25 Days of Crime-Mas Day 5: Law and Order is an eternal classic

The Cast Of "Law & Order." From L-R: Jerry Orbach (As Det. Lennie Briscoe), Angie Harmon (As Asst. D.A. Abbie Carmichael), Sam Waterston (As Exec. Asst. D.A. Jack Mccoy) And Jesse L. Martin (As Det. Edward Green). 1999 Universal International Television. (Photo By Getty Images)
The Cast Of "Law & Order." From L-R: Jerry Orbach (As Det. Lennie Briscoe), Angie Harmon (As Asst. D.A. Abbie Carmichael), Sam Waterston (As Exec. Asst. D.A. Jack Mccoy) And Jesse L. Martin (As Det. Edward Green). 1999 Universal International Television. (Photo By Getty Images) /

Law and Order is one of the most iconic TV crime dramas, and still well worth watching today. It’s our pick for Crime-Mas Day 5.

Today is Day 5 of our 25 Days of Crime-mas countdown, and every TV crime drama fan has at least heard of Law and Order. Aside from the fact that it’s a great show, it gave birth to an entire massive franchise.

The series has long been considered one of the groundbreaking TV crime dramas, for its format dividing each episode into two halves (the “law” and the “order”). Plus, with the fact that it ran a whole 20 seasons, it became part of the TV landscape before you count all of its spinoffs.

However, it’s been off the air for a few years, so there are viewers who haven’t gotten a chance to watch it or just never bothered since it was kind of everywhere.

Why should you add it to your crime drama watchlist?

The Law and Order cast

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As you can imagine, over 20 seasons Law & Order went through quite a few actors in its main cast. Many of those folks were recognizable then and/or have become even more recognizable now.

Sam Waterston is the most commonly associated with Law & Order, because he was one of the longest-serving cast members as prosecutor Jack McCoy. Other people who’ve been series regulars include S. Epatha Merkerson (Chicago Med), Angie Harmon (Rizzoli & Isles), Alana de la Garza and Jeremy Sisto (FBI), Jesse L. Martin (The Flash), Linus Roache (Homeland) and the late Jerry Orbach.

And those are just a few—chances are you’ll find at least one person you recognize or love who played a key role on Law and Order.

All of their guest stars

There have also been plenty of actors who got their start on Law and Order. The amount of big-name guest stars is too long to rattle off all of them, but it’s tremendous fun to look back at when someone wasn’t famous yet (and usually much younger than you remember them).

Some of the people who guest-starred in episodes early in their careers? Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) was in the episode “Conduct Unbecoming.” Felicity Huffman was a defendant in one episode, and Edie Falco portrayed a defense attorney well before she returned to the franchise as the star of Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.

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What is Law and Order about?

Law and Order is a basic TV crime drama, divided into two parts. The first half-hour, which has become known as the “Law” portion, shows the cops investigating the crime in question before they make an arrest.

Then in the second half-hour, or the “Order” segment, the prosecuting attorney takes the case to court and attempts to secure a conviction. Almost every episode ends with a verdict and then the legal team reacting to the verdict after the trial.

It’s a standard format that’s easy to follow week-to-week, and you don’t need to keep up from one episode to the next, which has made it hugely popular in syndication. Reruns still air on more than one cable channel today.

Why you should watch

The show gets a lot of attention for its format, but it’s the actors who make Law and Order worth your time. It attracted a lot of great actors, often before audiences knew they were great, so when a big-name guest star pops up it’s not made into a huge deal like many other TV shows (or even its spinoff series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which advertises its guest stars each week).

While some things get tiring over 20 seasons (especially in the middle years it kind of dragged), it’s gold particularly at the beginning and end of its run. The season 3 cast was one of its best, as Jerry Orbach joined the cast, and the final three seasons breathed new life into the show with Roache and Sisto coming aboard.

Episodes to watch

Where to start with Law and Order depends on which actors you want to check out first. But if you’re not sure, there are some places to start. Season 4’s “Old Friends” is the final episode for Waterston’s predecessor, Michael Moriarty, and he gives a great last performance. It also guest stars a still relatively unknown Allison Janney (Mom, The West Wing).

There’s also the Season 19 finale “The Drowned and the Saved,” which features Tom Everett Scott as the scheming Governor of New York. His machinations have been a subplot throughout that season, but they all come to a head in this episode, and he’s deliciously evil in it. Plus, Roache is in fine form as his character Michael Cutter goes behind McCoy’s back to really make sure the case is closed.

Next. See the full Crime-mas schedule. dark

What do you think of Law and Order? Which TV crime dramas are making your list for the 25 Days of Crime-mas? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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