Executive Assistant DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) in the years before his association with DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) occasionally come back to haunt him, and never so dramatically as in the episode "Trophy, in which he is forced to prosecute a former lover whose false testimony in an earlier case had enabled him to advance professionally. Another episode, "Charm City, represents the first of three Law & Order crossovers with another NBC crime series, the Baltimore-based Homicide: Life in the Street. This required several Law & Order regulars to make guest appearances on Homicide, and vice versa, thereby opening old wounds between New Yorker Lennie Briscoe and his Baltimore counterpart, John Munch (Richard Belzer). Inevitably, the 1995-1996 season of Law & Order ended with the departure of one of the regulars, in this instance Jill Hennessy as Assistant DA Claire Kincaid. Onscreen, Kincaid was seriously injured in an auto accident; in truth, Hennessy chose not to renew her contract with the series, leaving her free to pursue other roles. The question of whether Kincaid survived the accident would not be fully answered until well into season seven.Law & Order entered its seventh season on a note of uncertainty: Had Assistant DA Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy) been killed by that drunk driver at the end of season six? The answer would remain vague until it was determined by the producers that actress Hennessy had no intention of returning to the series; it was at this point that the unfortunate Kincaid was sadly and reverently referred to in the past tense. Her replacement was ADA Jamie Ross (played by Carey Lowell). The idealistic Ross, who struggled to balance her career with her home life as a single mom, proved to be an excellent opposite number for the jaded, unattached Executive ADA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). In addition to claiming Kincaid, death took its toll on another of the series' characters. Throughout season seven, the never-seen wife of DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) lay virtually comatose in a hospital bed, tenaciously hanging on to life. The final episode of the season concluded with a grieving Schiff sitting at bedside as the monitor attached to his wife flat-lined. Nor was the brief sojourn to Hollywood taken by detectives Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) fraught with merriment. They had gone to Tinseltown to investigate the brutal murder of a female studio executive, a plot line which necessitated the series' first (and, to this point, only) three-part story. This expanded time frame afforded ample opportunity to probe the private lives of two of the series' principals: Curtis, devoted to his ailing wife (who had earlier been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis), nonetheless briefly drifted from his marital vows with a sexy Hollywoodite, and new ADA Jamie Ross was bedeviled by her ex-husband, scheming defense attorney Neal Gordon (Keith Szarabajka), both in and out of court. After several years worth of Emmy nominations but no wins, Law & Order closed out season seven with two new statuettes, for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Cinematography.Fans of Law & Order -- and there were many, many more than there had been in previous years -- were somewhat surprised that the series entered its eighth season with no changes in the regular cast. detectives Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) were still upholding the "Law" at the behest of their NYPD boss Lt. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), while ADAs McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Ross (Carey Lowell) continued to maintain "Order" on behalf of their superior, DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill). In other carryovers from past seasons, the series staged its second crossover with the NBC crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street with the episode "Baby, It's You;" as before, selected Homicide cast members appeared on Law & Order, and vice versa. Also keeping in the tradition of its past, the series took home its third Emmy award for Outstanding Cinematography. In addition, the series continued tackling issues that were very much in the news. For example, the episode "Castoff" addressed the culpability of TV violence in fomenting real-life violence. Much more so than in previous seasons, the series boasted a number of narrative throughlines that enhanced its sense of reality and continuity. McCoy's questionable tactics in prosecuting a drunk driver in "Under the Influence" came back to haunt him in the season finale. Likewise, in that same episode, Cliff Gorman was introduced as a politically ambitious judge named Gary Feldman, who hoped to win the DA's office from Schiff in the upcoming election. Feldman received unexpected support in the form of powerful (and paranoiac) millionaire Carl Anderton (Robert Vaughn), who would not forget being "betrayed" by Schiff in the episode "Burned." Both Feldman and Anderton would converge upon the DA in the aforementioned series finale, which also boasted a subplot involving ADA Jamie Ross. To accommodate