‘Law & Order’ Fans Slam Courtroom Scenes as ‘Unrealistic’ and ‘Ridiculous’

by Lauren Boisvert

Television sometimes gives up total accuracy in favor of drama and time constraints, and “Law & Order” is no different. There’s only so much accuracy you can put into a 45-minute episode while still packing in all the drama and intensity, not to mention tying everything up in a neat bow by the end. So, it’s not really a surprise that the courtroom scenes are occasionally shortened and streamlined in favor of character plotlines or some other storytelling device.

But, some fans recently took to Reddit to discuss the courtroom scenes in “Law & Order.” The original post in the subreddit asked, “Anyone find the police portion more interesting than the lawyers portion?”

The post continued, “The police portion is more interesting: the detectives […] have more colorful personalities than the attorneys; the police investigation involves more compelling mystery; and this part includes images of gritty NYC. The lawyers portion is often predictable and dry.” The post also claimed that “SVU”–which won’t be airing season 24 on NBC this month–is so popular because it focuses more on police work than any other “Law & Order” franchise.

True, the OG “Law & Order” does put a lot of emphasis on the two parts of justice; the police, and the courtroom, and usually the two don’t often overlap. One fan commented on the state of the writing in the “Law & Order” revival. They wrote, “The lawyer writing has been particularly poor. Unrealistic dialogue and ridiculous lawyer logic.”

Another agreed, writing, “I generally prefer the lawyer portions although for this past season, it’s been the other way around.” It seems like in this new season–which airs season 22 in September–the courtroom scenes fell a little flat.

Why Do ‘Law & Order’ Fans Demand Complete Authenticity?

“Law & Order” started out as a revolutionary show for its portrayal of the courtroom; that was before fans could do countless hours of research into what real courtrooms are like. That was before we publicly televised court cases. Now, there’s a lot of pressure to get everything right, even though it’s fiction. Fans aren’t happy when shows take creative liberties and write around their time limits.

Network shows have strict 45-minute time limits, and must fit in tons of drama and story into those short minutes. There’s not enough time to spend on the minutiae of the courtroom. Real court cases occasionally drag on and on; an episode of “Law & Order” needs to be done in 45-minutes.

With streaming services, it’s different; a show on Netflix can have 2-hour episodes, plenty of time to fit in all the accuracies they want. Simply, the structure of a network series just isn’t conducive to getting everything right every time. Shows like “Law & Order” need to take liberties in order to get their stories out there and entertain the audience. Essentially, it’s important that it’s not a documentary, it’s a drama.