How ‘Law & Order’ Revolutionized the Crime TV Genre

by Lauren Boisvert

If “Law & Order” had a physical address, it would be a UNESCO World Heritage site. The show is a national treasure. It also helped shift the crime television genre into what we have today; a more believable, authentic crime genre experience.

Because “Law & Order” took stories from current events, that made for a change in the way tv crime shows operated. “Law & Order” was the trailblazer; it took stories “ripped from the headlines” and created a fictional account centered around that crime or incident. The real life crime was never mentioned, but looking at the news from around that time, you could probably suss out what was going on.

Things like abusive celebrity relationships or families, manhunts, high speed chases, etc. A lot of the cases-of-the-week were pulled right from the front page, or from law books. A lot of the time, the writers turned to the New York Post for story ideas, according to Michael Chernuchin, who was an attorney before becoming a writer for “Law & Order.” Chernuchin told ABA Journal in August, “We would take something from the New York Post so the audience would recognize it, but then go off in our own direction.”

Sometimes the show took creative liberties, Chernuchin continued, like speeding up trials. But they never lied or made things up for shock value. “We used real law and didn’t let the staff do anything that wouldn’t happen in a real court of law,” said Chernuchin.

That’s what made “Law & Order” so great; sure, not everything in real life is going to be just like the show, but it really changed how crime television is portrayed. It made way for “Criminal Minds” and the like, but it was also unique in its focus on the law.

Anthony Anderson Talks About Coming Back to ‘Law & Order’

“Law & Order” is coming back, not for a reboot, but an honest revival; it’s 21st season, and a lot of familiar faces are returning to the courtroom and the squad room.

Anthony Anderson is one such “Law & Order” alumnus who’s returning for the new season. In conversation with Entertainment Tonight, Anderson spoke about his feelings about returning to his character, Detective Kevin Bernard.

“It means a great deal,” he said. “They’re bringing the show back and billing it as their 21st year… full circle is what it is, and it’s a good thing.” He also spoke about his choice to return to the show, saying, “You know, a lot of people ask why, and I say why not? It’s the opportunity to go back and reprise [my] character, and have a little fun in the dramatic space for a little while.” Anderson is known mostly for his comedic roles, so it will be nice to see him exercise his dramatic muscles again.