"Law & Order" debuted this week on September 13, 1990, 30 years ago. At the time, no one on the planet could foresee the show's lasting impact – it ran over 20 seasons for 456 episodes and spawned multiple spin-offs. Here is a slightly edited version of Newsday's original review:
Viewers with long memories may recall a 90-minute drama called "Arrest and Trial" that aired during the 1963-64 season. The first 45 minutes of the drama centered on a Los Angeles cop (Ben Gazzara) solving a crime, while the second half focused on a defense attorney's (Chuck Connors) efforts to get the perpetrator off the hook.
The show only lasted one season. We're sure its makers never expected the concept to reappear 27 years later. But it has.
"Arrest and Trial" was reborn as "Law & Order" with three main differences: "Law & Order" takes one hour (30 minutes to solve the problem)
Crime, 30 minutes for the trial), it's filmed on the streets of New York and this time the directors are all on the same page.
But the show is fast paced, grainy and exciting, so we'll forgive the producers for not being original. Law & Order is previewed tonight at 10am on WNBC / 4 (in the L.A. Law time slot), but its regular time is 10am (down from “thirty”) Tuesday.
The series is marked by seriousness: At the beginning of the program, a Joe Friday-like tone intones: "In criminal justice, people are represented by two separate but equally important groups, the police who investigate the crimes and the prosecutors who investigate the perpetrators follow … these are their stories. "
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As it turns out, for at least some of the early episodes of Law & Order, these stories appear to have been taken straight from the pages of the New York tabloids. Today's episode commemorates the cover-up death of Libby Zion, the daughter of writer Sidney Zion, in the hospital: a young woman enters the emergency room of a prestigious hospital for a prescription for a sore throat and ends up dead.
Tonight, the cops (George Dzundza and Chris Noth) are methodically piecing the clues together before arresting the prime suspect: the hospital's medical director, described as a cross between Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, "who may or may not be an alcoholic. The The scene changes to the courtroom, where the prosecutors (Michael Moriarty and Richard Brooks) convincingly represent.
This is not a cop buddy show so we really don't learn much about the players' personal lives. But the stocky, chunky Dzundza – a character actor who has starred in several cable and B-feature films – is a delight to watch as the cynical, world-weary detective Max Greevey. Moriarty is posh as a prosecutor.
Both the New York City locations, particularly the actual trial rooms of the Supreme Court, as well as the frequent use of handheld cameras help give Law & Order an edge. That edge is somewhat blunted by the fact that for this first episode, at least, the wheels of justice turn unusually smoothly. While this may be balm for retribution-obsessed viewers, we hope future arrests and trials will be a little more frustrating for the sake of realism.
Andy Edelstein, Newsday's entertainment editor, oversees television, celebrity, movie and pop music coverage. He has written three books on popular culture, including "The Brady Bunch Book".