the fact that actress Carey Lowell planned to leave the series, Ross decided to retire to private practice so that she could devote her spare time to her second husband -- and to an ongoing child-custody battle with husband number one. And in more glimpses of the characters' private lives, Jennifer Bill appeared in a brace of episodes as Cathy Briscoe, the troubled, estranged daughter of detective Lennie Briscoe. The brevity of Bill's contribution to Law & Order was due to a devastating plot twist which threatened to push Briscoe over the edge and back into the bottle he'd successfully abandoned years earlier.With the eighth-season departure of series regular Carey Lowell as ADA Jamie Ross, Angie Harmon joined the cast of Law & Order at the beginning of its ninth season. Harmon, of course, played Ross' replacement, ADA Abbie Carmichael, who, if anything, was even more zealous in her pursuit of justice than her new partner Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston). Having racked up a 95 percent conviction rate while working in Special Narcotics, Carmichael tackled her new job with a zeal and ferocity that shocked even the ruthless McCoy -- to say nothing of her sanguine boss, DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill). There were no ninth-season changes amongst the series' detectives, with Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) continuing to track down clues and collar perps under the supervision of Lt. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson). However, actor Bratt was anxious to pursue other professional vistas, and thus it was arranged to write Rey Curtis out of the series during the final episode, explaining that he had requested a desk job so that he could devote more time to his wife, who was suffering from multiple sclerosis. But before his character's departure, Bratt managed to persuade his then-girlfriend, cinema superstar Julia Roberts, to appear in a guest role in the episode "Empire." The result was one of Roberts' finest performances, which earned the actress an Emmy. Of the many headline-inspired episodes in season nine, one was a standout: "Sideshow, the series' third and final crossover with the NBC crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street. Clearly inspired by the ongoing efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton, the episode featured a somewhat sinister independent counsel named William Dell, who, as played by George Hearn, bore a striking resemblance to the much-maligned Kenneth Starr. Law & Order closed its ninth season with a powerful two-parter involving the Russian mafia. On this occasion, Carolyn McCormick made a return visit to the series as former police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, a recurring character who had been more or less supplanted during the previous two seasons by J.K. Simmons as Dr. Emil Skoda.Season ten of Law & Order was marked by the first cast addition to the "Law" portion of the series since 1995. To replace the departed Benjamin Bratt, Jesse L. Martin was introduced as Detective Eddie Green, the new partner of veteran NYPD Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). The fact that Green was African-American and a considerably younger than Briscoe added a welcome dash of contrast and friction to the detective end of the show. Furthering layering the relationship between the two men was the fact that, as the son of a globetrotting, petrochemical engineer, Green was even more "worldly" than his jaded partner -- and with several charges of excessive force on his record, Green was considerably more hotheaded and impulsive than Briscoe, as well. Over at the DA's office, things remained the same as they'd been in season nine, with Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) continuing to preside over his diligent assistants, Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon). Jamie Ross (Carey Lowell), Carmichael's predecessor, made an unexpected guest appearance, albeit as a defense attorney at odds with her former partners. Another former Law & Order regular, Dann Florek, had been engaged to reprise his role of Captain Don Cragen in the first of the series' several spin-offs, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which debuted in the fall of 1999. One two-part story, "Entitled, was a crossover between Law & Order and its SVU sister series, with actors from both shows exchanging guest appearances. Law & Order's tenth season ended with the departure of the only regular who'd been with the series since its inception in 1990. It was explained that DA Adam Schiff had left his office to work for the U.S. government, his first assignment being to represent the country at a Holocaust memorial in Holland. In real life, septuagenarian actor Steven Hill had decided to retire, necessitating the graceful elimination of his character.Season ten of Law & Order had ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with an international trial involving the son of a prominent diplomat casting serious doubt upon the reelection of DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill). In the first episode of the series' 11th season, it was learned that Schiff had, indeed, left office -- not due to