Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Law and Order: A Look at Writing for Television

91Dqu0CvhnL._SL1500_There is probably no single “absolute” anyone can use as a yardstick to describe the nature of the television writer, his background, his fortes, or the nature of his advent into the realm of television writing—save for the simple statement that there are no absolutes. - Rod Serling Foundation

One expert writes:
The TV writer is never trained to be a TV writer. There are no courses, however specialized and applied, that will catapult him into the profession. And it was especially true back in the twilight days of radio that coincided with the primitive beginnings of television that the television playwrights evolved—and were never born. In my case the decision to become a television writer arose from no professional master plan. I was on the writing staff of a radio station in the Midwest. Staff writing is a particularly dreamless occupation characterized by assembly-line writing almost around the clock. It is a highly variable occupation—everything from commercials and fifteen-second public-service announcements to half-hour documentary dramas. In a writing sense, it serves its purpose. It teaches a writer discipline, a time sense for any kind of mass-media writing, and a technique. But it also dries up his creativity, frustrates him, and tires him out.Writing for television is very different than writing a feature-length screenplay. You need to create a concept that holds an audience’s attention for years, not just two hours.


Law & Order is an  American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in syndication, on various cable networks. Law & Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and completed its 20th and final season on May 24, 2010. At the time of its cancellation, Law & Order was the longest-running crime drama on American primetime television. After The Simpsons, both Law & Order and Gunsmoke tied for the second longest-running scripted American primetime series with ongoing characters.

Set and filmed in New York City, the series follows a two-part approach: The first half hour is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department homicide detectives; the second half is the prosecution of the defendant by the New York County Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines, although the motivation for the crime and the perpetrator may be different.

The show has been noted for its revolving cast over the years. Season 1 starred George Dzundza as Sergeant Max Greevey, Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan, Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen, Michael Moriarty as Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone, Richard Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette and Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff. After numerous cast shuffles, its final season starred Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo, Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, Linus Roache as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter, Alana de la Garza as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa, and Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy. Another one of the series' most notable performers was Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, who starred on the show for twelve years (seasons 3–14).

The success of the series has led to the creation of additional shows, making Law & Order a franchise, with also a television film, several video games, and international adaptations of the series. It has won and has been nominated for numerous awards over the years, including a number of Emmy Awards. On May 14, 2010, NBC announced that it had cancelled Law & Order and would air the final episode on May 24, 2010. Immediately following the show's cancellation, Wolf stated that he was attempting to find a new home for the series and would also consider a "last resort" plan to conclude the show with a two-hour TV film to air on NBC. In July 2010, however, he indicated that those attempts have failed and declared that the series had now "moved to the history books".  


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