Law & Order

Law & Order
Law & Order
Title card
Created by Dick Wolf
Starring George Dzundza
Chris Noth
Dann Florek
Michael Moriarty
Richard Brooks
Steven Hill
Paul Sorvino
Carolyn McCormick
Jerry Orbach
S. Epatha Merkerson
Jill Hennessy
Sam Waterston
Benjamin Bratt
Carey Lowell
Angie Harmon
Jesse L. Martin
Dianne Wiest
Elisabeth Röhm
Fred Dalton Thompson
Dennis Farina
Annie Parisse
Michael Imperioli
Milena Govich
Alana de la Garza
Jeremy Sisto
Linus Roache
Anthony Anderson
Theme music composer Mike Post
Opening theme Theme of Law & Order
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 20
No. of episodes 456 (List of episodes)
Location(s) New York City, New York
Running time 60 minutes (with commercials)
Production company(s) Wolf Films
Universal Television (1990-1998, 2002-2004)
Studios USA (1998-2002)
NBC Universal Television Studio (2004-2007)
Universal Media Studios (2007-2010)
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original run September 13, 1990 – May 24, 2010
Related shows Law & 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 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, and tied for longest running American primetime drama series of all time with Gunsmoke; both are the second longest-running scripted primetime series with ongoing characters after The Simpsons.

Set and filmed in New York City, the series follows a two-part approach: in the first half hour, the investigation of a crime and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department homicide detectives is shown, followed by the prosecution of the defendant by the Manhattan District Attorney's office in the second half. Plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines.

The show has been noted for its revolving cast over the years. Its first season starred George Dzundza as Detective Sergeant Max Greevey, Chris Noth as 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.

In 2002, Law & Order was ranked #24 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.[1]

The success of the series has led to the creation of additional shows within the Law & Order franchise, a television film, several video games, and international adaptations of the series. It has won and 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.[2][3][4][5]

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.[6] In July 2010, however, he indicated that those attempts have failed and declared that the series had now "moved to the history books".[7]



History and development

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. For the first half of each episode, the show would follow two detectives (a senior and junior detective) and their commanding officer as they investigate a violent crime. The second half of the show would center around 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.[8]

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 that lasted one season. The two watched the pilot of that series, in which a police officer, played by 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. Wolf discovered this was the formula of the show every week, and decided that, while his detectives would occasionally be fallible as Gazzara's was, he wanted a fresh approach to the genre that would go from police procedural to prosecution with a greater degree of realism. In addition, the prosecution would be the hero instead of the defense, a reversal of the usual formula in lawyer dramas.[9]

Initially, the show was ordered by Fox for thirteen episodes with no pilot based on the concept alone. The decision was reversed by then-network head Barry Diller, who loved the idea but did not believe it was a Fox show. Wolf then went to CBS, which ordered a pilot, "Everybody's Favorite Bagman", written by Wolf, which centered around 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 show. In the summer of 1989, NBC's top executives, Brandon Tartikoff and Warren Littlefield, screened the pilot and liked it, but were concerned the intensity of the series could not be repeated on a week by week basis.[9] However, there was enough faith from executives that the series was innovative and could appeal to a wide audience that the series was ordered by NBC for a full season in 1990.[10]


The series is shot on location in New York City and is known for its extensive use of local color.[11][12] 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.[13]

Music and sound effects

Audio samples of Law & Order  (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.[14] Post wrote the theme song using electric piano, guitar, and clarinet.[15] 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"[14] and Richard Belzer as "the Dick Wolf Cash Register Sound."[16] The tone consists of only two notes and was generated electronically by combining six or seven different sounds to get just the right deadbolt effect. Post has noted that one of the sounds the interlude incorporates is the sound of "five hundred Japanese men stamping their feet on a wooden floor.[14][17] The sound has become so associated with the Law & Order brand that it was also carried over to other series of the franchise.[17]

Casting and characters

The twentieth and last season cast of Law & Order; from left, S. Epatha Merkerson as Van Buren, Jeremy Sisto as Lupo, Anthony Anderson as Bernard, Sam Waterston as McCoy, Alana de la Garza as Rubirosa, and Linus Roache as Cutter.

