Law & Order - The Fifth Year
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.