Law & Order

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Law & Order
Title card
Created byDick Wolf
Theme music composerMike Post
Opening themeTheme of Law & Order
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons20
No. of episodes456 (List of episodes)
Location(s)New York City, New York
Running time60 minutes (with commercials)
Production company(s)
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original channelNBC
Picture format
Original runSeptember 13, 1990 (1990-09-13) – May 24, 2010 (2010-05-24)
Related showsLaw & Order franchise
External links
Law & Order TV Show at NBC
Jump to: navigation, search
Law & Order
Title card
Created byDick Wolf
Theme music composerMike Post
Opening themeTheme of Law & Order
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons20
No. of episodes456 (List of episodes)
Location(s)New York City, New York
Running time60 minutes (with commercials)
Production company(s)
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original channelNBC
Picture format
Original runSeptember 13, 1990 (1990-09-13) – May 24, 2010 (2010-05-24)
Related showsLaw & Order franchise
External links
Law & Order TV Show at NBC

Law & Order is an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in syndication, on various cable networks. Law & Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and completed its 20th and final season on May 24, 2010. At the time of its cancellation, Law & Order was the longest-running crime drama on American primetime television. Its record of 20 seasons is a tie with Gunsmoke for the longest-running live-action scripted American prime-time series with ongoing characters, although it had fewer episodes than Gunsmoke, and both series are surpassed by the animated series The Simpsons (in its 25th season as of 2013).

Set and filmed in New York City, the series follows a two-part approach: The first half hour is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department homicide detectives; the second half is the prosecution of the defendant by the New York County Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines, although the motivation for the crime and the perpetrator may be different.

The show has been noted for its revolving cast over the years. Season 1 starred George Dzundza as Sergeant Max Greevey, Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan, Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen, Michael Moriarty as Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone, Richard Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette and Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff. After numerous cast shuffles, its final season starred Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo, Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, Linus Roache as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter, Alana de la Garza as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa, and Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy. Another one of the series' most notable performers was Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, who starred on the show for twelve years (seasons 3–14).

The success of the series has led to the creation of additional shows, making Law & Order a franchise, with also a television film, several video games, and international adaptations of the series. It has won and has been nominated for numerous awards over the years, including a number of Emmy Awards. On May 14, 2010, NBC announced that it had cancelled Law & Order and would air the final episode on May 24, 2010.[1][2][3][4] Immediately following the show's cancellation, Wolf stated that he was attempting to find a new home for the series and would also consider a "last resort" plan to conclude the show with a two-hour TV film to air on NBC.[5] In July 2010, however, he indicated that those attempts had failed and declared that the series had now "moved to the history books".[6]


History and development[edit]

In 1988, Dick Wolf developed a concept for a new television series that would depict a relatively optimistic picture of the American criminal justice system. He initially toyed with the idea of calling it Night & Day but then hit upon the title Law & Order. The first half of each episode would follow two detectives (a senior and a junior detective) and their commanding officer as they investigate a violent crime. The second half of the episode would follow the District Attorney's Office and the courts as two prosecutors, with advice from the District Attorney himself, attempt to convict the accused. Through this, Law & Order would be able to investigate some of the larger issues of the day by focusing on stories that were based on real cases making headlines.[7]

Wolf took the idea to then-president of Universal Television Kerry McCluggage, who pointed out the similarity to a 1963 series titled Arrest and Trial, which lasted one season. The two watched the pilot of that series, in which a police officer (Ben Gazzara) arrested a man for armed robbery in the first half, and the defense attorney, played by Chuck Connors gets the perpetrator off as the wrong guy in the second half; this was the formula of the show every week. Wolf decided that, while his detectives would occasionally also be fallible, he wanted a fresh approach to the genre, to go from police procedural to prosecution with a greater degree of realism. In addition, the prosecution would be the hero, a reversal of the usual formula in lawyer dramas.[8]

Initially, Fox ordered thirteen episodes based on the concept alone, with no pilot. Then-network head Barry Diller reversed the decision. Although he loved the idea, he didn't believe it was a "Fox show". Wolf then went to CBS, which ordered a pilot, "Everybody's Favorite Bagman", written by Wolf about corrupt city officials involved with the mob. The network liked the pilot but did not order it because there were no breakout stars. In the summer of 1989, NBC's top executives, Brandon Tartikoff and Warren Littlefield, screened the pilot and liked it; but they were concerned the intensity of the series could not be repeated week after week.[8] However, by 1990, NBC executives had enough confidence that the innovative show could appeal to a wide audience that they ordered the series for a full season.[9]


The series is shot on location in New York City and is known for its extensive use of local color.[10][11] In later seasons, New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, attorney William Kunstler and Bronx Congressman José Serrano all have appeared on the show as themselves. Local personalities also have had recurring cameos as fictional characters, such as Donna Hanover and Fran Lebowitz as judges. On September 14, 2004, in New York City, a road leading to Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers (where the series is mostly shot) was renamed "Law & Order Way" in tribute to the series.[12]

Music and sound effects[edit]

Audio samples of Law & Order  (media help)

Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.

Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The music for Law & Order is composed by veteran composer Mike Post. The music is deliberately designed to be minimalist to match the abbreviated style of the series.[13] Post wrote the theme song using electric piano, guitar, and clarinet.[14] In addition, scene changes are accompanied by a tone generated by Post. He refers to the tone as "The Clang," while Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker has referred to the sound as the "ominous chung CHUNG",[13] actor Dann Florek (in a promo) as the "doink doink",[15] and Richard Belzer as "the Dick Wolf Cash Register Sound."[16] The tone moves the viewer from scene to scene, jumping forward in time with all the importance and immediacy of a judge's gavel – which is exactly what Post was aiming for when he created it. "The Clang" is an amalgamation of nearly a dozen sounds, including an actual gavel, a jail door slamming, and five hundred Japanese monks walking across a hardwood floor.[13][17][18][19] The sound has become so associated with the Law & Order brand that it was also carried over to other series of the franchise.[18]

The UK-aired Channel Five versions of Law & Order[20] and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit[21] feature the song "I'm Not Driving Anymore" by Rob Dougan in the opening credits. Another Rob Dougan track, "There's Only Me", is used as the theme for Law & Order: Criminal Intent.[22]

Casting and characters[edit]

NamePortrayed byOccupationSeasons
Max GreeveyGeorge DzundzaSenior Detective (Sergeant)Main
Phil CerretaPaul SorvinoSenior Detective (Sergeant)Main
Lennie BriscoeJerry OrbachSenior DetectiveMain
Joe FontanaDennis FarinaSenior DetectiveMain
Mike LoganChris NothJunior DetectiveMain
Rey CurtisBenjamin BrattJunior DetectiveMainGuest
Ed GreenJesse L. MartinJunior Detective,
Senior Detective
Nick FalcoMichael ImperioliJunior DetectiveMainGuest
Nina CassadyMilena GovichJunior DetectiveMain
Cyrus LupoJeremy SistoJunior Detective,
Senior Detective
Kevin BernardAnthony AndersonJunior DetectiveMain
Donald CragenDann FlorekCaptainMainGuestGuestGuest
Anita Van BurenS. Epatha MerkersonLieutenantMain
Ben StoneMichael MoriartyExecutive Assistant
District Attorney
Jack McCoySam WaterstonExecutive Assistant
District Attorney,
District Attorney
Assistant District Attorney
District Attorney
Michael CutterLinus RoacheExecutive Assistant
District Attorney
Paul RobinetteRichard BrooksAssistant District AttorneyMainGuestGuest
Claire KincaidJill HennessyAssistant District AttorneyMain
Jamie RossCarey LowellAssistant District AttorneyMainGuest
Abbie CarmichaelAngie HarmonAssistant District AttorneyMain
Serena SoutherlynElisabeth RöhmAssistant District AttorneyMain
Alexandra BorgiaAnnie ParisseAssistant District AttorneyMain
Connie RubirosaAlana de la GarzaAssistant District AttorneyMain
Adam SchiffSteven HillDistrict AttorneyMain
Nora LewinDianne WiestDistrict AttorneyMain
Arthur BranchFred ThompsonDistrict AttorneyMain
Elizabeth OlivetCarolyn McCormickPsychologistGuestAlso StarringGuestGuestGuest

Four of the six original cast members (left to right): George Dzundza, Michael Moriarty, Chris Noth, and Richard Brooks (1990–91)

For the 1988 pilot, George Dzundza and Chris Noth were cast as the original detectives, Sergeant Max Greevey and Mike Logan.[23] Among others, Dzundza was up against Jerry Orbach, who had just recently become available due to his The Law & Harry McGraw series being cancelled, for the role,[24] and the producers felt that Dzundza would be a perfect senior police officer as he was someone the producers felt they could see themselves riding along with in a police cruiser.[25] Noth and Michael Madsen were candidates for the role of Logan. Madsen initially was considered the perfect choice for the role, but, in a final reading, it was felt that Madsen's acting mannerisms were repetitive, and Noth received the role instead.[26] Rounding out the police cast, Dann Florek was cast as Captain Donald Cragen.[23]

On the prosecutor's side, Michael Moriarty was Dick Wolf's choice to play Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone. The network, however, preferred James Naughton, but, in the end, Wolf's choice would prevail, and Moriarty received the role.[23] As his ADA, Richard Brooks and Eriq La Salle were being considered for the role of Paul Robinette. The network favored La Salle but, once again, the producers' choice prevailed, and Brooks received the role.[27] As their boss, Roy Thinnes was cast as District Attorney Alfred Wentworth.[23]

Nearly two years passed between the pilot and production of the series. The producers held options on Dzundza, Noth, Moriarty, and Brooks. Each was paid holding money for the additional year and brought back. Florek also returned. Thinnes, however, was starring in Dark Shadows and declined to return. In his place, the producers tapped Steven Hill to play District Attorney Adam Schiff,[27] a character loosely based on real-life New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Hill brought prestige and experience to the show and, as such, the producers allowed Hill to give insight on the direction he thought the character should go.[28]

Paul Sorvino (far left) joins the cast in the second season (1991–92) and departs during the third (1992–93).

