I just can't make the slight entertainment I get from watching such shows worth wading through all those ads.
Not so Law and Order. You present me with an episode of that show, and I am right there, glued to the tube, as it were, ads and all.
There was a great deal of on-air hoopla yesterday in public radio world about a couple of long-running TV shows airing their final episodes. On Point devoted an hour to "Lost." Fresh Air spent an hour on what BBC radio referred to as the best advertisement ever for the use of torture, "24." Both are programs, I'm forced to admit, that I've never watched. I did try to watch "24" once, but there were too many advertisements between scenes of Jack racing around with his cell phone to his ear for me to finish even that one episode..
What I want to know is where was all the hoopla yesterday for Law and Order? A 20-year old show that also aired its final episode last night. A show where physical violence was rare and melodrama was non-existent.
And there you have what, for me, is one of the two great appeals of Law and Order. It takes on society's most challenging issues -- immigration, the "war" on terror, abortion, suspect rights, freedom of the press, what constitutes legal insanity, the death penalty, and -- and explores them. I never watched an episode that collapsed into a simplistic, black and white presentation of a complex situation. I never watched an episode that offered a pat answer for a complicated societal question.
The second reason I love the show is because of the actors who were in it. Go no further than long-termers Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Van Buren is one of my personal role models) and Jesse Martin. Take a look at their stage credits sometime. These aren't movie stars, slumming in television; they are real, live, trained, disciplined working actors who want parts in which they can disappear.
For two decades the show has been a staple gig for New York actors, a reliable way to make money between stage roles — which is why tonight, when what is likely to be the final episode is broadcast, New Yorkers might hear a collective wail emanating from the theater district. What will we do without “Law & Order”?
When the show first appeared in 1990, actors in the city rejoiced. Before then, cost and concerns for film crews’ safety usually meant that “New York” was played by Vancouver or Toronto. “Law & Order’s” producers took a risk and immediately started casting local actors for the sort of one-off jobs that we rely on to subsidize our theater habit.
As I said, where’s the hoopla?