* AcceptableTargets:
** Child psychologists are depicted either wholly corrupt or totally incompetent.
** A surprising number of spoiled rich kids either go on killing sprees for the thrill of it or try to destroy their families when they stop taking care of them.
** The number of Christians in the show who aren't insane and/or hypocritical zealots can be counted on one hand.
* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation: The character from "Pro Se" who is spotlighted under UnintentionallyUnsympathetic? He also shows up under TheWoobie.
* {{Anvilicious}}: Particularly the later seasons. Rare is the episode in season 20 that doesn't smack you in the head with a political message.
* BaseBreakingCharacter: Jaime Ross. Some fans loved her for her savvy understanding of the law and her outspoken nature, especially against [=McCoy=]. Others found her cold and disagreeable just for the sake of being so. Another reason is that she replaced one of the most popular [=ADAs=] of all time and (as unfair as a reason this is) while Kincaid was considered a MsFanservice, Ross generally wasn't.
* BigLippedAlligatorMoment: The infamous "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" line is possibly the distilled essence of BLAM: It comes completely from nowhere, It's quite strange when it happens (nothing in the episode had much to do with homosexuality), [[LetUsNeverSpeakOfThisAgain and it is never mentioned again by anyone]].
* BrokenBase: "Aftershock." Some think it's one of the best episodes the show ever did, some think it's the worst.
* CompleteMonster: [[Monster/LawAndOrder See here]].
* FanonDiscontinuity:
** To many fans, there is no ''Law and Order'' without Jerry Orbach.
** There is a small group that insists the last episode actually ended with Anita van Buren's phone ringing. This brings it more in line with the rest of the series.
* FranchiseOriginalSin: One of the main elements of ''Law & Order'' is the focus on the criminal process and a lack of personal lives of the detectives/lawyers or rather without a large amount of time spent on it, which worked well. However, upon [[Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit later]] [[Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent incarnations]], it didn't work so well. Initially on ''SVU'', it allowed glimpses into the squad's home lives (namely Stabler's), but some seasons later and with a new showrunner, his family was more or less [[ChuckCunninghamSyndrome kicked off]], much to the annoyance of fans (save the [[DieForOurShip Elliott x Olivia]] crowd) and established character development is [[ContinuitySnarl muddled (such as Benson's deceased mother, who was initially loving, being retconned into a neglectful alcoholic)]]. For ''Criminal Intent'', it followed the mothership's formula to focus on the criminals/cases instead of personal lives. This also was done away with years later by giving gratuitous screentime to Goren's mentally ill mother and addict brother amongst other things, which didn't appeal to fans who mostly hated the GenreShift. Furthermore with all three versions, new characters weren't well-received in part of them, due to formula, [[InformedAbility apparently having past skills or abilities that aren't seen or even fully explained]] and old characters were suddenly [[AssPull given idiosyncrasies and new personality traits that made no sense and were never seen before]] (most notoriously, Green's apparent gambling problem and [[spoiler: Serena's]] SuddenlySexuality.) Even reverting back to their old respective formulas caused the fandom of ''SVU'' to [[BrokenBase be split in two]] and ''Criminal Intent's'' popularity with fans to gradually decline until it was canceled.
* FunnyAneurysmMoment:
** In the episode "Shangri-La", a teacher is murdered. During a interview with the collective faculty, one of the teachers says that it was likely done by a student. When the detectives ask him about it, he replies "You don't see many headlines about faculty out on shooting sprees." [[spoiler: The show's final episode is about a teacher who does just that.]]
** In ''Second Opinion'' (ep. 5-1), which featured a fake breast cancer cure [[spoiler: Van Buren tells the detectives if she got incurable (breast) cancer she'd rather spend her last days with a whole body and surrounded by family rather then working. Years later she gets diagnosed with cervical cancer and works through it the whole time; fortunately it's in remission.]]
* GeniusBonus: A 2002 episode involves a murdered high school teacher and a student who as we discovered [[spoiler: was actually a woman in her mid-20s only pretending to be a high school student and claiming never to be able to age.]] What was the episode's title? "Shangri-La", which is the name of a fictional utopia where the inhabitants never grow old.
* HarsherInHindsight:
** Both “Animal Instincts” and the later episode “Patsy” involved a woman with erotomania who kills the lover of the man she's obsessed with. While both episodes involved the man being initially suspected Patsy focused years down the line where the man had become ProperlyParanoid after years of being stalked and accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
** In "Second Opinion", Van Buren being asked, "What would you do if you had cancer?" becomes harsher to hear since later seasons has her struggling with Stage 2 cervical cancer.