Dzundza was disappointed when he realized that the show would be more of an ensemble show rather than a show starring him. Though the cast liked his portrayal of Greevey, they increasingly felt uncomfortable around Dzundza, who was also under stress due to the constant commute between New York City and his home in Los Angeles. Dzundza quit after only one season on the show and his character was written out as having been killed in the line of duty.[29] Dzundza was replaced on the show by Paul Sorvino as Detective Sergeant Phil Cerreta, who was considered more even tempered than either Greevey or Logan. Sorvino was initially excited about the role, but would leave after twenty-nine episodes, citing the exhausting schedule demanded by the filming of the show, a need to broaden his horizons, and the desire to preserve his vocal cords for singing opera as reasons for leaving the show; to give Sorvino the out, Sergeant Cerreta was written out by having been shot in the line of duty and being transferred out of the precinct.[30]

Also introduced on a recurring basis Season 2 was Carolyn McCormick as Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, a police psychologist brought in on a case-by-case basis. NBC had been pushing for the producers to add female characters to the all male cast.[31] She was added to the opening credits as "also starring" in seasons three and four[32] but, despite the attempts of the producers to include her in as many episodes as possible, it was found to be difficult to incorporate her into the show due to the format leaning heavy on the police and prosecutors.[31] She was removed from the credits in Season 5.[32] McCormick stayed with the show on a recurring basis, but believed that the character had become less profound and complex, and that her role had been reduced mostly to "psychobabble." She left to star in Cracker after Season 8.[33] After the cancellation of Cracker, she returned beginning in Season 13 and appeared occasionally until Season 20.[34]

Jerry Orbach was initially hesitant about starring in an hour-long drama after witnessing the exhausting effect it had on his friend David Janssen on The Fugitive, but changed his mind as he got older. He had twice before auditioned for the role of the senior detective (1988 and 1991). When Dzundza and Sorvino were picked instead of him, he made a guest appearance as a defense lawyer in Season 2 episode "The Wages of Love" while returning to his recurring role on Murder, She Wrote where his Harry McGraw character had originated. While there, Orbach heard Sorvino raving about the quality of the show and how Sorvino believed he had found a winning series to do. After Sorvino's departure during the third season, Orbach decided to audition a third time and was given the role of Detective Lennie Briscoe.[24]

By the end of Season 3, network executives still felt the show did not have enough female characters. On the orders of Warren Littlefield, new female characters had to be added to the cast or the show would face possible cancellation on its relegated Friday night time slot. Wolf realized that, since there were only six characters on the show, someone had to be fired. He chose Florek and Brooks, and later said it was the hardest two phone calls he had ever made. Though producers initially claimed the firings, especially Brooks, who was said not to get along with Moriarty, were for other reasons, Wolf confirmed that the firings were on the orders of Littlefield.[35] To replace Florek, S. Epatha Merkerson was cast as new squad leader Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, as Captain Cragen was given a position at the Internal Affairs Bureau (and a recurring role for the next several years).[36] Jill Hennessy replaced Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid, and the Paul Robinette character became a race-baiting defense attorney.[37]

Meanwhile, Moriarty's behavior both on and off the set became problematic for Wolf. After a public statement in which Moriarty called Attorney General Janet Reno a "psychopathic Nazi" for her efforts to censor television violence, Moriarty engaged in a verbal confrontation with Reno at a dinner in Washington, D.C. Wolf asked Moriarty to tone down his comments, and Moriarty responded by quitting the show the next week, and the final storyline for Ben Stone involved him resigning over his guilt that a woman he compelled to testify against a Russian mobster was murdered by his cohorts. To replace Moriarty, Sam Waterston was Wolf's first choice to join the cast as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, a character markedly different from Moriarty's Stone in that McCoy was conceived as more emotionally stable and having more sex appeal than Stone.[38]

Cast of season six (1995–96): (from left) Benjamin Bratt, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, and Jill Hennessy

Wolf fired Noth when his contract ended at the end of Season 5 because he felt that Briscoe and Logan were too alike and the writers were having trouble finding ways to write them since they agreed on everything. Noth had been disgruntled with the show since the firings of Florek and Brooks, and remained embittered against Wolf, who he felt was not a friend to his actors. The decision to fire Noth was extremely controversial with fans and critics alike, who felt that Noth's absence left a void on the show that was never filled. Perhaps due to the bad blood, the final story line for Detective Logan involved him being sent to work on Staten Island in a domestic violence crimes unit as punishment for his punching of a city councilmember who had orchestrated the murder of a gay colleague. Noth was replaced by Benjamin Bratt as Detective Rey Curtis, who was hired in an attempt to find an actor even sexier than Noth to join the cast.[39]

Carey Lowell (far right) joins the cast in season seven (1996–97) and departs in the end of season eight (1997–98).

