Author’s note: This is reblogged from I Fry Mine in Butter, from June 2011 when I originally wrote it.
I was still a teenager when Law & Order started on NBC, and while I liked it just fine, I don’t remember being immediately taken with it. Actually, it seemed a bit like one of my boyfriends, the first of three Scotts I dated in high school and college—fairly likable, but I wondered about how long it would last. Law & Order, on the other hand, grew on me over time; I may not have caught each and every episode as they aired that first season, but I would read the tiny printed previews in my parents’ TVGuide and remember to watch. Hey, it was 1990, after all, and the newspaper’s television guide was often wrong. Oh, life was so hard.
I wanted to know what was up with Ben Stone, the ADA who seemed a little, well, crazy. Robinette was the cool and collected one, often mediating between Stone and Adam Schiff, the District Attorney. Every episode the cops were nearly precognitive, until the attorney’s office took over and had to deal with the technicalities that threatened to have the case for the people thrown out. It was as if Giuliani’s New York weren’t even possible because these criminals knew it was a cakewalk. Still, with a little bit of magic and finesse, and a hell of a lot of drinks over what I can only presume were extremely old bottles of scotch, Schiff got his convictions. Or at least very intimidating plea bargains.
Then McCoy showed up and it was a new style of ADAing, if I can gerundize the noun like that. When criticism came back early on that there weren’t enough women on the show—scratch that, there weren’t any women on the show, other than the occasional appearance by Dr. Olivette—they changed the cast around. Mostly they just got rid of Robinette, the only character of color. But hey, it wasn’t long before Detective Rey Curtis came on after that, and he spoke Spanish. Strangely enough, along with more women on the show came more opportunities to show sexism, namely on the order of McCoy having affairs with various ADAs, and this happened mostly off-camera. Writers, you’re supposed to show, not tell. Sheesh.
I paid more attention to McCoy’s willingness to get all Uri Geller with the law, bending it just to keep people he knew to be criminals behind bars. Keep that up enough and you’ll be the DA someday, McCoy.
Somewhere along the way, having passed well over the line into “like,” I began taking some glee from the show. They had started the whole “ripped from the headlines” schtick. While Dick Wolf had taken from real events in its first season—mirroring the Bernhard Goertz case, for example, the idea took on a life of its own. Tom Cruise tells people they don’t need anti-depressants? There’s a show for that. Mel Gibson waxes philosophic about how the Jews have taken over? There’s a show for that. Snobby kids driving vulnerable kids to suicide via MySpace? There’s a show for that, too. The guest appearances were amazing:
Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Short, Kathy Griffin, Betty Buckley, Lynda Carter, Angela Lansbury, Heather Locklear, Luke Perry, Edie Falco, Chevy Chase, everywhere from A-list actors to Griffin, they gave rise to regular viewers’ anticipation that The Guest Star Is The Killer. There were so many “watch until the very last second” twists and reveals it seemed positively pedestrian when a straightforward plot popped up. I was more than hooked, I craved my Law and Order. Once the magic of syndication hit, I was enthralled, even if it did make study time in college a little less focused.
Less than two weeks ago NBC announced it would be the end of L&O, and while a few people held their breath to see if another station would pick it up—say, over keeping onCSI: Miami—but none were forthcoming. And so . . . that’s it. This week was the very extremely there-will-be-no-more episode. It’s been 20 years, a long enough time in my life, but an eternity on television. With such short notice, would there be a send off? There couldn’t be, right?
There sure wasn’t.
SPOILER—LOOK OUT BELOW.
I’m glad to know that Lt. Van Buren’s cancer is in remission, and it was heart-warming to see her be cared for by her boyfriend-turned-fiance. I also loved seeing McCoy light into yet another overprotective legal advocate, I mean I really cheered him on. Jeez, do not get on this man’s bad side!
They got the bad guy. Wolf’s vision of a “positive” drama about the criminal justice system finished out on an up note, and then, without the literal snap-to-black we got at the end of The Sopranos, it was over. Simply over.