** The season 6 episode "Homesick" is eerily similar to [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Woodward_case the Louise Woodward case]] that happened a mere nine months after the episode aired, [[spoiler: although we learned by the end of the episode that the nanny was innocent all along and while Woodward was convicted, her verdict was thrown out a short time later.]]
** At the end of "Kids" Lennie's old friend (who [[spoiler: had the gun dealer threatening his son killed]]) asks Lennie "what if it was one of your kids?" Lennie replies that he doesn't know what he'd do. He'd find out for himself four seasons later...
** The season 6 episode "Savior" had Creator/EllenPompeo portray a young woman who was [[spoiler: a {{Sociopath}} who goaded her boyfriend into killing her mother and brother and then trying to pin the murders on first her own, innocent father and then the boyfriend.]] In the tradition of ''Law & Order'', unless they're a recurring character, [[YouLookFamiliar actors are brought back at least once to portray a different character with a radically different persona/storyline.]] Come the season 10 episode, "Fools For Love", however [[spoiler: she played a different character with a nearly identical personality: another sociopath who killed her sister and her sister's friend with the help of her boyfriend and then tried to have him take all the blame.]]
* HilariousInHindsight:
** On the season 8 episode "Baby, It's You" (crossing over with ''Series/HomicideLifeOnTheStreet'') that was RippedFromTheHeadlines from the Jon Benet Ramsey case, they arrested the stalker of a 14 year old model that was raped to death. The stalker misread the name tag of [[JustForFun/JohnMunch a certain visiting Baltimore Homicide detective]] as "Defective Monk." This was in 1997, 5 years before the debut of ''Series/{{Monk}}'' the DefectiveDetective. In case you were wondering, it turned out [[spoiler: that the kid was innocent and the [[ParentalIncest girl's own mother]] was the one who raped and killed her daughter out of jealousy.]]
** In the season 6 episode "Aftershock" (which aired in 1996), Briscoe utters the line, [[{{TheSixthSense}} "I see dead people, all the time"]] when discussing his job with his daughter.
* MagnificentBastard:
** Philip Swann from Season 4's "American Dream" and recurring character Governor Don Shalvoy immediately come to mind.
** The plot of expy-Mary Sue Hubbard[[note]]of Scientology (in)famy)[[/note]] to sink her abusive con-man husband and get all his money. It did wind up killing six innocent people, including a child, but it worked: he's stuck in prison for six life sentences and no one can prove she actually meant to kill anyone.
* MostWonderfulSound: It just wouldn't be ''Franchise/LawAndOrder'' without the inimitable ''CHUNG-CHUNG'' (also known as ''doink-doink'' and [[Series/LawAndOrderUK "Cell door clang"]]).
* NarrowedItDownToTheGuyIRecognize:
** If the Special Guest Star isn't the victim or defense attorney, (s)he's the perp (or a major accomplice).
** [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]] by Creator/KevinSmith, who asked to play a guy who was just one more person the detectives had to talk to before they found the killer.
** Also now played with by the fact that many smaller parts are played by actors who, much later, became famous - an unavoidable event in a series that runs this long, and has so many bit parts.
* NeverLiveItDown:
** A running gag of the last decade of the show has been other prosecutors bringing up how [=McCoy=] once purposely hid a witness in a murder case from the defense team. This, plus the subsequent ethics compliant and trip before the Bar (from which [=McCoy=] was ultimately cleared of all wrong doing) has been used against Jack whenever he complains about his subordinate's bending to the point of breaking the rules of law for the pursuit of justice. And more often than not [=McCoy=] would counter with "And I'm the one telling you this is a bad idea. That should tell you something!"
** He also twice instigated 'fake trials'. In one, the defendant was in on it (the goal was to suss out a corrupt member of the prosecutor's office), but in the other the defendant wasn't and the whole thing was a ploy to allow [=McCoy=] to suborn perjury which would induce the defendant to confess. [=McCoy=] was later removed from the case for that event. Oh, and [[spoiler: the judge's superior threw out the case. The defendant was released and subsequently murdered by his co-conspirators.]]
** Another time, [=McCoy=] hid evidence from the defense that could have seemed exculpatory but he didn't think was technically relevant (he was arguing that a certain person was mentally unable to consent to commit a crime, and the evidence was the defendant's motive). The judge disagreed and ordered the evidence admitted (see: [[spoiler: episode 5, season 6, 'Competence']]). The next season, one of [=McCoy's=] former assistants was found to have hidden evidence and accidentally sent the wrong man to prison. Her defense was that [=McCoy=] did it too. [=McCoy's=] look when Kincaid told him that she'd have to tell the Bar Association that he suppressed evidence in the first case is a TearJerker. (See [[spoiler: episode 6, season 12, 'Trophy']]).
