‘Law & Order’: Here’s How Show Stayed as Realistic as Possible

by Madison Miller

The “Law & Order” universe has a way of being haunting realistic in ways we wish were not realistic at all. That realistic and dramatic storytelling, however haunting, is what made the original show so popular, to begin with.

The first mothership series was on for a whopping 20 seasons and 456 episodes. Although it is no longer airing new episodes, it spawned a whole universe full of the untold truths of “Law & Order” in this country.

‘Law & Order’ Realism

Now, fans of the show can still watch spin-off shows like “Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” The original show offered a type of crime-based storytelling we hadn’t really seen on TV. The first half would feature detectives and police officers’ investigations. Then, the second half would focus on the process of prosecution taking place in district attorney offices and courtrooms.

This new formula required a lot of realism and research for the show’s creators. The show would hire former NYPD detectives to consult on different moments. Also, there were even attorneys in the writer’s room making sure the prosecution side of things was as sound as possible.

William Fordes, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney, once worked as a producer, writer, and consultant for “Law & Order.” He recalled to ABA Journal that the show did its best to create a realistic portrayal of the criminal justice system in all its forms.

“Every case we ever cited on the show was accurate and every explanation was precise,” Fordes said.

By bringing in these experts, viewers at home could be assured that they were consuming fictional content, but real “Law & Order.”

Are Cases from the Show Ever Based on Real Stories?

Seeing as the show’s creators and writers always strive for realistic on-screen representation, do they ever pull from real cases?

Yes, some of these episodes have drawn inspiration from real-life events. However, “inspiration” is the keyword here. They may use general storylines from real cases, but they are never exactly the same or contain these victims’ or criminals’ names.

For example, the popular spin-off series “Law & Order: SVU” has gotten inspiration from real-life plenty of times.

One of the most memorable episodes was “Baby Killer” from season two, episode five. This episode is based on the shooting of Kayla Rolland in 2000. A young boy finds a gun in his relative’s house and decides to bring it to his elementary school. He then accidentally shoots and kills his classmate.

The episode was particularly harrowing, especially since we know it was based on something that actually sadly happened. A lot of times “Law & Order” universe shows will draw on current events, but add their own twist to it as well.