For the 1988 pilot, George Dzundza and Chris Noth were cast as the original detectives, Sergeant Max Greevey and Mike Logan.[18] Among others, Dzundza was up against Jerry Orbach for the role,[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] Rounding out the police cast, Dann Florek was cast as Captain Donald Cragen.[18]

On the prosecutor's side, Michael Moriarty was Dick Wolf's choice to play Chief 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.[18] 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.[22] As their boss, Roy Thinnes was cast as District Attorney Alfred Wentworth.[18]

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,[22] a character loosely based on real-life Manhattan DA 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Also introduced on a recurring basis in the second season was Carolyn McCormick as Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, a police psychiatrist brought in on a case-by-case basis. NBC had been pushing for the producers to add female characters to the all male cast.[26] She was added to the opening credits as "also starring" in seasons three and four[27] 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.[26] She was removed from the credits in season five.[27] 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 the eighth season.[28] After the cancellation of Cracker, she returned beginning in the thirteenth season and has appeared occasionally since.[29]

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 in 1988 and 1991. When Dzundza and Sorvino were picked instead of him, he made a guest appearance as a defense lawyer in the season two episode "The Wages of Love." 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.[19]

By the end of the third season, 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.[30] To replace Florek, S. Epatha Merkerson was cast as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren.[31] Jill Hennessy replaced Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid.[32]

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. 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.[33]

Wolf fired Noth when his contract ended at the end of season five 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. 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.[34]

Hennessy chose not to renew her three year contract at the end of the sixth season to pursue other projects.[35] 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 eight, when she left the show to spend more time with her daughter.[36] Lowell 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 Texan accent.[37]

Bratt left the series at the end of the ninth season, stating it was an amicable departure and he expected to eventually return for guest appearances.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40] The following year, Harmon departed the show after three seasons and was replaced by Elisabeth Röhm as Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn.[41] After two seasons, Wiest left the show at the end of the twelfth season and was replaced by retiring 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.[42]

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. At the time, Orbach would not state the reason for his departure.[43] 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 film two episodes of Trial by Jury before succumbing to his cancer on December 28, 2004.[44] Orbach was replaced on Law & Order by Dennis Farina as Detective Joe Fontana.[43]

The fifteenth season 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 a lesbian, a fact never cited until then.[45] 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.[46] Parisse left the series at the end of the sixteenth season when Borgia was killed, and Farina announced shortly afterward that he was leaving Law & Order to pursue other projects.[47]

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.[48] 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.[45] 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.[48] Govich proved to be even more unpopular with fans than her predecessor, however,[49] and she only stayed with the show one season and was replaced the next year by Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo. Around the same time, Thompson announced he would leave the show in order to seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Waterston's McCoy was promoted to Interim District Attorney and Linus Roache joined the cast as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter.[50] Sisto in particular received praise for his portrayal of Lupo, with critics saying he was an improvement over Govich.[49] 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."[51] 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.[45]

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. He was replaced by Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard.[45] In 2010, Merkerson announced that she would leave the show at the conclusion of the twentieth season.[52]


"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[53][54]

For most of Law & Order's run, the cold open or lead-in of the show began with the discovery of a crime, usually a murder. The scene typically began with a slice of everyday life in New York. The characters would then discover the crime victim, or sometimes the crime would occur in a public place during the scene and they would be witnesses or one of them would be a victim. However, in the first two seasons the characters discovering the crime would generally be beat cops. In the middle of the 17th season, the lead-in was changed to a short scene of the murder victim in his/her last hours, similarly to Criminal Intent, followed by a cut to the police investigating the dead body.

