"Law and Order" follows the exploits of a regular cast of lawyers and cops as they track a crime from police investigation to prosecution by the District Attorneys Office. This is a unique concept - the first half of each show takes us to the scene of the crime and on the trail of the perpetrator; the second half focuses on the courtroom as the perpetrator faces court. As we are told at the beginning of each show:
One of the better features of the show is that the bad guys sometimes get away with their crimes. The lawyers at Law in the Lounge can tell you that this is a lot closer to what happens in the real world than television producers generally let on! And sometimes you cant help but admire the ingenuity of the criminals who manage to elude a successful prosecution.
"Law and Order" often takes its cue from American headlines, so you might experience a sense of deja vu as a plot unfolds. Set and filmed in New York City, this show has become a favourite of American audiences and critics alike. But the formula has remained straightforward since the shows debut in 1990, which nowadays may be comforting to long-suffering audiences tired of extravagant plot changes contrived by producers bored with their own product (remember when Douglas Brachman started sleeping with his dead fathers lover in "L.A. Law"?) So, in some ways, this is really the best of both worlds: a meat-and -potatoes format coupled with an interesting concept, and it shows in the consistent quality of the program.
"Law and Order" does not delve too far into the private lives of its characters. This may be because there isnt enough time after the villain has been found and tried, or it may be part of the formula, but either way we cant tell you too much about the characters lives after hours. Yes, weve heard the heavy sighs every time Detective Briscoe mentions one of his ex-wives, Detective Logan apparently had an active sex life, and yes, Rey has clearly been in hot water with Mrs. Curtis due to an extra-marital indiscretion, but otherwise things are pretty quiet on the home fronts. It was quite an eye-opener to see Lennie's daughter in the final show of the 1997/98 series. Given the real life switches that have taken place in the cast and crew, wed have to say that the melodrama is more behind the camera than in front! For more of the personal stuff you'll have to check out this show's first cousin, "Law & Order - SVU".
Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach)
Detective Eddie Green
Nora Lewin (District Attorney)
Adam Schiff (District Attorney)
It now appears that Adam has left to negotiate reparations for Holocaust survivors at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Vienna.
Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty)
Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston)
Detective Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis (Benjamin Bratt)
Jamie Ross (Carey Lowell)
Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson)
Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks)
Assistant D.A. Abbie Charmichael (Angie Harmon )
Jerry Orbach (Detective Lennie Briscoe)
Sam Waterston (Jack McCoy)
And again like Orbach, he has featured in Woody Allens regular ensemble in "Interiors", "Hannah and Her Sisters", and ironically together with Orbach in "Crimes and Misdemeanours" (great title, great film - check it out on video). He also distinguished himself opposite Katherine Hepburn in "The Glass Menagerie". He will soon be seen in the biggest part of them all, as the President of the United States in a feature film with Charlie Sheen and the wonderful Donald Sutherland.
Jesse L Martin (Detective Eddie Green)
Carey Lowell (Jamie Ross)
Dianne West (Nora Lewin)
Michael Moriarty (Ben Stone)
Richard Brooks (ADA Paul Robinette)
S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita Van Buren)
Benjamin Bratt (Detective Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis)
Angie Harmon (Assistant D.A. Abbie Charmichael)
Mccoy and Claire
McCoy and Schiff
McCoy and Charmichael
Briscoe and Logan
Curtis and Briscoe
Dick Wolf, the creator of the series, has been honoured with a number of prestigious awards including the 1998 Television Showman of the Year Award from the Publicist's Guild of America. Wolf is also the author of the excellent feature movie "School Ties" (worth a look on video). Wolf was previously a staff writer on the spiritual godfather of this show, "Hill Street Blues".
There have been some dramatic changes in the cast lately. Dont be too concerned, because from what weve seen the show continues its tradition of quality prime time drama (not so "prime time" in Australia, where Channel Ten inexplicably used to chop and change the schedule apparently at will). Lets look at some of the changes, beginning with the departure of Chris Noth, the actor who plays Detective Mike Logan.
Did Noth leave or was he pushed? From what hes said in the press, the latter would be the best bet. It seems that Noth has opened his mouth about the shows direction once too often to suit the producers, and as David Caruso discovered in the celebrated "NYPD Blue", no actor is indispensable (sounds like working in the real world, doesnt it?). Noth has been vocal about the way he was sacked, claiming the pink slip was delivered by a lesser messenger other than the boss. It seems that the biggest disappointment is from the female fans, who have deluged the producers with complaints about the departure of the good looking star. The word from the set is that Noth has always bagged the greatest volume of fan mail.
