For Law & Order, the beat goes on

Law?& Order has been one of the longest running dramatic series in television history,?18 years and counting. It was the first series on television to make screenwriting the ?star? of the show, where the self-contained episode’s plot (often ripped from the headlines) took precedent over the actors involved.?

In the first few seasons, Michael Moriarty was mesmerizing as the obsessive and passionate Executive Assisstant District Attorney (ADA)?Ben Stone. When he suddenly quit, it was assumed the show would suffer. Instead, Sam Waterston, whom according to Newsweek?comes off as very?”presidential,” came in as the steady and?disciplined Jack McCoy, and the show ? solid ratings and all ? barely skipped a beat.

In the ensuing seasons, there have been several cast changes: Paul Sorvino, Chris Noth (now on his second tour of duty with the franchise), Benjamin Bratt and Jerry Orbach among the detectives; a succession of smart, young and beautiful ADAs such as Angie Harmon, Carey Lowell, Jill Hennessy and Alana de la Garza.

After many, many seasons, even Steven Hill finally relinquished his role as the DA, to be followed by Dianne Wiest and Fred Thompson.

NBC, thrilled to have new episodes ready to go, because let’s be honest what else is there to watch?on television?, has flogged the premiere of the new season, which aired yesterday?and on subsequent Wednesdays at 9/8 c.


Unlike past seasons where the cast shakeups were only a few, this year sees the largest changes yet. Jesse L. Martin who has labored admirably in the role of Det. Ed Green is still the anchor along with Waterston.??Det. Green no longer has Det. Cassady (the gorgeous Milena Govich) as his partner, but the underrated Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under) steps in as Det. Cyrus Lupo.

McCoy has moved up to DA, and his replacement as Executive ADA Michael Cutter is played by Linus Roache (Batman Begins). Because of the cast changes, this may be the season that tests the theory that the writing is what makes the show.

While Moriarty’s DA was all fire and righteous indignation, and Waterston’s McCoy was determination personified, Roache comes across as pretty bland in the only episode.?His character, as written, demonstrates a certain recklessness which–so far, at least?has not been reflected in a somewhat monotone performance.

Will the acting get better? Will it matter enough compared to all the other quality aspects of the show? Will anyone care once they hear the familiar ringtone theme song (you know you just started humming it!) and the comfort of the narrator’s voice.? As they say in TV land, stay tuned.

For now though let’s hear it, who’s your favorite cast or if you could cut and paste what would be your dream Law & Order cast, we’ll even let you pick from among the various franchises?? Because even if the screenwriting is the “star” of the show, it’s the cast which keeps us watching.

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  • Jim January 4, 2008, 7:53 am

    So hard to say, but somehow I would love to have Jerry Orbach working with the two detectives from SVU. Probs, Jill Hennessy as the ADA… it’s tough though b/c there have been so many great casts over the years…

  • Yvonne January 4, 2008, 3:33 am

    Favorite Law & Order Cast? That’s a no brainer as it’s the 1995 gang which was comprised of Waterson / Hennessy /Hill / Noth / Orbach /Merkerson. By far, this was the best cast that Law & Order ever put together. The acting was superb and the chemistry between Hennessy and Waterston worked well.

    I saw the premiere on Wednesday and was not impressed with the “talents” of Linus Roache. Acting is too stiff, voice is a distraction and he looked like he was “acting.” Surprised also by the quality of the writing. Handing a judge a blackberry in the courtroom during motions??? Not going to happen in real life. Rene Balcer generally pens awesome scripts (especially season premieres) but this one was so-so. A definite disappointment. The best thing about the opening episode? Sam Waterson, of course!