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Hard to Say Goodbye My Love

May 13, 2010

Not shown: Ben Stone

While NBC will not comment directly, HuffPo cites multiple sources indicating the long running NBC “ripped from the headlines” juggernaut Law & Order will not return for a 21st season. For fans hoping the show would break Gunsmoke‘s record of 20 seasons – though a tie is quite respectable – this is a sad day indeed.

I was not – contrary to popular myth – an early adopter of Law & Order. I discovered it during a terrible bout with the flu about three years into the run when repeats aired on A&E. (in between airings of the truly AWFUL Evening at The Improv) All I could do was flip between Prime Suspect and L&O. I was down with Robinette, Stone, Cragen and Logan – back when Logan’s partners got shot/killed every other episode.

I was there for Lewy’s first day – Curtis’s endearing nickname for Lt. Van Buren – and I was there when Sorvino left and Orbach stepped in. I was there to see McCoy deal down his first murder case and shake his head while Logan got shipped to Staten Island.

I remember when nobody liked Green and when Nora – who wasn’t well received either – held it together while we waited for Branch to bring his folksy chow chow and his less politicized pragmatic approach to criminal prosecution. I was there for Wolf’s nod to fans of the Fontanaverse when named Farina’s character Fontana. I was there for H:LOTS crossovers and the infamous Couples episode, which got long time, loyal viewers in a tizzy.

I remember the day we found out Orbach had passed and several of my friend called and we cried. Folks have their own version of the “dream team” for me it was: Briscoe, Green, Van Buren, McCoy, Skoda and Southerlyn. I adored all of the District Attorneys, particularly Adam “my sandwich does my acting for me” Schiff and Nora, played by the incomparable Dianne Wiest. I really liked Branch. I found him to be the perfect foil for bossy pants McCoy.

What I adored most about this show was seeing actors who had never really gotten their due – Angie Harmon won a 17 magazine Model of the Year contest – shine in roles well suited for their talents. I didn’t even care about the overuse of the “hot district attorney” trope.

Now the show was not devoid of problematic content, but I found it to be one of the few shows amenable to involving fans in some of their content choices. It definitely did not pretend it didn’t know its fans concerns regarding the way in which it depicted various folks from marginalized communities. (L&O: SVU – now that’s a whole other kettle of fail entirely.)

Farewell, my friend!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. evmaroon permalink
    May 13, 2010 9:18 pm

    Snarky: What a wonderful tribute to a show that has touched three decades’ worth of television and my life. I cried when Claire Kincaid died in an auto accident. I bristled when Michael Moriarty left and then realized I liked Sam Waterston a lot better. Plus, Moriarty became a pretty violent person and I see now why Wolf needed to move on. You don’t get to say that crap about Janet Reno, right?
    You touched on so many of the interesting moments and once again I love the way you see things. Thank you for this, even though the news has just ruined my day.

  2. hsofia permalink
    May 13, 2010 9:34 pm

    All good things must come to an end. They really need to get this series on Netflix Instant!

  3. May 13, 2010 10:17 pm

    I bristled when Michael Moriarty left and then realized I liked Sam Waterston a lot better. Plus, Moriarty became a pretty violent person and I see now why Wolf needed to move on.

    Thank you so much! I was trying to find a way to talk about the show from a personal level. I loved this show so much and it did take me through two decades of my life. For about decade there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t watch L&O every single day. It got me through the flu, personal slumps, undergrad, grad school, long miserable winters in VT and it’s going to be weird to see it end.

    Yeah, Michael Moriarty was complicated and definitely wasn’t a good fit for the show despite having incredible chemistry with Richard Brooks (ADA Robinette) who was always charming.

    Really, the two of them provided the framework for its long run, providing gravitas, nuance and believability in roles, which TV had never gotten quite right before.

  4. evmaroon permalink
    May 13, 2010 10:47 pm

    The other thing about watching the show this affectionately for years is being able to recall specific plot lines and twists on the fly, dropping them into casual conversation or when watching another L&O episode. More than once I and friends have exclaimed “you did that in season four!” or similar. There are just so many alienated rich people’s machinations that a writer can spin, yanno?

  5. hsofia permalink
    May 14, 2010 6:33 am

    I always liked how the show was more than happy to show the cops and DAs effing up people’s lives in the procedural pursuit of “justice.” False accusations, locking up the wrong people, screwing up evidence, bad judgment, leaving a trail of broken marriages, crushed dreams, and sometimes dead innocents in their wake. So many mistakes … few shows were so emphatic that life isn’t fair and bad things happen to good people. My family watched that show every week – I still remember us sitting at the kitchen table after dinner to watch it on the TV. We’d talk about it during the commercials and after it ended, processing the storytelling and/or real-life inspiration for each episode. Once we left NY for the west coast, it was always a welcome shot of nostalgia, a way to connect to a place we’d left behind. I’ve been out of the loop the last few years, but what a great balance of good acting, interesting characters, sensationalism, relevance – I’ve never been able to get into the L&O spin-offs.

