In the criminal justice system…

Ba-dum.  Dum dum.  Duh-duh.  Doink-doink. No matter how you spell the familiar sound, Monday night, lost in the shuffle of another one of Jack Bauer‘s worst days (seriously, this guy needs a better day planner) and people furious because they never did find out why the hell there were polar bears on the island?, a little show called Law & Order ended its historic 20 year run (or not– rumors speculate that ‘the mothership’ will jump to TNT, or more probably, wrap up this fall on NBC with a movie).

Yesterday afternoon (during cardio, people, seriously, cardio) I caught up with a vintage rerun:  A ’94 episode, with the classic detective pairing of Jerry Orbach (Was anyone ever better?  Did you know he was originally a song-and-dance man?) and Chris Noth, and Sam Waterston in his rightful alter-ego as Jack McCoy, with Steven Hill as D.A. Robert Morgenthau Adam Schiff, with Lt. Van Buren and, for my money, the finest of the pretty female A.D.A.’s (and tavern co-owner), Ms. Jill Hennessey.

And catching up with that cast felt like seeing old friends, you know?  The episode itself highlighted what’s great about the original Law & Order—  a crackerjack script penned by Ed Zuckerman (in fact, I’m pretty sure the writers of this flick ripped him off) and helmed by Jace Alexander, it featured the legendary Broadway actress Debra Monk as the victim’s sister, in the first of her three appearances (as three separate characters!).  Indeed, a friend recently tweeted the other day that he caught a 3 am Law & Order rerun that featured one Mr. Jerry Orbach as a scuzzy, anonymous defense attorney.  Willing suspension of disbelief, anyone?

Like anyone on the fringes of entertainment or even on the East Coast, I’ve had encounters with Law & Order over the years:  Close friends have appeared on the witness stand or as the bailiff (or, sadly, seen their testimony left on the cutting room floor); my father’s exchanged greetings with Sam Waterston outside 60 Centre Street; I once had an extremely pleasant conversation with Jerry Orbach at the Nantucket Film Festival after a screening of Prince of the City.  (As I mentioned to him that he replaced the father of a good friend of mine on the show, he asked me to pass along a hello.)  In fact, with great thanks to the said father, it’s how I found myself on a Law & Order set when I was in middle school, meeting Mr. Chris Noth.  (A huge thrill, obviously.)

20 years is a tremendous accomplishment for anything, let alone the fickle nature of broadcast TV, so a heartfelt congratulations and thank you to Dick Wolf et al.  (Hey, it’s 19 more years on NBC than The Jay Leno Show.)  But I for one will miss seeing Jack McCoy‘s craggy face once a week.

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