** [=McCoy=] also once attempted to have a woman sterilized; she had Munchausen's Syndrome and was murdering her babies. The judge threw this out.[[note]]Though it was clear that was [=McCoy's=] goal: Adam Schiff ordered him to make a deal, so he threw in the sterilization as an intentional deal breaker.[[/note]] Much later, Cutter cited this case when Jack objected to him trying to enjoin a family from having their severely-disabled daughter go through a medical procedure that would remove her legs and reproductive organs (to make it easier to care for her).
** [=McCoy=]'s prosecution is Season 10's "Gunshow" takes the cake: it's a murder by proxy case where he goes after gun manufacturers for depraved indifference homicide after they neglected to make their semiautomatic pistols less prone to tampering in order to capitalize on profits. (This had resulted in one boy tampering with a pistol to make it fire ''four times'' as many bullets in under a minute, and allowed him to gun down 15 women in Central Park). [=McCoy=] actually [[spoiler: wins; however, the judge (William Wright, who has a grudge on him) throws it out because he believed that the jury had not considered the law properly, and he chastises [=McCoy=] for trying to rewrite social policy in the courtroom]]. This is referenced numerous times, notably in Season 18 when one lawyer criticizes him for being too liberal and persecuting conservatives.
** And, of course, [=McCoy=] sleeping with his assistants. He stops after [[spoiler: Claire dies, and decides that he doesn't want to hurt his assistants by getting intimate with them]]. Of course, this doesn't stop many characters from drawing conclusions. In "Exiled: A Law and Order Movie", Det. Logan asks him if he's got another hot assistant, to which he replies, "You just have a knack for pissing people off, don't you?"
** This was invoked when Cutter's feelings for Connie were outright stated in a Season 20 episode; Cutter says, "Who would put their assistant in a difficult place by sleeping with her?" to which [=McCoy=] replies, "you mean, besides me?"
** "[[AssPull Is this because I'm a lesbian?]]" Dick Wolf has since regretted throwing it in there, conceding that [[spoiler: Serena's]] confession made no sense.
** Also, "Sundays In The Park With Jorge". It's the only episode in twenty years to be ''pulled from rotation''[[note]]Although Creator/{{TNT}} as well as other channels that have syndication rights to the series now show it along with the other episodes[[/note]] and made Dick Wolf and company look Hispanophobic.
* ReplacementScrappy:
** Several in-universe examples. [[StrictlyFormula It has become tradition throughout the entire franchise]] that when one detective/member of the D.A.'s office is replaced, for his former partner or others to regard the replacement with suspicion or outright hostility for the first few episodes. If the fandom eventually eases up on them as well is only a matter of time.
** In RealLife, the defining examples are: Nora Lewin, who replaced the most popular DA, Adam Schiff, and was seen as wishy-washy even InUniverse; Serena Southerlyn, without question the least popular ADA, who followed the polarizing but far more memorable Abbie Carmichael; Michael Cutter, who had the unenviable task of succeeding Jack [=McCoy=] in the EADA's chair (although [=McCoy=] was still on the show, so the impact was lessened); and, definitively, Joe Fontana, who replaced arguably the show's most beloved character, Lennie Briscoe.
** Although [=McCoy=] never fell into this with most fans and the critics, there is a section of the fandom that are adamant about Ben Stone being the superior EADA.
** Quite a few fans didn't consider Kevin Bernard to be a worthy replacement for the beloved Ed Green. His generally flat characterization also didn't help matters.
* RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap: Viewers eventually warmed up to Joe Fontana. Ditto Mike Cutter, once the writers toned down his cockiness.
* RetroactiveRecognition: The show is famously an absolute smorgasbord of New York-based actors, thanks to many of them taking guest roles early in their careers. This was made especially clear at the 2016 Tony Awards, where host James Corden did a routine pointing out how many guest spots on the show the nominated actors had between them. One of them had actually appeared ''five times'', all in different roles.
* SeasonalRot: All the seasons after Jerry Orbach left. It was never the same afterwards, and the new cast lineups didn't have the same chemistry as the old ones did.
