NBC’s Law & Order franchise is one of the most successful and well-known series on TV in the past few decades. Since its first episode in 1990, it has given audiences everywhere a glimpse into the inner workings of the criminal justice system. They even use real-life cases as inspirations for the show’s stories.
For new fans who have not been caught up yet with all the different Law & Order spin-offs, things can seem confusing at first. However, in order to clear things up a bit, let’s look at all the shows that have come out in the franchise and see which ones are still on the air.
1. ‘Law & Order’ (1990 – 2010)
The original Law & Order show premiered almost thirty years ago. The series is set in New York City and follows the New York Police Department as they investigate crimes before the criminals themselves are persecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Law & Order is known for having a revolving door of main cast members. Though there are some actors, such as Steven Hill, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Sam Waterston, who did manage to stay for a very long time.
Fans did not seem to mind most of the cast changes. Despite the changes, Law & Order still won dozens of awards until it was eventually canceled in 2010 after 20 seasons.
2. ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ (1999 – present)
Perhaps one of the most well-known series in the Law & Order franchise is Special Victims Unit (or SVU). It was the first spin-off and premiered in 1999. Unlike the original Law & Order show, SVU focuses mostly on sex crimes as well as abuse against children, especially those that are rather disturbing and horrendous.
Another aspect of SVU that is different from its parent show is the fact that, after many years on the air, it still has an original cast member – Mariska Hargitay (who plays Olivia Benson) – in its lineup. A few other actors, such as Ice-T (who plays Fin Tutuola) have also been on the series for a long time.
In March 2019, SVU was renewed for a 21st season, making it not only the longest-running Law & Order show but the longest-running live-action series in television history.
3. ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ (2001 – 2011)
2001 saw the premiere of the third show in the Law & Order franchise, called Criminal Intent.
As its title suggests, this series focuses on revealing deeper motives that criminals have for committing crimes. The cases here are handled by the Major Case Squad. They often involve high-profile people such as politicians and businessmen.
Unlike the other Law & Order shows, Criminal Intent episodes also tend to end with the criminals admitting their guilt and we don’t often get to see them get persecuted in court.
The series won two awards, though it was canceled in 2011 after ten seasons.
4. ‘Law & Order: Trial By Jury’ (2005 – 2006)
The fourth installment of the franchise is Law & Order: Trial By Jury. This one is special in that it focuses especially on the ‘law’ side of things. It does this by showing viewers the many different aspects of getting a criminal convicted in the courtroom.
Unlike the other shows that start out with the discovery of a crime in the civilian world, Trial By Jury episodes often begins by introducing viewers to the crime via a witness’ account.
Despite having a good turnout for its premiere, Trial By Jury’s ratings dropped in the weeks afterward. One of its main cast members, Jerry Orbach (who played Lennie Briscoe), also suddenly died after having only filmed two episodes.
Trial By Jury was cancelled after just one season.
5. ‘Law & Order: LA’ (2010 – 2011)
The poor performance of Trial By Jury did not stop NBC and the franchise’s creator from releasing yet another series. In 2011, the fifth installment, called Law & Order: LA premiered. Its premise is quite similar to the other Law & Order shows, though now the crimes are set in Los Angeles instead of New York City.
However, viewers didn’t seem to be impressed with LA and the series consistently received very low ratings, which led to its cancellation after less than a year of being on the air.
6. ‘Law & Order: True Crime’ (2017 – hiatus)
The sixth series in the franchise, Law & Order: True Crime, decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of each episode following a different case, this show would follow one case for a whole season. It was named True Crime because the first season dramatized the trials and conviction of real-life brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez.
Even though it follows a famous case that grabbed headlines, the show received poor ratings. After one season, the NBC put True Crime on hiatus with no word about when it will be back on the air.
7. ‘Law & Order: Hate Crimes’ (upcoming)
The last three Law & Order series might have not done as well as those that came out in the past, but NBC still has plans to release more content.
Right now, there is news that the network is working on premiering a new show, Law & Order: Hate Crimes. The new show will feature cases that are discriminatory in nature. It seems to be a fitting topic for the current political climate and is also looking to be following in the footstep of the highly successful Special Victims Unit in focusing on a specific type of crimes.
The exact premiere date of Hate Crimes is still unknown.
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