Hennessy chose not to renew her three-year contract at the end of Season 6 to pursue other projects, and Claire Kincaid was killed in a drunk driving accident.[40] She was replaced by Carey Lowell as Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross. Lowell remained with the show for two seasons until the end of Season 8, when she left the show to spend more time with her daughter.[41] Lowell, whose character resigned to become a law professor and eventually returned to law practice, was replaced by Angie Harmon as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael, who was conceived as being much louder and outspoken than any of her predecessors. Harmon auditioned with eighty-five other women, including Vanessa Williams, for the role, and was picked after Wolf heard her Texas accent.[42]

Bratt left the series at the end of Season 9, stating it was an amicable departure and he expected to eventually return for guest appearances. His character, who had a wife who was suffering from multiple sclerosis, was written out as having left the force in order to take care of her in her final days.[43] He was replaced by Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, who was conceived of as more of a loose cannon in the mold of Logan than Bratt's Curtis had been.[44] In 2000, Hill announced he was leaving the series at the end of Season 10. Hill, who was the last remaining member of the original cast, said his departure was mutual with the producers. He was replaced by Dianne Wiest as Interim District Attorney Nora Lewin and Schiff left to work with Jewish charities and human-rights organizations in Europe.[45] The following year, Harmon departed the show after three seasons (as Abbie Carmichael was called on to serve the U.S. Attorney's office) and was replaced by Elisabeth Röhm as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn.[46] After two seasons, Wiest left the show at the end of Season 12 and was replaced by retiring U.S. Senator Fred Thompson as District Attorney Arthur Branch, whose character was conceived of as being much more right leaning than his predecessors in the DA's office, and was a direct reaction to the September 11 attacks.[47] No mention was made of what happened to Nora Lewin though producers said her character was only supposed to be an interim D.A.

After twelve years on Law & Order, Orbach announced in 2004 that he was leaving the show for the third Law & Order spin-off, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and Lennie Briscoe was written off as having retired from the NYPD full-time. At the time, Orbach would not state the reason for his departure.[48] In December of the same year, however, Orbach revealed he had prostate cancer and Wolf said the role on Trial by Jury was designed to be less taxing than his role on the original series. Orbach was only able to complete filming of two episodes of Trial by Jury (although he had filmed scenes for the first six episodes) before succumbing to his cancer on December 28, 2004.[49] Orbach was replaced on Law & Order by Dennis Farina as Detective Joe Fontana.[48]

Season 15 would also see the departure of Röhm mid-season. Röhm's final scene on the show sparked controversy within the fanbase, as Southerlyn asked Branch if she was being fired because she was gay, a fact never cited until then.[50] Wolf said Röhm's departure was unexpected, and she exited the show in January 2005. Her replacement was Annie Parisse as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia. Later that season, Martin departed early for the season to film Rent. During his absence, he was temporarily replaced by Michael Imperioli as Detective Nick Falco and Ed Green was written out of the series as having been shot in the line of duty and recovering from his injury.[51] Parisse left the series at the end of Season 16 when Borgia was killed, and Farina announced shortly afterward that he was leaving Law & Order to pursue other projects.[52]

By this point, NBC executives believed the franchise was beginning to show its age as ratings for the show had dropped 15 percent from the previous season and 30 percent over the previous three seasons.[53] Farina had never been popular with fans when he replaced Orbach, and it was felt that the cast just did not seem to mesh well together.[50] In an effort to revitalize the show, Wolf brought in Alana de la Garza as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa to replace Parisse. Martin's Green was promoted to senior detective, replacing Farina, and his new partner was Detective Nina Cassady, played by Milena Govich, who had worked with Wolf on the short-lived series Conviction, and served as the show's first female detective.[53] Govich proved to be even more unpopular with fans than her predecessor, however.[54]

Govich only stayed with the show one season and was replaced the next year by Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo (with the explanation being that Detective Cassady was only working with the precinct on a temporary basis with a promotion to full-time only if she earned it). Around the same time, Thompson announced he would leave the show to seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Waterston's McCoy was promoted to Interim District Attorney (later made full District Attorney) and Linus Roache joined the cast as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter.[55]

Cast of seasons 19–20: (from left) Anthony Anderson, Alana de la Garza, Linus Roache, and Jeremy Sisto, (2008–10)

Sisto in particular received praise for his portrayal of Lupo, with critics saying he was an improvement over Govich.[54] Ken Tucker sees the relationship between McCoy and Cutter as "a nicely overstated case of oedipal conflict. McCoy sees in Cutter his younger, more impetuous self, while Cutter sees an aging father figure he wants to vanquish by proving he's smarter and more daring than the old coot. It makes for some superfine debates over points of law that also carry personal, emotional weight for the protagonists, an approach the Law & Order mothership has rarely taken over the years."[56] Other critics said the line-up was the best in years, with the chemistry finally seeming just right after years of cast members who did not seem to fit well in the cast.[50]

Despite critics' praise, the line-up was short-lived. Martin announced he would leave the show near the end of the season to pursue other endeavors and Detective Green was written out as having to resign from the force due to unscrupulous actions. He was replaced by Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard.[50] In 2010, Merkerson announced that she would leave the show at the conclusion of Season 20.[57] However, the cancellation of the show rendered this moot.