* TheScrappy:
** Serena, who fans pretty much hated due to the blandness of the character.
** Nina Cassady as well due to her [[InformedAbility informed abilities]], cocky nature, [[Creator/SarahSilverman her striking resemblance to a certain polarizing stand-up comic]] and due to her being a watered-down version of [[Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent Eames.]] She also was hated in-universe as well, particularly by Van Buren.
** Nick Falco. Although he didn't get ''quite'' the level of hatred as some of the other scrappys due to his limited tenure on the show, many still found him underwhelming of a character and [[WhatTheHellCastingAgency felt he was a poor fit to the show]], namely due to viewers not being able to dissociate Michael Imperioli from his [[Series/TheSopranos most famous role.]]
* {{Shipping}}: Jack/Claire and Michael/Connie both have pretty decent sized fanbases. Jack and Nora also had a smaller, but passionate following.
* SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped: One example is an episode about a mass shooting, which turns into a case about after-market gun add-ons which make them full-auto. It's a rare look at a different element of gun rights, albeit done hamfistedly by virtually absolving a mass shooter of fifteen murders, despite quite literally being caught with the smoking gun and confessing on arrest, and scarcely addressing the violations of the 1934 National Firearms Act by converting a firearm to full-auto.
* {{Squick}}: [[spoiler: 20 year old guy to his 60 year old girlfriend, after learning she'd had a "vagina lift": (basically) "But I love you ''because'' of how you are!" The reason he's into [[MayDecemberRomance May-December romances]] is also fairly squicky.]]
* SpecialEffectsFailure: The otherwise deadly serious "A Death In The Family" (ep 1-13) begins with an unlucky perpetrator falling to his doom, and -just out of camera range, landing on a police car. At his scream and impact sound, the camera sweeps back to catch a none-too-convincing dummy on the none-too-convincingly-damaged cop car.
* StrawCharacter: There's ''A LOT''.
* UnintentionallySympathetic: Benjamin "Bud" Greer (who was played by future ''Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent'' star Creator/CourtneyBVance) from the episode "Rage", which [[RippedFromTheHeadlines the basis of the story is taken from]] the Long Island Subway killer, Colin Ferguson. Even if he was on the snobbish side, his character was this because he was [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer unfairly rejected]] by both Black and White society for as long as he remembered and his [[MeanBoss boss/victim]] was a [[AssholeVictim unlikable, money-hungry racist jerkass]] who it was difficult to care about, unlike Ferguson who slaughtered random people.
** Tommy Vega from "Formerly Famous", who was portrayed by Creator/GaryBusey. Yes, his character was based off of the Robert Blake case. Yes, he and his manager both killed his wife. However, unlike Blake, he was a someone who everyone, including his own adult children, considered to be a joke and a has-been as well HenpeckedHusband who tried to make up for everything by being a good father to his baby daughter... [[spoiler: [[YankTheDogsChain only to find out that he wasn't the child's biological father.]]]] Even in open court, he acknowledged what a failure he was and the heartbreak he experienced in learning the truth, especially when he screamed out "She was my second chance! Guys like me don't get a second chance!"
* UnintentionallyUnsympathetic:
** The defense attorney Danielle Melnick has a history of sacrificing her others (even her clients) for her own political agenda. In “Open Season”, she outright ignored her client's threats to innocent people despite repeated warnings, which lead to more killings. Her being shot by one of her former client's followers who mistakenly believed that she had ratted him out came across more as LaserGuidedKarma then anything else. It also doesn’t help that she never once admitted she did anything wrong to the point of giving [=McCoy=] a [[WhatTheHellHero what the hell hero]] for prosecuting her.
** Both of the killers from "Pro Se" and "Under The Influence". Both were incredibly self-righteous mass-murdering [[JerkAss jerkasses]] who did everything they could to obstruct justice in their cases [[DisabilityAsAnExcuseForJerkassery due to their respective diseases (schizophrenia and alcoholism)]]. The latter only comes off as ''somewhat'' sympathetic because towards the end of the episode, only after he is shown the autopsy photos of his victims [[TearJerker including one of a four-year-old boy]], he breaks down and [[AssPull is suddenly remorseful]]. The former only feels [[ItsAllAboutMe sympathy for himself,]] blames Claire for what ultimately happened [[NiceJobBreakingItHero (since she ended up getting him released after committing another, non-violent crime)]] and didn't feel one ounce of remorse for any of his victims, [[FateWorseThanDeath including the lone survivor who now has permanent brain damage.]]
