“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
Twenty years ago, Ladyjustice was in her 30’s and probably thought that she was “hot stuff” in her career and actively crusading for crime victims on the side, as the 1981 “murder date” wasn’t that long ago in time.
During that era, a new drama series featuring the role of police and prosecutors was a new concept. Now, thanks to the initial show and its series of spinoffs, this show’s genre is “old hat”. Law and Order premiered in September 1990 and aired its final episode in May 2010. Law and Order will go down in history as the longest consecutive running drama series in the U. S. to be tied with Gunsmoke… with Jim Arness (another law and order man… with a horse).
Old hat aside, the original Law and Order, particularly the characters from the 1990’s are like “a comfortable pair of slippers.” This blogger can have a great day…or a very frustrating day and take comfort in the old friends/characters like Detective Lenny Briscoe, DA’s Jack McCoy, Adam Schiff, “Rogers” the smart aleck medical examiner with no first name and the plethora of female DAs over the past 20 years.
Had Ladyjustice had the discipline to memorize all of the former cases and statues, perhaps she would have been Donna R. Gore, ADA. But alas, a homicide and future passion for justice wasn’t in the cards in Ladyjustice’s early 20’s. Coming close to something, like a paid career in crime victim advocacy “only counts in horseshoes…” Thus far…
All TV shows take liberties with the truth “for the sake of entertainment”. However, with the original Law and Order, the actors seemed so passionate and real against the backdrop of gritty New York City. This blogger therefore chooses to focus on its overall merits with fondness.
Ladyjustice’s favorite detective team was Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Mike Logan (Chris Noth). The older-younger generation, Jewish-Catholic banter was always entertaining. And, who can top Sam Waterston’s passionate closing statements or S. Epatha Merkerson’s sarcastic remarks?
All viewers knew that the disclaimer in the beginning that the story bearing any resemblance to “ripped from the headlines” was not purely fictional.
(They once did a story on a corrupt Governor (before it was commonplace) that coincided with the real life prosecution of a former Governor of Connecticut. (FYI, he “served his time”, just like Martha Stewart and is now a well paid municipal economic consultant and political talk radio host!)
The best lines were usually delivered at the end of the show’s opening and elsewhere by Lenny Briscoe, Anita Van Buren and Adam Schiff.
Lenny Briscoe: Dialogue Excerpts:
(2003) (To a reluctant witness) “There’s no such thing as hooker-client confidentiality.”
(1994) (Talking about a suspect out of state) “’New Hampshire? I spent a year there one weekend.”
(1998) (Talking to psychiatrist Emil Skoda)
Skoda: “You saw him. (7 year old suspect) He can’t connect the dots. He can’t grasp that others exist past his own needs.”
Briscoe: ‘Sounds like half of the people I know…”
Anita Van Buren: Dialogue Excerpts:
(Season 19-Episode 8) DA Jack McCoy “Eight and a half million, that’s how many children are sold into slavery each year.”
Van Buren: “Well, this plantation has closed.”
(Season 16-Episode 7) Det. Joe Fontana: “He seems like a pretty stand up guy.” Van Buren: “Yeah, well so did Scott Peterson.”
(Unknown Episode) Van Buren: “I’d better go. I’m late for my daily spanking on One Place Plaza.”
DA Adam Schiff: Dialogue Excerpts:
Schiff: “A motive pulled straight from the tabloids….And what about means and opportunity? Are you getting that from comic books?
Schiff: “Clarence Darrow had Leopold and Loeb. And who do we have?”
McCoy: “Beavis and Butthead”
Schiff: “(The week) started with a murder, ends with an execution. You got what you wanted. Take the rest of the week off.”
McCoy: “It’s Friday, Adam.”
Schiff: So it is… ‘See you on Monday.”
For Law and Order aficionados, the “da-dum” clunky musical chord that is interspersed throughout is a well known signature
Cagney and Lacey:
(Jazzy “Dueling trumpet and Clarinet Theme”- Listen!)
