Law & Order is a detective and court-room television drama on the NBC newtork. This award-winning and popular television series is syndicated on several other networks. Law & Order is also the basis for two other television dramas: Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as well as the reality television series, Crime and Punishment. The producers of Law & Order have also produced an updated version of the series Dragnet.
Law & Order was created by Dick Wolf.
The show follows a small team of detectives working in New York City who investigate a serious crime (usually a murder). Each major scene is preceded with a subtitle indicating the location, time and date of the events portrayed. Generally, about half-way through the program the focus shifts from the investigation of the crime to the prosecution of people for it, always handed over to the same small team of lawyers from the local District Attorney's office.
The show's cast of police and lawyers are portrayed as basically honest professionals, very rarely straying from the boundaries of accepted procedure and usually solving crimes by hard slog and attention to detail rather than hunches and personal whimsy. Their private lives are rarely mentioned, and usually only in passing or if they intrude on their work. Perhaps the scenes involving lawyers stray from reality a little more, with a far higher proportion of cases going to trial than in real life (although plea bargaining plays a far greater role than in other series), trial lawyers acting as pseudo-detectives, and an unusually high number of twists near the end of trials. In contrast to detective shows of the 1950's such as Perry Mason, the protagonists of the program do not always win their cases, and many of programs have resolutions in which justice is not served.
Most Law & Order episodes are self-contained, with only a few exceptions over the many years of production.
Many of the storylines on the show, particularly in later seasons, have been widely regarded as thinly-disguised fictionalizations of recent real criminal cases that have been reported in the news media.
Law & Order is noted for its revolving cast -- many actors only stay with the show for a few seasons before moving on. This continual replacing of actors has not appeared to harm the program's popularity. In fact, it has been speculated that has contributed to the series' long run since the regular turnover of cast members has allowed cast salaries to be kept relatively low. The three long-serving exceptions are: Jerry Orbach (1992-present), Detective Lenny Briscoe; Sam Waterston (1994-present), Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy; and S. Epatha Merkerson (1993-present), Lieutenant Anita Van Buren.