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YMMV: Law & Order
  • Acceptable Targets: Child Psychologists are depicted either wholly corrupt or totally incompetent.
    • This leads to many cases of Took a Level in Dumbass in SVU where they still treat them with respect. Sadly in the original and Criminal Intent the victim is usually already dead this is not the case in SVU where they still rely on the psychologist council. No matter how many times this is shown to be a stupid thing to do.
    • A surprising number of spoiled rich kids go on killing sprees for the thrill of it.
      • Either that or try to destroy their families when they stop taking care of them.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: The character from "Pro Se" who is spotlighted under Unintentionally Unsympathetic? He also shows up under The Woobie.
  • Anvilicious: Particularly the later seasons. Rare is the episode in season 20 that doesn't smack you in the head with a political message.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: The infamous "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" line is possibly the distilled essence of BLAM:
    1. It comes completely from nowhere,
    2. It's quite strange when it happens (nothing in the episode had much to do with homosexuality).
    3. It is never mentioned again by anyone.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: 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.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: 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." 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 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.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Following a court's ruling that evidence obtained by the Tokyo police is admissible, the defense lawyer says, "What's next, drag a suspect across the nearest border and beat a confession out of him?" In 1995, unthinkable. In 2005, official US policy.
    • 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 Properly Paranoid after years of being stalked and accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Werner Klemperer, better known as Colonel Klink, makes an appearance in the season 2 episode "Star Struck".
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: On the season 8 episode "Baby, It's You" (crossing over with Homicide: Life on the Street) that was Ripped from the Headlines 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 a certain visiting Baltimore Homicide detective as "Defective Monk." This was in 1997, 5 years before the debut of Monk the Defective Detective. In case you were wondering, it turned out that the kid was innocent and the girl's own mother was the one who raped and killed her daughter.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Many. Philip Swann from Season 4's "American Dream" and recurring character Governor Don Shalvoy immediately come to mind.
    • Magnificent/Manipulative Bitch: Expy- The plot of expy-Mary Sue Hubbardnote  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.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: It just wouldn't be Law & Order without the inimitable CHUNG-CHUNG (also known as doink-doink and "Cell door clang").
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: If the Special Guest Star isn't the victim or defense attorney, (s)he's the perp (or a major accomplice).
    • Subverted by Kevin Smith, 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.
  • Never Live It Down: 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 the judge's superior threw out the case. The defendant was released and subsequently murdered by his co-conspirators. Oops.
    • 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: 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 Tear Jerker. (See 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  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).
    • "Is this because I'm a lesbian?"
    • Also, "Sundays In The Park With Jorge". It's the only episode in twenty years to be pulled from rotation and made Dick Wolf and company look Hispanophobic.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Several in-universe examples. It becomes something of a tradition, when one detective is replaced, for his former partner to regard his replacement with suspicion or outright hostility for the first few episodes.
    • In Real Life, the defining examples are: Nora Lewin, who replaced the most popular DA, Adam Schiff, and was seen as wishy-washy even In-Universe; 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.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Viewers eventually warmed up to Joe Fontana. Ditto Mike Cutter, once the writers toned down his cockiness.
  • Seasonal Rot: 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.
  • The Scrappy: Serena, who fans pretty much hated due to the blandness of the character.
  • Shipping: Jack/Claire and Michael/Connie both have pretty decent sized fanbases. Jack and Nora also had a smaller, but passionate following.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped
    • One example is an episode about a mass shooting, which turns into a case about after-market gun add-ons which make them far more lethal. It's a rare look at a different element of gun rights.
  • Squick: 20-y-o guy to his 60-y-o girlfriend, after learning she'd had a "vagina lift": (basically) "But I love you because of how you are!" The reason he's into May December Romances is also fairly squicky.
  • Special Effects Failure: 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.
  • Strawman Political: There's A LOT.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The repeated use of All Abusers Are Male. Besides the obvious Ridicule, both the original series and Law & Order: Criminal Intent had episodes where the Male victim was suspected simply because they could no longer remain calm and collected after years of abuse by their female abuser. In Patsy a man is suspected of assaulting his former girlfriend’s sister after years of stalking her. Even after discovering that she was stalking him the prosecution decided that she must have felt very strongly about his guilt to go through so much trouble and continued with the case. It is only after a mistrial (caused by McCoy because he was losing) that they find evidence that she was the one who murdered her sister. While in The Good Doctor the enabling family of a cheating drug-abusing wife suspected that her husband had her killed her after a private investigator got evidence of his infidelity. Despite the fact that the wife has repeatedly disappeared on drug binges before plus the fact they had absolutely no evidence the man was convicted. In both cases the men were condemned because they could no longer remain calm and collected after years of abuse.
    • At the end of "Prejudice", an episode where a racist killed a Black man, after the man's conviction, McCoy and Lewin remark about the Irony of the man's pride over being part of the "majority" is that how he now gets to spend the rest of his life as a "minority" (I.e., saying it's mostly people of color behind bars.)
    • In "Navy Blues," a female Navy pilot is accused of killing another sailor with whom she was having an affair. She says they struggled over a gun when she tried to break the affair off. Part of her defense is that she was in control of the situation because she had learned control of her emotions in the Navy, but a recording made when she tried to do a night landing on an aircraft carrier several months before showed her terrified and furious. The whole thing makes her look like just another hysterical female incapable of doing a man's job.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Bud Greer (who was played by future Law & Order: Criminal Intent star Courtney B. Vance) from the episode "Rage". Although the basis of the story is taken from the very unsympathetic Long Island Subway killer, Colin Ferguson (no, not the Maytag man), his character was this because he was unfairly rejected in both Black and White society for as long as he remembered and his victim, his boss, was just a unlikable, money-hungry racist jerkass who it was difficult to care about.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The defense attorney Danielle Melnick has a history of sacrificing her others even her clients for her own political agenda. In “Open Season” she out right ignored her clients treat to innocent people despite repeated warnings getting a lot of innocent people killed. Her being shot by one of her former client's followers who mistakenly believed that she had ratted him out came across more as Laser-Guided Karma then anything else. It also doesn’t help that she never once admitted she did anything wrong to the point of giving McCoy a what the hell hero for prosecuting her.
  • We Could Have Avoided All This: This was done in universe in "Double Blind" if Dr. Christian Varick had done even one of the numerous required tests for the double blind study the murder would never have happened.
  • The Woobie: As of the current 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 currently the longest-running member of the Law and Order cast.
    • On top of that, word is the actress leaving the show, not that it matters since the show got canceled. And she just got her hair back/revealed her real hair for the first time!)
    • Don't fret, the series' finale reveals that (after a scare caused by a scanner malfunction) that her cancer is in remission ("Thank you, thank you.").
    • Jack and Claire's relationship was dealt with with a very light touch, but it became the focus of an episode 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 My God, What Have I Done? moment, relents and reveals the evidence that the man was blind drunk (and earning an enemy in the judge, who had political aspirations).
    • 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 Tear Jerker. Everyone in the courtroom acts their little hearts out, showing dawning realization and varying degrees of regret and horror.

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