"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."

          —Opening narration spoken by Steven Zirnkilton[58][59]

Law & Order episodes are typically segmented into two parts, roughly at the halfway point; the first part follows police and detective work, and the second follows the courtroom proceedings of the case.

"Ripped from the headlines"[edit]

Often the plot of an initial portion of an episode resembles a recognizable aspect of an actual case.[60] In early seasons, the details of these cases often closely followed the real stories, such as the season one episode "Subterranean Homeboy Blues", which had a woman shooting two attempted muggers, paralleling the Bernhard Goetz case. Another early episode focused on a racially charged rape case that mimicked the Tawana Brawley case. This "ripped from the headlines" style is reflected in the opening credits sequence that evolves from newspaper halftones to high-resolution photos. Another first season episode, "Poison Ivy", would be based on the Edmund Perry case where an NYPD officer fatally shot a returning black honor student who was committing a crime in front of the officer upon returning to the city after recently graduating from an Ivy League prep school. Later seasons would take real life cases as inspiration but diverge more from the facts. Often this would be done by increasing the severity of the crime in question, usually by adding a murder. As a result, the plot would tend to veer significantly from the actual events that may have inspired the episode.[60] Promotional advertisements of episodes with close real-life case parallels regularly use the "ripped from the headlines" phrase, although a textual disclaimer, within the actual episode, emphasizes that the story and characters are fictional. This format lends itself to exploring different outcomes or motives that similar events could have had under other circumstances.

Some real life crime victims have felt used and exploited,[60] with one lawyer, Ravi Batra, going so far as to sue the show in 2004 for libel.[61]

The show aired an episode entitled "Floater" on November 12, 2003, relating to a corruption scandal in the Brooklyn Supreme Court in which a judge accepted bribes in return for giving litigants preferential treatment.[62] The episode was "ripped from the headlines" of the case of Gerald Garson, a New York Supreme Court Justice accused (and later convicted) of bribery; at the time of the airing, however, Garson's indictment had not yet been bound over for trial.[62]


Law & Order premiered September 13, 1990, and aired on NBC, with 456 episodes having been produced.


Out of the seven two-part crossovers in the Law & Order franchise, the original series had six – three with Homicide: Life on the Street, two with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and one with Law & Order: Trial by Jury. The following is a list of crossover episodes featuring characters from the three aforementioned series.

Broadcast history[edit]

The show premiered September 13, 1990, and ended on May 24, 2010. 456 episodes were aired and produced. The show ran for twenty seasons on NBC. It was NBC's longest running crime drama, and tied for longest running primetime scripted drama with Gunsmoke. The first two seasons were broadcast Tuesdays at 10 p.m. From season 3 through 16 the show aired Wednesday at 10 p.m. For season 17 it moved to Fridays at 10 p.m. For seasons 18 and 19 the show shifted back to Wednesdays at 10 p.m. For season 20 the show was broadcast Fridays at 8 p.m., while in the spring it moved to Mondays at 10 p.m., where it broadcast its series finale on May 24, 2010.


The show is broadcast in repeat syndication by TNT.[63] It is also broadcast in syndication by various local affiliates.


On May 13, 2010, reports surfaced of the possibility that Law & Order could be canceled after 20 seasons on the air, preventing it from unseating Gunsmoke as longest running American primetime drama unless another network picked it up.[64] By May 14, 2010, The New York Times, Daily Variety and the Los Angeles Times reported official cancellation of the series.[65] Continuation of characters on spin-off series – including Law & Order: Los Angeles — has been mentioned as a possible means of providing closure beyond the series finale.[65]

On May 14, 2010, NBC officially canceled the show, opting instead to pick-up Law & Order: Los Angeles for a first season, and renewed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for a twelfth.[1] The cancellation was announced after last-minute talks between NBC and Dick Wolf to extend the series failed to lead to an agreement.

The chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, Jeff Gaspin, stated: "The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his Law & Order franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated. The legacy of his original Law & Order series will continue to make an impact like no other series before."[66]

Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios, said, "Law & Order has been one of the most successful franchises in the history of television, which is why it is so critical that we continue this important brand and our relationship with Dick Wolf and his team with L&O: LA and Law & Order: SVU."[66]

Following the cancellation announcement, Wolf announced that he still hoped to continue the series, and stated that he was seeking "other offers" from potential outlets to air the series. Wolf also discussed the possibility of airing a two-hour TV film on NBC to conclude Law & Order, but said that such a plan had been delayed until he had exhausted every other possibility for continuing the series. Wolf did not specify whether NBC had already offered to air such a movie.[5]

