Law and Order: Season 14

Law And Order

As with almost all of the current batch of Universal season sets, Law and Order: Season 14 is well worth adding to your collection

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The American television audience has always loved two genres, the cop show and the lawyer show. Back in 1990 Dick Wolf came up with a novel idea, something exceeding rare in modern television, let’s combine the two genres. The first half of each episode features the police investigating the crime while the second half turns to the legal wrangling of the lawyers. Instead of coming across as two half hour dramas what makes this series one deserving of its constant top placement in the ratings is the excellent level if integration between the two sections of each episode. There is a degree of pacing rarely found in television dramas at work here. The stories develop in a truly organic fashion sweeping the viewer up in them. I first started watching this series over a decade ago, watching some late night reruns before having to leave for work, the shows where so engrossing that when I had to leave before the end I would record the remainder. While most shows are predicable Law & Order always manages a twist to keep things interesting. You also get to follow the crime to the completion. In most series you typically only see the criminal brought in by the police or the trial, here you get both.

Most of the cases considered in this Law and Order series are "ripped from the headlines". In fact Dick Wolf once noted in an interview that Law & Order will continue to have material as long as there is a New York Post. For obvious legal reasons the actual plots are thinly disguised cases we all know. For example in Law and Order: Season 14, the focus of this DVD box set, there is a famous news story of a person that hit a person, drove home dragging the victim who then bled to death in the driver’s garage. In another Law and Order episode a rich man murders his current wife to cover the murder of the first wife, taken from the infamous Robert Durst case.

Even when a plot is not directly out of the papers they are topical. Some of the themes explored in Law and Order: Season 14 are the murder of a reporter previously embedded with the Army in Iraq that gave away troop movements (okay, this one smacked of Geraldo Rivera). Often current hot social issues are debated on screen. Themes like gay marriage, Holocaust survivors and the fine points of justice versus legal are all explored in an intelligent yet entertaining manner. The dialogue here does not talk down to the audience.

While most series appear to be written for someone with a fifth grade vocabulary Law & Order possesses an intelligence yet never foraying into the preachy or overly pompous. Very often the beginning of a case will turn out to be something far more heinous. In one episode a man is found dead in a hotel room. Sounds typical of New York City but upon investigation it was a reporter covering his faked news stories which then leads to a discussion of affirmative action.

Usually, when members of the cast start to leave a series it’s a death knell. Law & Order is the king of resiliency; although not a single original cast member remains the Law and Order show is as popular as ever. One thing that makes this possible is Dick Wolf’s commitment to his cast. He reuses guest stars, often keeping them in recurring roles. Sometimes they even take on a new character in a more leading position. With this approach Wolf has created a mini universe. This not only keeps the show fresh it permitted two successful Law and Order spin offs. This rotating cast of characters also lends a greater degree of realism to the Law and Order series. After all over the fourteen years depicted so far it is natural for people to retire, get promoted and move on.

As with past casts the 14th year presented in this Law and Order box set works extremely well with each other. On the police side there is veteran actor Jerry Orbach as detective Lenny Briscoe. He plays his character as the typical cynical New York, he has seen just about everything in his career in the New York City police department. Between the writers and Orbach they created a fully fleshed out character, a recovering alcoholic, mourning the death of his adult daughter. The close of this Law and Order season sees the announcement that Briscoe will retire from the force. Considering the track record of this Law and Order series there is little doubt he will have a guest appearance in the future.

Jesse L. Martin is Detective Ed Green, a younger and more angry, volatile office. Between his drive and Briscoe’s experience the Law and Order cast is usually quickly resolved. The boss of the unit, Lt. Anita Van Buren is portrayed by the fantastic character actress S. Epatha Merkerson. Atypical of most television cop shows she is a female boss, a capable and insightful woman. The legal side is represented by actors of equal talent. Sam Waterston is Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy. He is a brilliant lawyer that is not above testing the limits of the law to successfully prosecute the criminal.

Balancing McCoy out is ADA Serena Southerlyn played quite well by Elizabeth Rohm. She is more of an ivory tower lawyer, young and idealistic, a perfect counter point for McCoy’s realism. The District Attorney Arthur Branch is played by former Untied States Senator Fred Dalton Thompson. He portrays his Law and Order character as on brilliant legal mind lurking behind the façade of a southern good ole boy. Of course, the city of New York is a featured character. As a New Yorker I appreciated the many shots of familiar locations, adding the right environment for this Law and Order series.

It what is becoming standard for Universal’s television series sets the presentation here is excellent. All twenty four episodes of Law and Order: Season 14 are here with crystal clear video and audio. Universal also has the policy of giving extra value with your purchase. In this Law and Order set there are profiles of Jesse L. Martin and Fred Dalton Thompson giving some interesting background for these actors. Jerry Orbach gives a guided tour of the Law & Order set. Rounding things out is an interview with Dr. Park Dietz the technical medical advisor for Dick Wolf. As with almost all of the current batch of Universal season sets Law and Order: Season 14 is well worth adding to your collection.

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