Ah, Law & Order. Why all the hate? Sure, it's been on TV about ten years past its expiration date, thanks to Dick Wolf bludgeoning every last cent out of his franchise. But I'm not sure L&O would be as well-remembered if not for its longevity. If nothing else, it's a time capsule of NYC over the past 20 crazy years.
Law & Order Classic - Of all the shows, this one is the most rewatchable. There are just so many engaging characters, from Richard Brooks' badass flattop hairdo, to Chris Noth's hothead rookie, to the late great Jerry Obach's sardonic wisecracks (which David Caruso ripped off), to Sam Waterston's cutthroat careerist, to Steven Hill's walk-and-talk curmudgeon, to Angie Harmon's ridiculously shiny hair. Swoon.
Because the show is topical and has a rotating cast, it lasted a long while. Replacement characters would come and go, often with the same level of mourning as the Doctor regenerating. I eventually warmed to all of them; some were even better than the originals. Jesse L. Martin's jive talking detective was a welcome break from Benjamin Bratt's "poor man's Jimmy Smitts" act. Waterston had his own lineup of progressively-hotter Barker's Beauties— I mean co-stars: Jill Hennessey has a look and voice to match her name. Carey Lowell was serviceable. Angie Harmon was, and is, She-Hulk in a business suit. Elizabeth Rohm was a tough pill to swallow, but grew into the role with a fierce intensity. Fred Thompson provided a good Jack Donaghy-like foil, even if his predecessor was played by the dreaded Diane Weist. Dennis Farina was hilarious as the dandy detective, and it's too bad he left early — it might've saved the show. Linus Roache is a primo actor, but his Michael Cutter (subtle) was too similar to Waterston, and kind of irritating as well. The new female ADA was certainly hot, but miniskirt alone does not a character make. Throw in a couple of sleepy-eyed actors playing the new cops, and it's curtains.
I remember when a L&O spinoff was a novel idea. But the law of diminishing returns rules, and each show eventually became formulaic and dull, despite solid efforts at "revitalizing" them. Like the western, it's possible that we've outgrown police procedurals. But turn on a rerun of L&O, and I've got no choice but to sit down and catch a few minutes.