Dick Wolf stated that, "The flagship series is in a medically induced coma, waiting for a life-saving medicine." Wolf was pressuring the series' producer NBC/Universal Media Studios to make a deal with TNT, which holds syndication rights to the show, for originals if an acceptable license fee could be bargained. Talks between the two started up after upfronts.[67] However, TNT said in a statement it was not interested in picking up a 21st season for the series.[68]

Executive producer René Balcer spoke to Neal Conan on Talk of the Nation on May 24, stating that "we're not dead yet" and noting that there were still ongoing negotiations with cable outlets to see if the original series could be refloated. Balcer referenced the "medically induced coma" brought up by Wolf, calling the show's cancellation "corporately-induced".[69]

Although NBC cancelled the series, AMC started talking about reviving Law & Order;[70] however, attempts to revive it failed, and according to creator Dick Wolf, the series "moved into the history books".[6][71]

Almost exactly one year later, on May 13, 2011, NBC canceled Law & Order: LA following a decline in the ratings after the show had been retooled and moved to Monday nights.[72]

Spin-offs and adaptations[edit]

The longevity and success of Law & Order has spawned four television series (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and Law & Order: LA) as well as a television film (Exiled: A Law & Order Movie), all of which use the name Law & Order. Although there were fears initially that the failure of such shows could hurt the original series, it was felt the brand name was needed because of the commercial desirability such a brand name creates.[73] To differentiate it from other series in the franchise, Law & Order is often referred to as "The Mother Ship" by producers and critics.[74]


Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Law & Order on NBC.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps. Season 18 started in January and was held back as a mid-season replacement when NBC announced their 2007–08 schedule in May 2007. The 20th season premiere was on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm (ET) and 7:00 pm (CT) on NBC.

(in millions)
11990–91September 13, 1990June 9, 199122Tuesday 10:00 pm#4612.0[citation needed]
21991–92September 17, 1991May 14, 199222#4312.3[citation needed]
31992–93September 23, 1992May 19, 199322Wednesday 10:00 pm#4910.5[citation needed]
41993–94September 15, 1993May 25, 199422#38[75]11.9[75]
51994–95September 21, 1994May 24, 199523#27[76]11.6[76]
61995–96September 20, 1995May 22, 199623#24[77]10.9[77]
71996–97September 18, 1996May 21, 199723#27[78]10.5[78]
81997–98September 24, 1997May 20, 199824#24[79]14.1[79]
91998–99September 23, 1998May 26, 199924#20[80]13.8[80]
101999–00September 22, 1999May 24, 200024#13[81]16.3[81]
112000–01October 18, 2000May 23, 200124#11[82]17.7[82]
122001–02September 26, 2001May 22, 200224#7[83]18.7[83]
132002–03October 2, 2002May 21, 200324#10[84]17.3[84]
142003–04September 24, 2003May 19, 200424#14[85]15.9[85]
152004–05September 22, 2004May 18, 200524#25[86]13.0[86]
162005–06September 21, 2005May 17, 200622#35[87]11.2[87]
172006–07September 22, 2006May 18, 200722Friday 10:00 pm#54[88]9.4[88]
182007–08January 2, 2008May 21, 200818Wednesday 10:00 pm#38[89]10.7[89]
192008–09November 5, 2008June 3, 200922#62[90]8.2[90]
202009–10September 25, 2009May 24, 201023Friday 8:00 pm
Monday 10:00 pm

Awards and honors[edit]

Law & Order has been nominated for numerous awards in the television industry over the span of its run. Among its wins are an Emmy award for outstanding drama series in 1997, Screen Actors Guild awards for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series for Sam Waterston in 1999 and Jerry Orbach in 2005, and numerous Edgar Awards for Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay.

In 2002, Law & Order was ranked No. 24 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.[92] The show also placed No. 27 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list.[93]

In 2013, TV Guide ranked Law & Order #14 on their list of the 60 Greatest Shows of All Time.[94]

DVD releases[edit]

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released fourteen seasons on DVD in Region 1, along with the complete series. Law & Order: The Complete Series boxed set features all 20 seasons. Each season is individually packaged (in tray-stack style), with all new cover-art (including new cover art for the seasons that have been released). The set also includes a 50 page full-color book titled "The Episode Guide". Along with episode names and synopsis, there is trivia, facts about the making of the show, liner notes, and over 80 full-color photos. In Region 2, Universal Playback has released the first seven seasons on DVD in the UK. In Region 4, Universal Pictures has released the first eight seasons on DVD in Australia.