The police are represented in the show by Manhattan's fictional 27th Precinct and two homicide detectives, a senior partner and a junior partner, who report directly to their boss, a police captain or lieutenant. The detectives investigate the crime, collect evidence (with the help of the Crime Scene Unit), interview witnesses, and report to their commanding officer. The evidence leads to the arrest of one or more suspects. The matter then is taken over by a pair of prosecutors, a senior executive assistant district attorney (EADA) and junior assistant district attorney (ADA) from the office of the New York County District Attorney (DA). They discuss deals, prepare the witnesses and evidence, and conduct the people's case in the trial. Both the detectives and prosecutors work together and with the medical examiner's office, the crime laboratory, and psychologists or psychiatrists contracted from the police department or the district attorney's office, depending on who is needed to testify.

During the preliminary crime scene examination, the featured detectives make their first observations and will come up with theories followed by a witticism or two, before the title sequence begins. The detectives often have few or no good clues—they might not even know the victim's identity—and must usually chase several dead ends before finding a likely suspect. Towards the middle of a show, the police begin working with the prosecutors to make the arrest, though sometimes the ADAs will on occasion appear early on to arrange a plea-for-information deal or to decide if the detectives have enough evidence for search warrant(s) and/or arrest warrant(s) before arresting the suspect or suspects and an arraignment scene will follow. The police may reappear to testify in court or to arrest another suspect, but most investigation in the second segment is done by the ADAs, who always consult with the District Attorney for advice on the case. (In real life, the DA's investigation unit would do any investigating needed to strengthen a case for the prosecution, as the ADAs would be busy with paperwork and prepping witnesses for court.) If the case is very weak then the police would re-investigate.

Unlike many legal dramas (e.g. Perry Mason), the court proceedings are shown from the prosecution's point of view, with the regular characters trying to prove the defendant's guilt, not innocence. The second half usually opens with the arraignment of defendants and proceeds to trial preparation, including legal research and plea negotiations. Some episodes include legal proceedings beyond the testimony of witnesses, including indictments before grand juries; motion hearings, often concerning admissibility of evidence; jury selection; and allocutions, usually as a result of plea bargains. Many episodes employ motions to suppress evidence as a plot device, and most of these end with evidence or statements being suppressed, often on a technicality. This usually begins with the service of the motion to the ADAs, follows with argument and case citations of precedent before a judge in some setting, and concludes with visual reaction of the winning or losing attorney. Sometimes the case might go before an appellate court.

In many episodes, the crime first investigated is not the one that goes to court (a person related to the deceased kills the killer, someone else is found to be involved, evidence of a separate crime is discovered, etc.). This other incident then becomes the focus of investigation. Although the crimes usually depicted in the series are violations of state law, the ramifications of the story may include federal crimes. In that case, as well as the city police department and the state-level DA and court systems, the story would also involve members of the corresponding federal organizations: the FBI (or other agencies such as the SEC), the U.S. attorney's office, and the federal court system. There would then often be some conflict between the two levels of jurisdiction, depicted from the point of view of the regular characters.

Not all episodes of the show followed the strict formula. Some maximized the investigation of the crime by the police, while some others maximize the prosecution of the crime in court. The 1991 episode "The Violence of Summer" turned the format of the show around as the prosecution presented its case first followed by the police investigation of the crime. The 1996 episode "Aftershock", which closed the sixth season, abandoned the two-part structure in order to follow the lead characters' reactions to having witnessed an execution, culminating in the accidental death of ADA Claire Kincaid. The series's final episode, aired on May 24, 2010, and titled "Rubber Room", was focused almost entirely on the investigation side, with a subplot involving Anita Van Buren undergoing tests for cancer.

