Creator: Dick Wolf
Formulaic as all get out, but I love the formula. Dead body. Investigation filled with sarcasm, bickering, and police bending the rules on occasion. Lawyers having way more fun than any lawyers get to have in real life. This week at work I may be testifying in a criminal trial. If I do I’m sure it will be boring. I just really want someone to hold a placard with the location and time, and play the “bun-buh!” sound effect as the trial begins.
While the writing was for the most part mediocre through the series, it was lifted up for years because of its cast. Sorvino and Noth were okay, but Jerry Orbach really anchored the show until his death. Benjamin Bratt was good but the best partnership was Orbach and Jesse L. Martin. Dammit I love Martin. So good. After Orbach left, Martin helped keep things going, but he never seemed to gel with anyone else.
As for the lawyers, I really enjoyed Michael Moriarty. He had a powerful but understated presence in the courtroom. Richard Brooks wasn’t bad either. Then for years it was Sam Waterston and a mostly good revolving door of Jill Hennessey, Cary Lowell, Angie Harmon, and Elisabeth Rohm. Waterston is over-the-top most of the time and would get barred from the courtroom in real life, but I find him entertaining all the same.
My favorite character throughout the show’s run was District Attorney Adam Schiff played by Steven Hill. His charmingly grumpy demeanor was a great contrast to Waterston and he was consistently funny as well. Former senator Fred Thompson was fine as his replacement, but it just wasn’t the same without Hill there.