TitleEp#Release dates
Region 1Region 2Region 4
The Complete 1st Season22October 15, 2002/June 4, 2013 (slimline set)June 16, 2003April 2, 2003/August 31, 2011 (slimline set)
The Complete 2nd Season22May 4, 2004February 28, 2005August 31, 2011
The Complete 3rd Season22May 24, 2005November 21, 2005August 31, 2011
The Complete 4th Season22December 6, 2005July 17, 2006August 31, 2011
The Complete 5th Season23April 3, 2007July 23, 2007August 31, 2011
The Complete 6th Season23December 2, 2008February 16, 2009August 31, 2011
The Complete 7th Season23January 19, 2010April 12, 2010August 31, 2011
The Complete 8th Season24December 7, 2010August 3, 2011
The Complete 9th Season24December 6, 2011
The Complete 10th Season24February 28, 2012
The Complete 11th Season24November 6, 2012
The Complete 12th Season24February 26, 2013
The Complete 13th Season24November 5, 2013
The Complete 14th Season24September 14, 2004
The Complete 15th Season24
The Complete 16th Season22
The Complete 17th Season22
The Complete 18th Season18
The Complete 19th Season22
The Complete 20th Season23
The Complete Series456November 8, 2011

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Law & Order cancelled". The Spy Report. May 15, 2010. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ Brian Stelter; Bill Carter (May 14, 2010). "One 'Law & Order' Gets a Death Sentence, as Another Joins the Force". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ Brian Stelter; Bill Carter (May 14, 2010). "NBC Cancels 'Law & Order'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  4. ^ "NBC announces pickups for new drama 'LOLA' ('Law & Order: Los Angeles') and returning 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' and 'Law & Order' ends its historic run on NBC May 24" (Press release). NBC Universal. May 14, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Carter, Bill (May 17, 2010). "'Law & Order' Creator Still Looking to Bring Original Back". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b "Law & Order is dead, says Wolf". The Spy Report. July 31, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  7. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), p. 17
  8. ^ a b Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 17–18
  9. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 21–22
  10. ^ Carlson, Erin (October 31, 2008). "Can "Law & Order" outlive "Gunsmoke"?". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. Retrieved November 6, 2008. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Law and Order: Cast and details". TV Guide. Retrieved November 6, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Commissioner Oliver Presents "Law & Order Way"". Retrieved September 14, 2004. 
  13. ^ a b c Courrier and Green (1999), p. 69
  14. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (February 26, 1993). "The Jailhouse Rock". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 
  15. ^ Ryan, Maureen (January 7, 2008). "Thunk-thunk! 'Law & Order' is back in a big way". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 13, 2012. 
  16. ^ Simon, Scott (December 6, 2008). "Richard Belzer: 'I Am Not A Cop'". On the Media (NPR). Retrieved January 5, 2010. 
  17. ^ 12 Things You Didn't Know About Law & Order. By Chris Littler, Nov 24, 2010.
  18. ^ a b Green and Dawn (2009), p. 60
  19. ^ Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. NPR. WNYC, New York City. Nov 26, 2011. Radio.
  20. ^ Law & Order Season 13 opening (Five). YouTube (February 16, 2007). Retrieved on September 12, 2012.
  21. ^ Law & Order SVU Theme UK five edition. YouTube (April 4, 2008). Retrieved on May 7, 2012.
  22. ^ Law & Order Criminal Intent Theme Season Five UK Version. YouTube (August 7, 2008). Retrieved on May 7, 2012.
  23. ^ a b c d Courrier and Green (1999), p. 25
  24. ^ a b Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 120–122
  25. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 110–111
  26. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 25–26
  27. ^ a b Courrier and Green (1999), pp 26
  28. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 131–132
  29. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), p. 111
  30. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 123–125
  31. ^ a b Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 144–145
  32. ^ a b Writers: Michael S. Chernuchin & René Balcer. Director: Ed Sherin (September 30, 1992). "Conspiracy". Law & Order. Season 3. Episode 2. NBC.
  33. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 144–146
  34. ^ Writers: Aaron Zelman & Marc Guggenheim. Director: Constantine Makris (2002-10-02). "American Jihad". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 1. NBC.
  35. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 33–34
  36. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 115–117
  37. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 128–131
  38. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 35–37
  39. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 34–35
  40. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), p. 130
  41. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 134–135
  42. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 333–335
  43. ^ Huff, Richard (April 30, 1999). "Bratt Leaving 'Law & Order'; 'Ally' Doc Joining Force". Daily News (New York). Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  44. ^ Courrier and Green (1999), pp. 331–332
  45. ^ "Hill Leaves 'Law & Order'". Daily News (New York). July 14, 2000. Retrieved December 20, 2009. [dead link]