a lack of voter turnout, but because he had been appointed by the U.S. government to supervise an upcoming Holocaust memorial in Holland. Until Schiff's replacement could be elected, it was necessary to appoint an interim DA, former law school ethics professor Nora Lewin -- played by Oscar-winning actress Dianne Wiest, whose character's predetermined "temporary" status reflected Wiest's reluctance to tie herself down to a long-running weekly series. Seemingly softer and less curmudgeonly than Schiff, Lewin nonetheless possessed what Executive Producer Dick Wolf described as a "steely reserve," which surfaced whenever it was necessary to the story. Otherwise, the cast members from season ten were carried over into season 11, though it was fairly common knowledge that actress Angie Harmon, cast as ADA Abbie Carmichael, would be departing the series to seek out different projects once her contract was up. Harmon's predecessor, Carey Lowell, made another return appearance as former ADA Jamie Ross, again acting as a defense attorney in opposition to her former colleagues. In addition, acerbic writer Fran Lebowitz made the first of several cameo appearances as Arraignment Judge Goldberg. Among the hot-button issues touched upon during the series' 11th season were the potential dangers of prison budget cutbacks, TV "reality" shows, the loopholes inherent in Israel's "Law of Return" for Jewish citizens, the gay adoption controversy, and, perhaps inevitably, the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. One episode, "Sunday in the Park With Jorge, was attacked by a number of ethnic special-interest groups because it depicted a Central Park "wilding" incident during an Hispanic Pride Festival. Although producer Wolf would not categorically apologize for the story's content, citing the real-life incident on which it was based, he agreed to remove the offending episode from Law & Order's syndicated rerun package.With the departure of series regular Angie Harmon at the close of season eleven (it was explained that her character, Assistant DA Abbie Carmichael, had accepted a job with the U.S. Attorney's Federal Major Crimes Task Force), season twelve of Law & Order was ushered in with a new face in the DA's office. Elisabeth Rohm was added to the cast as ADA Serena Southerlyn, who had requested the appointment because she wanted to tackle grittier cases than the "white-collar crimes" which had been her forte. The scriptwriters wasted little time in providing Serena with a baptism by fire: in the episode "DR 1-102, she courageously defused a dangerous hostage situation -- only to face the loss of her license to practice law because she failed to follow accepted legal procedure. The rest of the cast remained the same as in season eleven, though it was already established that Dianne Wiest's character, interim DA Nora Lewin, would be written out as soon as a permanent district attorney could be elected. (It was not that Wiest was unhappy with her role, nor that the producers were dissatisfied with the character; she just didn't want to be artistically confined to series television.) Likewise maintaining the Law & Order status quo was the series' predilection for stories based on current headlines, beginning with the season opener "Who Let the Dogs Out?, which was transparently inspired by a real-life California case involving a killer pit bull. The arrests of actor Robert Blake and rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs and the disappearance of congressional intern Chandra Levy, likewise provided grist for the series' story mill. In addition, the terrible events of September 11 loomed large over the proceedings, notably in the season-closing episode "Patriot." Finally, by 2001, Law & Order had become something of franchise. The series' first spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, was entering its second successful season. Both this show and its parent series were joined in the fall of 2001 by Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which chronicled crime and punishment from the perpetrators' point-of-view.As it entered its 13th season on the air, Law & Order also entered the history books as the longest-running TV program of its genre. This, however, did not satisfy series producer Dick Wolf, who had every intention of keeping the series in production for at least another eight years, long enough to smash Gunsmoke's status as the longest-running dramatic series of all time. Wolf also refused to rest on his laurels by concentrating on his "baby" alone: In addition to the original Law & Order, he was also churning out spin-offs Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as the documentary