    I’ve seen SVU quite a lot, but only because I am fascinated by Mariska Hargitay. I don’t know if it’s her awesome name or the fact that she looks exactly like Kiera Knightley, but if I even see a picture of her somewhere, I go into some kind of wondering trance.

  6. May 14, 2010 7:20 am

    I love how on Law & Order the criminals are almost never black. Oh the red herring first suspect might be, but for the most part, greedy white men seem to be doing all the killing in that universe.

  7. May 14, 2010 9:02 am

    I’ve never been much for the original flavor L&O; I’ve always preferred SVU myself. This makes me wish, like hsofia, that they had it on Netflix Instant.

    Snarky, I’d definitely be interested in hearing more on your thought on SVU and how it fails in ways L&O original doesn’t. I’m watching it for the first time in a few years and there are a lot of problems, particularly with victim-blaming, but I love Benson.

  8. May 14, 2010 9:18 am

    RMJ, mostly L&O: SVU engages in multiple acts of Transphobic Trope #1 and I am just not interested in the salacious manner in which this show presents marginalized female identities as it relates to sexuality, sexual agency and sexual identities. Just because the show acknowledges their over-reliance on the “missing white girl” trope doesn’t mean they’re subverting it.

    Also, Benson is really problematic as it relates to telling folks how they ought to express or present themselves as victims of sexual assault.

    That said, I just find the subject matter – sexual assault related murders – to be triggering and 88% of the time poorly handled.

    I just want my white collar criminals or cheating spouses hiring hit men to get insurance money and not a weekly dose of misogynistic violence, thus I’m pretty sure future generations will come to believe the default setting for woman = found in dumpster dead after some horrible act of violence.

  9. May 14, 2010 9:23 am

    Excellent points, all! Thanks for elaborating.

  10. May 14, 2010 10:33 am

    No problem. Granted. This is my perspective and I don’t think anyone is “bad” for watching the show. Xena knows I consume my share of media with problematic content so I believe folks should be aware of the content issues and accept the costs of consuming it.

    Most things have a certain degree of problematic content, so it’s completely unrealistic to assume folks can avoid it completely. Moreover, I find that particular concept – consuming only “perfect” media – a bit classist, given that broadcast TV does not do that great of a job of unpacking its content, and you’re gonna have to pay – basic or premium cable – to find content, which reflects a diverse range of lived experience.

  11. May 14, 2010 10:48 am

    Exactly – nothing is without its problems – it’s most important to consume it thoughtfully in full view of its harm.

    I really appreciate how you brought the class intersection into this – I only have broadcast, and not even ABC, so I’m kind of left out of new programs that aren’t on broadcast/Hulu (though I do have Netflix and can stream it to my tv, a sign of class privilege).

  12. May 14, 2010 10:56 am

    RMJ, I love what Netflix has done in terms of bring incredible content to folks at a variety of price points, which is decidedly more accessible – 8.99/unlimited streaming – versus 29.95/month for 1/10 of the content on stripped down cable.

    Yeah, I don’t have a television and consume most programming via the internet and I do feel like it starting to level the playing field in terms of access/class, diversity and less exploitative programming.

  13. mcm permalink
    May 14, 2010 11:23 am

    This is sad. There has been areal resurgence in quality this season.

    Everytime we are discussing some real life criminal, either my boyfriend or I will say to the other, I bet they went to Hudson University. The most dangerous college campus on earth!

  14. May 14, 2010 11:30 am

    I bet they went to Hudson University. The most dangerous college campus on earth!

    Ha! Seriously, every campus crime happens there. High school crimes happens at that fake prep school they’re always mentioning.

  15. May 14, 2010 12:31 pm

    Man, for this we got the Los Angeles spin-off? Ugh.

  16. IrishUp permalink
    May 14, 2010 1:34 pm

    I never got over Ben Stone leaving L&O. It always seemed like ADA Stone wanted to do the RIGHT THING. He wouldn’t railroad a suspect just because City Hall or Albany had their knickers in a twist. He wasn’t looking to jam up anyone to raise his convict rate. Stone still believed in the ideal of Blind Justice. Wolf et al wanted Jack McCoy to be different, and he was too different for me. All by itself, his active pursuit of Capital Punishment made me hate him – and he does it over and over. Alas, I was an acolyte of Ben Stone’s, and I mourn in dog years, and blood thirsty ADA McCoy repelled me. (That Michael Moriarity seems to be a red hot mess IRL, and Sam Waterson’s humanitarian creds, makes each’s portrayal of their characters more interesting to me, in some ways.)

    Between the franchises and the rip-offs, it helps to remember that L&O used to be original, unique, fresh! I have watched basically zero of L&O +/- franchises in the past two seasons, my interest having rotted away like overwatered roots. Thanks for this post.

  17. notthemarimba permalink
    May 14, 2010 4:25 pm

    How sad! Law and Order has kind of always been with me. Briscoe and Green episodes always make me super nostalgic, as they’re what my grandma watched constantly when I was in the kindergarten age range.

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