'Law & Order' First Episode: THR's 1990 Review

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'Law & Order'

In fall, 1990, NBC introduced a new crime drama, Law & Order, to television audiences on Sept. 13. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

NBC’s Law & Order is a cop show.

No, Law & Order is a law show.

You’re both right! It’s two, two, two shows in one.

Unfortunately, though the idea seems novel and innovative, it works only fitfully, despite the presence of such name actors as Michael Moriarty and George Dzundza. (In point of fact, the same sort of thing was tried with ABC’s Arrest and Trial, a 90-minute series that divided its time between apprehending criminals and then convicting them.)

The cop ‘n’ lawyer series puts us in a New York city station house in Manhattan's 17th precinct where we follow a team of detectives, Detective Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza) and a younger detective named Mike Logan (Christopher Noth). In the way of structure, L&O has us tackle cases with Max and Mike, the policeman tracking down criminals and wrongdoers.

At the end of L&O’s first 30 minutes, enter part II. Now the action shifts to the lawyers and we go to criminal court, where Assistant District Attorneys Ben Stone (Moriarty) and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks) look to make the most of the info provided to them by people like Max and Mike.

The debut installment of Law & Order, “Prescription for Death,” has our two detectives looking into the surprise emergency-room death of a young woman, an event that eventually leads the two investigators to square off with the hospital's illustrious head medicine man (Paul Sparer).

And when the case heads for adjudication we greet Ben and Paul, who are fighting to make the case against the big-shot doc.

Through the concept of the following legal procedure must have sounded intriguing when first advanced, its execution comes off as leaden and contrived. This is television by the numbers, connecting the dots to make the picture. Here people issue “grand speeches,” the sort of TV pronunciations about justice, honor, dignity and what have you that is now dialogue by rote. Here form is chief consideration, resulting in a program that fails to properly function. — Miles Beller

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