Tuesday, May 25, 2010


We all know that sound. The deadbolt notes played before the opening Law and Order vignette where they discover the body. We hear it between acts.

The last Law and Order aired last night to little fanfare other than a final doink- doink.

Last night's episode ended the series and its 20th season. ‘Law & Order’ is tied with ‘Gunsmoke‘ as the longest-running TV drama. Over 400 episodes, that means you could watch a L&O ep everyday for a year with no repeats. I was surprised NBC cancelled L&O giving up the chance to break the tie with Gunsmoke. Creator/producer Dick Wolf is reportedly interested in going to TNT for the tie breaking season. The spinoff series, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, has already left NBC to produce new eps at TNT. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is still going strong on NBC.

S. Epatha Merkerson is an actor's actor. She is one of the greats. Talk about making an impression, S. Epatha Merkerson did a dramatic gut wrenching guest starring role on L&O's first season. In season 3, she appeared as a different character, Lt. Anita Van Buren, and the rest is...you know. And it really is because Merkerson's Lt. Van Buren is the longest running black female character in TV history. We've seen her strong leadership, her soft side, her private life with husband and sons and private battles like with breast cancer this season. We've seen her put on the NYPD blue jacket and go on raids and hit perps upside their heads. But she does her best work, like all the L&O detectives and attorneys, in the interrogation room.

The L&O interrogation room is where the actors really got to exercise their acting muscles. This small room with only a table and chairs and a two way mirror is where we watch the innocent grieve and beg, the guilty maneuver and lie, soul searching, family secrets told, the strong fall apart and the weak conjure up some backbone. The detectives often do their thing and leave to watch through the mirror as the perps or witnesses squirm, pace and react.

I remember the detectives all taking a turn questioning a belligerent, hard core teen thug ranting about how he wasn't gonna tell nothing. He wanted to talk to "the man." Lt. Van Buren, after grabbing him up and giving him his options to no avail, gets quiet and simply tells him that "in this house, I am the man." Without any more words, she conveys through her demeanor, authority, strength and just enough compassion to jog him in the direction of trusting her. You could see him physically change. His eyes, body posture and even his relationship to the table and chair and to the Lt. actually change. L&O is good for these scenes. This police drama was not all about car chases and shoot outs. It was about human misbehavior and how the legal system deals with it. It's about characters, both the criminals and the law and the order teams.

L&O has a Alfred Hitchockian nature. When everything points to an obvious suspect, it's almost never him or her. Plot twists and shocking and surprise endings are always in the L&O mix and it may just circle back to the original suspect. Happy endings are not promised and the good guys don't always win. You never know until you see -Created by Dick Wolf- fade in on the black screen. Doink-Doink

First season- Law Chris Noth and George Dzundza. Order Micheal Moriarty and Richard Brooks.

Broadway song and dance man, Jerry Orbach as wise-cracking Detective Lennie Brisco.

Order: Jill Hennessy as Claire Kincaid and Sam Waterson as Jack McCoy.

Steven Hill as DA Adam Schiff came to the show in season 9 joining Angie Harmon who came on as DA Abbie Carmichael in S8. Season 3 added S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Van Buren, S5 added Benjamin Bratt as Det. Rey Curtis. In the center is Jerry Orbach (Det. Lenny Brisco) and Sam Waterston (DA Jack McCoy)

Rent star, Jesse L. Martin joined Jerry Orbach in solving crimes in season 9. Two song and dance guys now representing the Law.
S. Epatha Merkerson said she loved singing Broadway tunes with Jerry and Jesse.

Diane Weist as DA Nora Lewin joined the show in 2000 and Fred Thompson, (prior to his real life presidential bid) helped with the Order in 2002.

The court room where the district attorneys worked in the second half of the show.

In 2004 native New Yorker, Jerry Orbach died. Law&Order was never the same without Lennie Brisco. NYC policemen loved Jerry Orbach and the lights on Broadway were dimmed in his honor.

Actor Dennis Farina came on to partner with Jesse L. Martin (Det. Ed Green)

Season 19 and 20 brought in Jeremy Sisto as Det. Cyrus Lupo and Anthony Anderson as Det. Kevin Bernard.

S. Epatha Merkerson had decided this was to be her last season even before the show was cancelled. Lt. Van Buren, fought cancer and finacial struggles due to medical bills in this last season. How will she go out? Will the fade to Dick Wolf leave us forever in a cliffhanger? Will there be a Law and Order movie? Doink-Doink!

Missing the series most will be New York City actors. There were plenty of famous guest stars on this show but for the NYC actor, they had to get their L&O creds. Appearing on L&O was considered a rite of passage for actors in New York City.

We won't get to miss it too much as the reruns are on practically 24/7 and now there are 20 years worth. So, the familiar Mike Post guitar riffs and the doink-doink will never be far away.

Celebrating 20 years brought together old and new cast members.


Sheila O'Malley said...

"the deadbolt notes". Oh, Jackie, that is just the perfect description. Thanks for the great post.

Jackie said...

Thanks Sheila. And thanks for your additional insight especially regarding L&O and actors in NYC. Thanks for reposting your article on S. Epatha Merkerson too.
Check out Sheila's site folks.

Anonymous said...

Jack mccoy rocks !!