I’ve been on a Law and Order binge this holiday season. As every human with eyes and couches knows, this entails watching roughly more hours of Law and Order per day than there are hours in a given day for more days than there are days, and it’s such a common occurrence in humanity, I don’t even feel the need to acknowledge this practice as unusual or even really noteworthy.
So I’m writing this post not to brag about amateur tv-addict behaviour (Britishized for class), but to point out three universal observations about the show that we’ve all noticed and all pointed out before, but which require cataloging here so that when future alien civilizations discover Law and Order and BWE.tv in that order, they’ll be all like, “Yeah I know, right???” Then they’ll be like “Blaxnorff!!!” cause they’re aliens and only speak some English.
John Mulaney has a comprehensive standup bit about L&O that covers the universal basics of the show with superhuman accuracy — Jerry Orbach’s before-the-commercial corpse wisecracks, the New York bartender who remembers everyone, the vague and lame pre-body discovery extras dialogue, and so on — but the show is so ubiquitous, so unapologetically formulaic, and still so inexplicably addictive after all these years, I feel the list of universally accepted L&O rules needs to be expanded.
To pre-emptively avoid rambling forever, I’ve kept the list to just three. Without murder ado (typing that hurt both of us), here are 3 Additional Universal Truths of Law & Order.
Truth #1: If a recognizable actor or actress is in the episode, they did it.
As soon as the detectives begin interrogating “That’s that dude from [BLANK]“, that guy’s gonna end up being the murderer, or at the very least, they’re gonna figure prominently in the solution and deliver a stirring speech on the witness stand in the final 10 minutes as the music swells. Law & Order isn’t going to bring in Characteractor McKindarecognizable to just dish out a little information in the first twenty minutes and disappear. If Robert Wagner or Orlando Jones walks through the frame, arrest the sh*t out of him. He did it.
The show could reverse this trend, of course, if it ever had the balls to pull a Deep Blue Sea and bring in a guest star specifically to play a completely inconsequential part. Maybe it’d be slightly insulting to bring in Daniel Day-Lewis just to have him play the Hispanic dock worker who remembers someone got a phone call and stormed away kind of angry, but dammit, it would serve such a grand universal purpose, it’d be more than worth it. And I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis watches L&O constantly too and feels the same way, so what’re you waiting for, Danny? Start perfecting some goddamn dockworker affectations.
Truth #2: If they arrest or try a suspect with too much time left in the episode, that person obviously didn’t do it.
There’s nothing more instantly frustrating to the L&O viewer than the detectives confidently handcuffing someone fifteen minutes in the episode, or the prosecutors bringing the hammer down on someone with a solid twenty minutes left in the episode, and no ability to yell at them from your couch “IT’S OBVIOUSLY NOT THEM YOU DUMBASS, THERE’S WAY TOO MUCH FRICKIN’ TIME LEFT!” Well, you have the ability to yell it all the time, but trust me, they rarely respond.
You’d think that after eighty blablillion seasons of the show, even with the personnel turnover, some of these cops would’ve figured out not to arrest someone until 25-35 minutes into the episode, and not to really nail them in court until after the final commercial break. In extremely rare cases, an early conviction may actually occur, but only if it then leads to a more important crime being unearthed and the episode essentially starting over again. They’ve never just nailed someone ten minutes in, forced them to plead guilty, and eaten sandwiches in realtime for the reamaining forty minutes. Could someone please make this episode happen? It would instantly become every L&O fan’s unquestionably favorite episode / day of life.
Universal Truth #3: The last couple seasons of SVU have been effing crazy.
This isn’t so much a universal L&O commandment as just an observation, but it’s a damn obvious observation at that. SVU should, in theory, be the most gripping and relatable L&O offshoot, as it involves cases of domestic abuse, rape, and crimes of a sexual nature so often committed by close family members and not — as in Law And Order: Original Recipe — in some zany scheme between zany people that intrigue us but seem distant and caricatured.
Instead, the past (give or take) six seasons of SVU have been hilariously ridiculous, and usually in an entertaining way, but in a way so full of sub-Shyamalan twists and turns so as to completely negate any relatability to the serious issues it attempts to raise. If the cops interrogate or arrest someone even 30 minutes into an SVU episode, there is no question that they’re still about eight dudes away from finding the actual killer (eight dudes or girls, or the dudes’ kids secretly, or a secretly transgender guidance counselor taking matters into her own hands because she identified so uniquely with a transgender student’s parental issues, even though none of this was raised before the final two minutes of the sixty minute show).
Watching SVU is like watching cartoony 24 episodes but with rape involved so you feel slightly guilty for laughing at the ridiculousness. In a related story, my DVR is full.
Other Universal Truths of Law & Order? Leave ‘em in the comments. There are literally blablillions of them.