** Dr. Gail Berardi, the coroner in "Suicide Box". Years earlier, she was given the body of a young man, who since she couldn't determine a cause of death (and really didn't bother to try for one), just checked it off as a suicide, which set off a chain reaction of his killer going free [[KarmaHoudini (and still cannot be charged even years later]] ''[[SarcasticConfession and after confessing to the murder]]'' due to lack of evidence), his little brother to grow up angry and vengeful and made him try and kill an officer (as he blamed cops for not solving his brother's murder) and which caused the young man's body [[spoiler: to be [[NightmareFuel shipped overseas as a cadaver whose parts have already been harvested.]]]] And yet, since she was [[SarcasmMode plagued]] with a heavy workload and long hours, we are supposed to feel sorry for ''her.'' Not helping anything is her overall lack of remorse or even responsibility for what happened.
* TheWoobie:
** Typically, the show wants you to sympathize with the victims, the Law, or the Order, but they sometimes make even the defendant a woobie. One particularly tragic story is that of a psychotic who refuses his medication, even though he gets violent. It's revealed that the side effects make it incredibly difficult for him to function, and because of his illness he wasn't able to pursue any work, let alone his dream career. He'd contemplated and pursued suicide when he realized that. He stopped taking his medication after his sister testified to that. He agrees to take a plea (strict monitoring for the rest of his life to make sure he takes his meds or stays in a hospital), and breaks down into renewed psychosis is a TearJerker. Everyone in the courtroom acts their little hearts out, showing dawning realization and varying degrees of regret and horror.
** Jack and Claire's relationship was dealt with with a very light touch, but it became the focus of an episode [[spoiler:after Claire's death]]. Jack is trying a drunk driver and conspires with the judge to charge him with murder, with everyone around him stepping lightly. Finally, Jack pushes the defendant to a breakdown on the stand. Jack, in a MyGodWhatHaveIDone moment, relents and reveals the evidence that the man was blind drunk (and earning an enemy in the judge, who had political aspirations).
** As of the final season, Lt. Van Buren and her struggle with cancer (not that she'll have any of it, mind you) What makes her worthy of woobie-dom is the fact that she's the longest-running member of the Law and Order cast.
** Denis Winters from "Mushrooms" [[note]]The same woman who would go on to be known as Lt. Van Buren.[[/note]]. While Ms. Winters was out working, her home was shot at -- injuring her elder child (to the point he became a paraplegic) and killing her ''infant son''. At one point she mentions her supervisor saying that [[KickTheDog seeing her paraplegic son and planning the funeral for her baby was considered "personal time".]] But the real sad and horrifying part comes from the ''why'' her house was shot up -- The 14-year-old who did it was at the ''wrong'' house. He was sent to kill a crooked real estate man by another drug dealer because the former cheated the latter. But the 14-year-old couldn't read and thus mixed up the address which led to shooting at her house. This woman needs a hug.
** [[FragileFlower Judith Sandler]], a witness [[spoiler: and the doer]] from "Survivor". Already being the daughter of [[UsefulNotes/TheHolocaust Holocaust]] survivors and being traumatized by what her parents went through, which affected her upbringing and being afraid of the world around her, she helped to carry on the pursuit of her father's lost possessions before going he was captured years earlier... [[spoiler: only to discover that a foreign billionaire had already sold the father's things and that she had killed the victim, who she thought was withholding knowledge about them, for nothing.]]
** Denise Grobman, the victim from "DNR", who was left mortally wounded by an assassin hired by her husband. The whole episode entailed her wanting to die instead of living with being a paraplegic or admitting that he was the one who ordered the hit.
** Sammy Mireles from "Smoke". His parents ''sold'' his innocence away to a pedophile because the said pedophile offered them money.
** Kevin Drucker from "Life Line". He killed an innocent reporter. Why? Because a violent gang didn't like her snooping in on them and the very same gang were threatening to kill his son from the same jail they were in. Throughout his trial, he doesn't even let his attorney defend him and even states that he died the moment he killed the young reporter.
** Tory Quinlann, from "Captive". First, he was held captive for five years by a sexual offender who would repeatedly molest him. Then,it's later revealed that before the abduction, his step-father was physically abusive to him and his mother has openly denied it; and it's implied that Tory stayed with his abuser because he felt around him than he did his own family. And when his captor brought home a new boy to molest, Tory (who was diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome) killed the boy because he saw him as "competition". And he is then convicted of second degree murder.
** Jamie Yost from "Executioner". His only son and grandchild were brutally murdered by a crazy killer who was supposed to die on his death sentence. Instead, there was a problem with the injection site and the killer became a ''victim''. He tried to ask the doctor what went wrong and ended up killing him. Except, it was the ''wrong'' doctor.