Speaking of very cool groundbreaking crime drama shows and enticing music, Cagney and Lacey, the three times cancelled and the only show resurrected by fans, is Lady Justice’s all time favorite! (In fact, LJ was lucky enough to purchase the entire collection!)
A few years ago, Ladyjustice was fortunate to participate in a LGBT cruise with R Family Vacations with the former couple, Rosie and Kelly O’Donnell. During that voyage, Cindy Lauper and Sharon Gless were special guests, “Ambassadors” if you will. Sharon, for the PFLAG’s Straight for Equality Program, (http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=565), as Sharon
is the proud grandmother of a lesbian granddaughter. This blogger had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Gless and she actually signed a placard LJ created for a “hero costume,” unbeknownst that Sharon was even attending the cruise!
This crime drama was the drama with heart, intensity, real social issues, and chemistry between two very different characters. These elements were the keys to success when women and television desperately needed serious, intelligent shows versus silliness (Like talking cars).
Just For Fun…. Watch and Listen!
(Bet you can’t watch it just once!)
***For the benefit of “youngsters and others, the ultimate visual- musical synopsis-spoof of Cagney and Lacey Tribute can be heard in the following YouTube duet (3 min; 52 secs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY5rlBV7RKY&NR=1
In case you didn’t know the “Christine Cagney story”, here’s a brief bio from the Internet Movie Database;
Christine Cagney is the youngest child of Detective Charlie Cagney. She comes from a privileged background and was raised in a posh home in New York along with her brother Brian, and was a debutant much to the disgust of the tomboy. Her upbringing demonstrates itself in episodes that show her ability to speak French, knowledge of art and classical music, and interest in opera etc. She is also a sports fan, often sporting a New York Yankees coat or hat that shows her tomboy characteristics.
Cagney’s parents divorced when she was young and Chris’ closeness with her father wedges a gap between Chris and both her mother and brother. She was raised Catholic, attended a Nun-run school, and although she rarely practices (during the “Don’t I Know You?” episode she admits her last confession was almost twenty years ago) the beliefs are still somewhat engraved in her. She briefly got in trouble with the police during her rebellious teen years where she spent a night in a jail cell, but then turns her attention and efforts into becoming the first female police commissioner. She attends university, and while she’s away studying in Paris, her mother dies and she does not return home for the funeral. After university she returns to New York and is teamed with Detective Mary Beth Lacey. Her commitment and determination drives her quickly into becoming a Sergeant and she continues to scale the police academy ladder often putting off her personal life. During the episode “Choices” where she thinks she is pregnant she confesses to sometimes wanting a husband and child, but more often than not being happy with her free and single life. Through out the seasons we meet many of Chris’ boyfriends, most memorably a fellow Detective who struggles with a cocaine addiction, a lawyer who proposes marriage only to be turned down, and a recovered alcoholic plumber.
Charlie Cagney is a sort of role model for his daughter, and so when it is revealed that he sometimes took bribes while on the beat, it’s a devastating blow to Chris. Although Chris inherited a large sum of money from her mother and lives comfortably, Charlie struggles with both a low income and an inability to manage his finances. Chris and Brian both provide for him, and look after him during his illnesses and bouts with alcoholism.
Chris has her fair share of drama during the seasons she’s shot, raped, discusses a previous violent relationship, and suffers from her own alcoholism which really kicks in when her father dies. She reconnects with older brother Brian who lives on the West Coast whom she hasn’t seen in over 12 years and goes through many hard cases and emotional times with her partner Mary Beth Lacey. Her ambition and determination are juxtaposed with her vulnerability and need to fit in amongst the boys in the squad. This mix of qualities, both help and hinder the character and she is centered somewhat by partner Lacey. Together the pair work well and fit together with the season finale of the series leaving them with a chance of becoming part of a special crime unit.
And last but not least…..
Ladyjustice was schooled on justice while as a youngster, watching a million episodes of Perry Mason and Ironsides with her grandmother.
Ladyjustice used to say that there will be no “Ava Maria” at her funeral…. Instead, please do the Perry Mason piano melodies and the funky version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Ladyjustice Signing off for now…..