eality series Crime & Punishment, with an updated revival of the classic Dragnet still in the wings. The basic Law & Order cast from season 12 was still in place, with one very significant change. After two years of service, interim District Attorney Nora Lewin (Dianne Weist), who'd replaced the venerable Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) in 2000, was herself replaced by DA Arthur Branch, played by Fred Dalton Thompson, an erstwhile actor better known to the public as a former Republican senator from Tennessee. The avuncular, home-fried conservatism of Branch -- who, unlike his strictly-business predecessors, was inclined toward long-winded anecdotes and rustic homilies whenever making an important point of law -- was frequently at odds with the intense liberalism of ADA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and the studied seriousness of McCoy's assistant Serena Southerlyn. So much for the "Order" portion of the program. Back on the "Law" end of the spectrum, producer Wolf had promised viewers that there would be more friction between detectives Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Eddie Green (Jesse L. Martin); as it turned out, however, Briscoe and Green developed into something of a comedy team, with Green playing off of the witty comments and abysmal puns invariably dropped by Briscoe at each murder scene. Similarly, the detectives' sober-sided superior, Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), became a bit more wry and light-hearted than she'd been in previous seasons. As always, Law & Order kept abreast of the times with stories based on actual events and persons. The aftermath of 9/11, the saga of "American Jihad" John Walker Lindh, the shoplifting trial of actress Winona Ryder, the Lacy Peterson murder case, the Martha Stewart inside-trading imbroglio, pop star Michael Jackson's display of parental recklessness from a balcony, the criminal charges against the NBA's Jayson Williams, and the "D.C. Snipers" case were all grist for the writers' mill. The 13th-season finale of Law & Order was lavishly publicized as the series' 300th episode. Technically, however, it was the 301st, but NBC seldom acknowledged the series' pilot episode because it had been financed by CBS. Ironically, that selfsame pilot show was rebroadcast by NBC May 21, 2003, the same night as the "300th" installment."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." With this pithy but all-inclusive prologue, thus began each hour-long episode of Law & Order, American network television's longest-running police drama. This was not the first such program to equally divide its time between the arrest and the trial; indeed, there had been a series precisely titled Arrest and Trial back in 1963. But Law & Order was easily the most popular and successful of the batch, and as the series eased gracefully past its 11th, 12th, and 13th season, it was very likely that its creator and executive producer Dick Wolf would fulfill his dream of matching and even surpassing the longevity of Gunsmoke, which lasted 20 years, setting a record as American network television's most durable dramatic series. Although Law & Order boasted a large and fluid ensemble cast, there were no real "stars" per se, save for the city of New York (a point made by scores of TV historians, notably Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh). Virtually every episode starts out with the discovery of a dead body or evidence of a violent crime. A pair of NYPD detectives arrive on the scene, begin gathering evidence and eyewitnesses at the behest of their superiors, and -- generally after a handful of frustrating dead ends and false leads -- manage to collar the principal suspect. The story then shifts to the offices of the DA, where a team of brilliant prosecuting attorneys do their best to build a case against the accused, dodging the obstructive tactics of defense lawyers all along the way. Even when the case gets to court, the story is far from over, with several twists and turns -- and usually a shocking and unexpected denouement -- awaiting both the prosecutors and the viewer. The series made its NBC network debut Thursday, September 13, 1990, moving to its originally scheduled Tuesday-night slot October 23. The fact that Law & Order was frequently pre-empted by network specials indicated that NBC wasn't all that sure of the series' success. By the end of the first season, however, the ratings, if not spectacular, were good enough to warrant a renewal -- while backstage intrigues assured that the series would undergo the first of its many abrupt cast changes.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/08/2011
UPC:
0025192104008
Rating:
NR
Source:
Universal Studios

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Angie Harmon Asst. DA Abbie Carmichael
Benjamin Bratt Det. Rey Curtis
J.K. Simmons Dr. Emil Skoda
Jeremy Sisto Cyrus Lupo
Jerry Orbach Det. Lennie Briscoe
Jesse L. Martin Det. Eddie Green
Jill Hennessy Asst. DA Claire Kincaid
Richard Brooks Asst. DA Paul Robinette
Dann Florek Capt. Don Cragen
George Dzundza Det. Sgt. Max Greevey
Linus Roache Michael Cutter
S. Epatha Merkerson Lt. Anita Van Buren
Steven Hill DA Adam Schiff
Carey Lowell Asst. DA Jamie Ross
Sam Waterston Jack McCoy,EADA Jack McCoy,Exec. Asst. DA Jack McCoy
Anthony Anderson Actor
Chris Noth Det. Mike Logan
Elisabeth Röhm Asst. DA Serena Southerlyn,ADA Serena Southerlyn
Fred Dalton Thompson DA Arthur Branch
Michael Moriarty Exec. Asst. DA Ben Stone
Dianne Wiest DA Nora Lewin
Paul Sorvino Det. Phil Cerreta

Technical Credits
Dick Wolf Executive Producer

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Law & Order: The Complete Series 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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