  46. ^ Shister, Gail (April 23, 2001). "'Law & Order' gets its first blonde as Rohm joins the cast.". Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  47. ^ "Sen. Fred Thompson to join the case of 'Law & Order'". USA Today. August 29, 2002. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  48. ^ a b Starr, Michael (May 18, 2004). "Jerry Orbach Signs Off After 12 Years on 'Law & Order'". Fox News. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  49. ^ Brantley, Ben; Severo, Richard (December 29, 2004). "Jerry Orbach, Star of 'Law & Order,' Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  50. ^ a b c d Roush, Matt (April 23, 2008). "A Dramatic Exit for Jesse L. Martin". TV Guide. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  51. ^ Levin, Gary (December 6, 2004). "'Law & Order' stays orderly". USA Today. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  52. ^ Marinovich, Milosh (May 31, 2006). "'Law & Order' Cast Shakeup". CBS News. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  53. ^ a b Steinberg, Jacques (July 16, 2006). "'Law & Order' Meets the Law of Supply and Demand". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  54. ^ a b Fretts, Bruce (January 2, 2008). "Cheers: Sisto Lays Down the Law". TV Guide. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  55. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer (July 18, 2007). "'Law & Order' Shows Get New Blood". Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  56. ^ Tucker, Ken (December 19, 2008). "TV: Sam Waterston's bark keeps giving Law & Order its bite". Entertainment Weekly. 
  57. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (April 2, 2010). "S. Epatha Merkerson to Leave 'Law & Order'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2019. 
  58. ^ "Ask the Editors"; TV Guide; April 19, 2010; Page 6.
  59. ^ Writer: Dick Wolf. Director: John Patterson (1990-10-30). "Everybody's Favorite Bagman". Law & Order. Season 1. Episode 6. NBC.
  60. ^ a b c Conroy, Tom (October 23, 2009). "'Law & Order' Fictionalizes the Taconic Parkway Tragedy – Is It Too Soon?". AOL Television. Retrieved October 23, 2009. 
  61. ^ Farhi, Paul (March 8, 2009). "Ripped From the Headlines – and From the Heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2009. 
  62. ^ a b "Batra v Wolf, 2008 NY Slip Op 30821(U)" (PDF). Supreme Court, New York County. March 14, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  63. ^ "Upcoming Episodes". Law & Order on Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  64. ^ 1:27 pm ET. "It's official: NBC cancels 'Law & Order'". Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  65. ^ a b Schneider, Michael (May 14, 2010). "'s official: Original 'Law and Order' to end – Entertainment News, TV News, Media". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  66. ^ a b "NBC Cancels 'Law & Order'; Orders 'Law & Order: LA'; Renews 'Law & Order: SVU'" (Press release). NBC (posted on May 14, 2010. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  67. ^ Finke, Nikki (May 17, 2010). "TOLDJA! 'Law & Order' Heading To TNT? Or Will Dick Wolf Howl At NBCU's Hardball?". Deadline. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  68. ^ Braxton, Greg (May 25, 2010). "TNT arrests 'Law & Order' rumors". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  69. ^ Rene Balcer on Talk of the Nation. (May 24, 2010). Retrieved on May 7, 2012.
  70. ^ "AMC Investigates Reviving Law & Order". New York. July 6, 2010. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  71. ^ Levin, Gary (July 30, 2010). "'Law & Order' is L.A.-bound". USA Today. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  72. ^ Michael, Ausiello (May 13, 2011). "Breaking: NBC Axes Law & Order: LA, The Event and Outsourced". TV Line. Retrieved May 13, 2011. 
  73. ^ Green and Dawn (2009), pp. 10–11
  74. ^ Green and Dawn (2009), p. 2
  75. ^ a b Moore, Frazier (July 8, 1994). "Newsmagazines crowd into top of ratings". Sun Sentinel. p. 4E. Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  76. ^ a b "TV Ratings: 1994–1995". Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  77. ^ a b "TV Ratings: 1995–1996". Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  78. ^ a b "TV Ratings: 1996–1997". Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  79. ^ a b "The Final Countdown". Entertainment Weekly Published in issue No. 434 May 29, 1998. May 29, 1998. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  80. ^ a b "TV Winners & Losers: Numbers Racket A Final Tally Of The Season's Show (from Nielsen Media Research)". GeoCities. June 4, 1999. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  81. ^ a b "Top TV Shows For 1999–2000 Season". Variety. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  82. ^ a b "The Bitter End". Entertainment Weekly Published in issue No. 598 Jun 1, 2001. June 1, 2001. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  83. ^ a b "How did your favorite show rate?". USA Today. May 28, 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  84. ^ a b "Rank And File". Entertainment Weekly Published in issue No. 713 Jun 6, 2003. June 6, 2003. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  85. ^ a b "I. T. R. S. Ranking Report: 01 Thru 210". ABC Medianet. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  86. ^ a b "Primetime series". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media). May 27, 2005. Retrieved February 12, 2010. [dead link]
  87. ^ a b "Series". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media). May 26, 2006. Retrieved February 12, 2010. [dead link]
  88. ^ a b "2006–07 primetime wrap". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media). May 25, 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2010. [dead link]
  89. ^ a b "Season Program Rankings from 09/24/07 through 05/25/08". ABC Medianet. May 28, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  90. ^ a b "Season Program Rankings from 09/22/08 through 05/17/09". ABC Medianet. May 19, 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  91. ^ a b "Full Series Rankings For The 2009–10 Broadcast Season". Deadline. May 27, 2010. Retrieved 6 06 2010. 
  92. ^ TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows. Retrieved on May 7, 2012.
  93. ^ "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  94. ^ Fretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt. "The Greatest Shows on Earth". TV Guide Magazine 61 (3194-3195): 16–19. 


External links[edit]