"Ripped from the headlines"

Often the plot of an initial portion of an episode resembles a recognizable aspect of an actual case.[55] 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 and paralleled 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. 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.[55] 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,[55] with one lawyer, Ravi Batra, going so far as to sue the show in 2004 for libel.[56] 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.[57] 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.[57]


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


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.[58] By May 14, 2010, The New York Times, Daily Variety and the Los Angeles Times reported official cancellation of the series.[59] 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.[59]

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.[2] 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."[60]

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."[60]

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.[6]

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.[61] However, TNT said in a statement it was not interested in picking up a 21st season for the series.[62]

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".[63]

Although NBC cancelled the series, AMC started talking about reviving Law & Order;[64] however, attempts to revive it failed, and according to creator Dick Wolf, the series "moved into the history books".[7][65]

Almost a year later, NBC canceled Law & Order: LA after a decline in the ratings after being retooled and moved to Monday nights.[66]

Spin-offs and adaptations

The longevity and success of Law & Order has spawned a number of series and a television film that all 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.[67] To differentiate it from other series in the franchise, Law & Order is often referred to as "The Mother Ship" by producers and critics.[68]


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.

Season Premiere Finale Episodes Timeslot Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 1990–91 September 13, 1990 June 9, 1991 22 Tuesday 10:00 pm #46 12.0
2 1991–92 September 17, 1991 May 14, 1992 22 #43 12.3
3 1992–93 September 23, 1992 May 19, 1993 22 Wednesday 10:00 pm #49 10.5
4 1993–94 September 15, 1993 May 25, 1994 22 #38[69] 11.9[69]
5 1994–95 September 21, 1994 May 24, 1995 23 #27[70] 11.6[70]
6 1995–96 September 20, 1995 May 22, 1996 23 #24[71] 10.9[71]
7 1996–97 September 18, 1996 May 21, 1997 23 #27[72] 10.5[72]
8 1997–98 September 24, 1997 May 20, 1998 24 #24[73] 14.1[73]
9 1998–99 September 23, 1998 May 26, 1999 24 #20[74] 13.8[74]
10 1999–00 September 22, 1999 May 24, 2000 24 #13[75] 16.3[75]
11 2000–01 October 18, 2000 May 23, 2001 24 #11[76] 17.7[76]
12 2001–02 September 26, 2001 May 22, 2002 24 #7[77] 18.7[77]
13 2002–03 October 2, 2002 May 21, 2003 24 #10[78] 17.3[78]
14 2003–04 September 24, 2003 May 19, 2004 24 #14[79] 15.9[79]
15 2004–05 September 22, 2004 May 18, 2005 24 #25[80] 13.0[80]
16 2005–06 September 21, 2005 May 17, 2006 22 #35[81] 11.2[81]
17 2006–07 September 22, 2006 May 18, 2007 22 Friday 10:00 pm #54[82] 9.4[82]
18 2007–08 January 2, 2008 May 21, 2008 18 Wednesday 10:00 pm #38[83] 10.7[83]
19 2008–09 November 5, 2008 June 3, 2009 22 #62[84] 8.2[84]
20 2009–10 September 25, 2009 May 24, 2010 23 Friday 8:00 pm
Monday 10:00 pm
#60[85] 7.2[85]

Awards and honors

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.

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the first eight seasons as well as the fourteenth season on DVD in Region 1.[86][87][88][89][90][91][92][93][94] Season 9 will be released on December 6, 2011[95] and season 10 on February 28, 2012.[96]

On August 18, 2010 Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced that they would release 'Law & Order: The Complete Series' on region 1 DVD on November 8, 2011.[97]

In Region 2, Universal Playback has released the first seven seasons on DVD in the UK.[98]

In Region 4, Universal Pictures has released the first seven seasons on DVD in Australia.[99][100][101][102][103][104][105] The eighth season will be released on November 17, 2011.[106]

See also



  1. ^ TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows
  2. ^ a b "Law & Order cancelled". The Spy Report (Media Spy). May 15, 2010. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Brian Stelter; Bill Carter (May 14, 2010). "NBC Cancels 'Law & Order'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ a b Carter, Bill (May 17, 2010). "‘Law & Order' Creator Still Looking to Bring Original Back". The New York Times. 
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  • Courrier, Kevin; Green, Susan (1999-11-20). Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Renaissance Books. ISBN 1580631088. 
  • Green, Susan; Dawn, Randee (2009-09-01). Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Unofficial Companion. Dallas: BenBella Books. ISBN 1933771887. 

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