And what happened to Michael Moriarty, until the 1997 Australian season the DA who has now been replaced by the veteran Sam Waterston? He got into a well-publicised brawl with (real life) American Attorney-General Janet Reno about the censorship of violence on television. Moriarty claims this was not the reason for his departure. In the push and shove of prime time television, he believes he got the sacking you get when youre not really sacked - in other words, he chose to leave when there wasnt a real choice about it, the old "quit before Im pushed two-step". And he is none too happy that Sam Waterston is said by the producers to be a sexier alternative to the dour character he played, though its true that there was never a hint of flirtation in his relationship with associate Claire - something that was rectified in the hiring of Waterston.
Carey Lowell (Jamie Ross, the new addition to the DA's office) replaces the now departed (and dead) Claire. Let's give her a season to settle in, but come on guys, does every female DA have to be stunningly attractive and dressed to the nine's in Armani?
And while we're talking about the newbies (and Armani), Benjamin Bratt has been seen on the arm of Julia Roberts.
Angie Harmon has been linked with Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Troy Aikman (she barracks for the team as well).
Carolyn McCormick doesn't appear as often as she once did, which is unfortunate given her excellent portrayal as the independent minded criminal psychiatrist Dr Elizabeth Olivert.
Mike Post, the composer in residence for all Bochco's shows, did the theme music for this show. Included in his catalogue are "LA Law", "Hill St.", "Doogie Howser", and "Brooklyn South". What else? How about "Quantum Leap", and the "A-Team". By the way, he produced Dolly Parton's "Nine To Five".
It would come as no surprise to our readers that Angie Harmon was previously a model, posing on the cover of glossy mags like "GQ" and Cosmopolitan".
For those of us who believe that Briscoe and Logan were the A-team of the "Order" component of the show, it was a pleasure to see him resurrect his career in "Sex and The City". Well worth a look.
Chris Noth, beside his role in "Sex and the City", has also opened a restaurant in Manhattan called (appropriately) "The Cutting Room".
Despite the recent changes to the show, or perhaps because of them, "Law and Order" has really beaten the odds. Not only has it managed to stoke its fires over seven seasons, but it has recently been renewed for another two seasons in the U.S. And more importantly, last year "Law and Order" achieved its best ratings of an already long and successful run.
Executive Producer and creator Dick Wolf has copped a lot of the blame for the surprise changes to the cast, not that he seems particularly concerned. He calls the show "actor proof", and we think hes probably right. If you add it all up, "Law and Order" has seen the departure of six major cast members in the last six years. As we said earlier, this is a plot based series, so they can get away with this musical chairs as long as the writing remains strong.
Heres a casting call of the missing (though some survive in the current Australian incarnation):
Did you know that "Law and Order" is now the longest running drama series on American television? Well, you do now!
In the run to the 1997 Emmys, "Law and Order" bagged 5 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding lead actor in a drama series Sam Waterston; Outstanding cinematography for a series. In a surprise finish, it beat out the highly rated "ER" and "NYPD Blue" to be named Outstanding Drama Series congratulations.
At the 50th Emmy Awards "Law and Order" was nominated for four trophies, including Outstanding Drama and Supporting Actor for Steven Hill. Let's face it, no one knits their brow as well as Steve!
The pilot of the show, "Everyone's Favourite Bagman", was filmed in 1988 for the CBS network. It was not picked up until NBC gave it a go in 1990-91.
The show has noe been renewed till 2005 - great news for us fans.
In the episode "Blue Bamboo" a murder of a nightclub owner leads to the arrest of a singer who had worked for the deceased. A smart lawyer employs the "battered-woman syndrome" as a defence.
This might be said to be a novel approach to murder in essence, it refers to a recently developed defence that lawyers use on behalf of female murder suspects who have been repeatedly forced to endure physical or emotional abuse by a partner who is the victim of the murder.
This defence usually appears in cases where women have become so demoralised by repeated abuse that they believe they can only control the violence by killing the abuser. This is not a defence for a crime of passion usually it is used in cases where the crime is premeditated. It is therefore open to the prosecution to ask why the woman did not end the relationship rather than kill the deceased.
The defence was not really allowed in the United States until 1979 now a number of American jurisdictions allow expert testimony on the syndrome in murder trials. This is a real departure from established criminal law practice, because in the past self-defence was only available to people who believed their lives were in immediate jeopardy, usually in the midst of being actually attacked. In Canada the Supreme Court has decided to allow the defence in murder trials.
An interesting twist to this defence recently occurred in Australia. A West Australian Supreme Court allowed the defence to be used in a case of a gay man accused of the murder of his abusive partner. There was a long history of domestic violence, which the judge was prepared to take into account even though the murder occurred whilst the victim was asleep. In the end the defendant was sentenced to a jail term. If you want to read more about this issue, check out our Lawspot "Guilty Or Not".
