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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 (renewed for a 26th season in September 2014).

The series has spawned the following spin-offs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: LA, Law & Order: Trial By Jury and Law & Order True Crime.


Set and filmed in New York City, "Law & Order" follows a two-part approach: the first half of each episode is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department detectives.

The second half of the episode is the prosecution of the defendant by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

The plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines, although the motivation for the crime and the perpetrator may be different.

Cast Edit

Main (First Batch) Edit

Senior Detective Edit

  • George Dzundza as Max Greevey (season 1)
  • Paul Sorvino as Phil Cerreta (season 2-3.9, guest season 3.10)
  • Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe (season 3.10-14)
  • Dennis Farina as Joe Fontana (season 15-16)
  • Jesse L. Martin as Ed Green (season 17-18.14)
  • Jeremy Sisto as Cyrus Lipo (season 18.15-20)

Junior Detective Edit

  • Chris Noth as Mike Logan (season 1-5)
  • Benjamin Bratt as Reynaldo "Rey" Curtis (season 6-9, guest season 20)
  • Jesse L. Martin as Ed Green (season 9-15.20, 16)
  • Michael Imperioli as Nick Falco (season 15.21-15.24, guest season 16)
  • Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy (season 17)
  • Jeremy Sisto as Cyrus Lipo (18.1-18.14)
  • Anthony Anderson as Kevin Bernard (season 18.15-20)

Captain/Lieutenant Edit

  • Dann Florek as Donald "Don" Cragen (season 1-3, guest season 5, 10 and 15)
  • S. Epatha Merkerson as Anita Van Buren (season 3-20)

Main (Second Batch) Edit

Executive ADA Edit

  • Michael Moriarty as Benjamin "Ben" Stone (season 1-4)
  • Sam Waterston as John James "Jack" McCoy (season 5-17)
  • Linus Roache as Michael "Mike" Cutter (season 18-20)

Assistant ADA Edit

  • Richard Brooks as Paul Robinette (season 1-3)
  • Jill Hennessy as Claire Kincaid (season 4-6)
  • Carey Lowell as Jamie Ross (season 7-8, guest season 9 and 10)
  • Angie Harmon as Abbie Carmichael (season 9-11)
  • Elisabeth Röhm as Serena Southerlyn (season 12-15.13)
  • Annie Parisse as Alexandra Borgia (season 15.14-16)
  • Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa (season 17-20)

District Attorney Edit

  • Steven Hill as Adam Schiff (season 1-10)
  • Dianne Wiest as Nora Lewin (season 11-12)
  • Fred Thompson as Arthur Branch (season 13-17)
  • Sam Waterston as John James "Jack" McCoy (season 18-20)

Extended cast Edit

  • Carolyn McCormick as Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Olivet
  • Leslie Hendrix as Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers

Seasons overview Edit

Production Edit

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.

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.

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. 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.

Reception Edit

Rating Edit

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.

External links Edit