In the eighth season episode "Thrill", there are problems when two defendants finger each other as the murderer, and the one conclusive piece of evidence is the recording of a confession to a priest. This raises the issue of what lawyers call "privilege" i.e. the set of rules that exclude certain evidence about conversations or other communications between people and certain types of professionals. The most usually cited is "legal professional privilege". This means that confidential communications between lawyers and their clients in relation to legal advice cannot be used in evidence in court. But what about conversations that take place in the confessional, or just plain confessions made by a person to their religious advisors? [By the way, if you want to know the legal meaning of a "religion", the High Court says it is a system of ideas and practices usually involving a belief in the metaphysical.] The Commonwealth Evidence Act (Australia) section 127 states that: "A person who is or was a member of the clergy of any church or religious denomination is entitled to refuse to divulge that a religious confession was made, or the contents of a religious confession made, to the person when a member of the clergy". "Religious confession" means a confession made by a person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination concerned. So there.
In the season opener for the tenth season, "Gunshow", a shooting spree in Central Park sends Briscoe and his new partner, Detective Eddie Green, on a hunt for the murder weapon's origins. Unfortunately they cannot make enough of a case against the killer (he cops a plea due to an obstinate judge - "he's set the bar higher than you can jump on a pogo stick") but McCoy takes the bull by the horns and charges the gun manufacturer. How does he do this? Ingeniously, he argues that the manufacturer was aware that their gun was being modified for use as an automatic (illegal) weapon, and so they are so negligent that they are complicit in the homicides that result from the use of the modified weapon. Under Australian law it is also possible to act so recklessly that you may be charged with murder. You don't mean to kill someone, but you set up the circumstances that clearly allow the death to occur. You still have to foresee that some serious harm will take place (either death or injury), although the degree of the harm needed to establish reckless murder differs from State to State. Nevertheless, to be convicted, you have to know that your actions will probably cause death or serious injury; that you take the risky action anyway; and that the decision to take that risk is unjustified.
For instance, if you deliberately drive through a red light late at night and at high speed, you have taken a very serious (and reckless) risk - it would be difficult to argue that you did not appreciate the substantial risk of killing another driver or pedestrian. If you let your dogs loose in the street, and you know they are dangerous and perhaps capable of mauling, it should not come as a surprise if they seriously harm someone. In this case you may be convicted of manslaughter by "criminal negligence". This is because you committed a negligent act (as opposed to one that is "reckless" and more likely to do harm), but you did it without taking care in a situation where there was a likelihood of death or serious injury. On the other hand, if your attack dog is trained to kill strangers and you let it loose, that may amount to murder.
A similar dilemma is found in the opening episode of the eleventh series, when a suspicious fire kills an intellectually and physically disabled 12 year old boy, and the investigation eventually leads to the mother. Jack wants to charge the mother with recklessness (depraved indifference) but faces an old predicament - what is the point when the jury will never convict a mother who has lived a nightmare existence for years? Does this mean juries are flawed? It would be fair to say there is widespread support for using juries in criminal cases. If you ask the average person in the street, most would say that juries safeguard the liberties of the public, and that twelve people called at random are able to apply a reasonable person's standard to criminal accusations. Let's be honest, the average person has little (or no) trust in lawyers, and if they are going to be tried for their sins, they would rather their peers were making the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence. So tampering too much with the jury system may, in all likelihood, affect the public's confidence in the administration of justice. True, we expect judges to ensure that criminal trials are conducted in a fair manner, but in the final analysis, we want to leave the verdict in the hands of the people.
This is clearly a superior television drama. It has been on air in America since 1980, and against the odds it has never rated better than in recent seasons. Amazingly enough it has now been renewed till 2005! Its strength is the ensemble (and revolving) cast that support the convincing plots. The stories are rarely sensationalised, in fact they may sometimes be a little too tame for audiences used to the teary melodrama of an "L.A Law" or the grittiness of "The Practice". What this show lacks is a sense of humour - let's not quibble, though Lennie does a nice turn in droll observations, particularly about his failed marriages and endless alimony payments. We never miss an episode, at least when Channel Ten manages to show it two weeks in a row in the same time slot! We say that Channel Ten should continue to give this excellent lawyers and cops show the regular viewing it deserves. And for those of you who have missed past episodes, it plays regularly on cable.
Read this: The legal information contained above is intended to be general information about the law. It is not a substitute for legal and other professional advice. Lawscape Communications P/L does not accept responsibility for loss to any person, who either acts or does not act because of this information.