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Law and Order Ranking: The Law

 I set some goals for myself for my 2020 - 2021 work year and one of them is to write more often. I have always been writing, whether in my journal(s), a book I started long ago, or just random notes/thoughts here or there. By holding myself to a goal of publishing here once per week, I hope to start a more consistent writing pattern (just like I have been able to do with my daily walks with my dog Ella.)

This spring/summer I spent a lot of my time watching episodes of one of my favorite television shows of all time, Law and Order, the original. The best writers write about what they know....and I know quite a bit of Law and Order. I watch and/or record episodes whenever they appear on my tv (which is often thanks to ION, Sundance, and WE tv available on my Comcast "dial.") Since I enjoy the show so much, why not take the time to rank the characters? 

Disclaimers: This is just my opinion as a long-time fan of the show. Just because someone is lower in the rankings does not mean they were "bad," it just means others did a better job in their roles. Also, I do not have acting experience, but I did direct a few hit high school plays about twenty years ago, no really, I did.

A brief history of the show; Law and Order first appeared on NBC on September 13, 1990 and ran for twenty seasons, with the final episode airing on May 24, 2010. The twenty season run is second only to spin off Law and Order Special Victims Unit for longest-running live-action scripted American primetime series.

I will split the list into two posts, today's post for "The Law" (the police officers) and a future post for "The Order" (the lawyers).  

The Law


2. Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek): Ok, there are only two characters in this section, and they were both very good. Florek appeared in seasons one through three and then moved onto play the same character on the spinoff Law and Order Special Victims Unit. I mean, I really wanted to rank him number one; he was great on both shows, he's a local guy from Flat Rock, a fellow Eastern Eagle (he's a Huron, but same school), and we share the same birthday (May 1), but I just could not rank him above.....

1. Lieutenant Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson): Detective Van Buren has appeared in the most episodes of Law and Order, 390 episodes, over seventeen seasons. An amazing actress that did an outstanding job with the character over the years. Side note, she was also born in Michigan, and look at that she attended Wayne State University (as did I for my Masters of Library and Information Science). We do not share a birthday however.

{Photo of S. Epatha Merkerson
Lt Anita Van Buren from E! News

The Detectives

11. Sergeant Maxwell Greevey (George Dzundza): Sergeant Greevey appeared only in season one, and was killed off to start season two. Dzundza is not a bad actor, but he just never had a chance to develop the character. 

10. Detective Nick Falco (Michael Imperioli): Detective Falco appears in season fifteen to replace Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin) when Martin had to take time off to film Rent. Imperioli is a great actor, he just spent too little time in the role as the character to justify a higher ranking. He actually appears in season sixteen as a suspect. One of my favorite TV scenes of all time, Christopher's intervention in The Sopranos Season 4 Episode 10 "The Strong, Silent Type" features Imperioli. I am not going to link to it because of language, but it makes me chuckle every time I watch it.

9. Detective Nina Cassady (Milena Govich): Detective Cassady appears in season seventeen, and is the only female detective in the twenty year history of the show. Govich was satisfactory in her role, but only lasted one season. 

8. Detective Rey Curtis (Benjamin Bratt): Detective Curtis appears in seasons six through nine. He was partnered the entire time with Lennie Briscoe. Some may think this ranking is too low, but I never really cared for Curtis and his "holier than thou" attitude on the show. A little bit of trivia, he is the first Law and Order character to carry a cell phone. Bratt appeared as Detective Curtis in one episode during the final season, coming back to speak with Van Buren after attending his wife's funeral.

7. Detective Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina): Detective Fontana appears in seasons fifteen and sixteen. I enjoyed his character and if this was a "best dressed" character list he would top the rankings. Some more trivia, Farina was actually a Chicago police officer at one time. Unfortunately, Farina had the task of replacing Jerry Orbach's Lennie Brisoce....and you know what they say about being the guy that replaces the .....wait I don't want to give anything away.

6. Detective Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino): Detective Cerreta appears in just two seasons, seasons two and three. Sorvino's character is shot and wounded at the end of season three and he decides to work desk duty. I enjoyed Cerreta and thought he worked really well with Chris Noth. Sorvino was also great in Goodfellas, I can still remember him slicing the garlic with the razor blade in prison. 

5. Detective Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson): Ok, this where the list gets difficult for me. All five of these actors were great and I loved each of their characters. Detective Bernard appears in seasons eighteen through twenty (the final season). Anderson's Bernard delivers one of my favorite lines of all time in the show in the season nineteen episode "Chattel." Bernard, hearing noise from the basement of a suspect states: "....Oh you have a dog, I love dogs, can I see your dog?" the way Bernard hates dogs, I do not know why I enjoy the scene so just always makes me laugh. Anderson currently stars in the NBC ABC (thank you Shot Doctor) sitcom Blackish

Photo of Anthony Anderson
Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard

4. Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth): Detective Logan is an original appearing from the start of the show through season five. Chris Noth also appeared in the spin-off Law and Order Criminal Intent. I always liked Logan and I feel he worked well with every detective he was paired with. If he was not "fired" from the show over a salary dispute I imagine Briscoe and Logan would have been partners for a long time.

3. Detective Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto): Detective Lupo appears in seasons eighteen through the twentieth final season. His intelligence is a major reason for his high ranking (he is going to law school while working as a detective). I enjoyed Sisto's work in Six Feet Under so ranking him in the top three was not an issue. He was an outstanding partner to both Kevin Bernard and .....

2. Detective Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin): Detective Green  appears in seasons ten through eighteen (he did miss episodes during season fifteen so he could film Rent, which he appeared in on Broadway as well). Martin worked well with everyone, and played both the junior and senior detective during his run as Detective Green. He was the perfect partner to Lupo, Cassidy, Fontana and...

1. Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach): Detective Brisoce, simply the best, for seasons three through fourteen. Orbach is a legend, and his one-liners to start each episode are one of the many reasons I will watch any episode that appear on my television. Lennie, the pool shark, Lennie the recovering alcoholic, Lennie the struggling divorcee, Lennie the dedicated officer; I love every aspect of his character. Orbach is actually a Tony winning actor with theater experience and of course everyone remembers him as the father that tried to put "baby in the corner" in the hit film Dirty Dancing. Sadly Jerry Orbach passed away in December of 2004 after a long battle with prostate cancer. I often record Lennie one-liners and tweet them out, here is one of my favorites:

Also, here is a great video of Orbach showing off his Broadway skills:

I do not want to take anything away from Detectives Lupo and Bernard, if it was not for Lennie Briscoe, I would have made them the number one pair (if I was ranking pairs). Lennie is just too exceptional for anyone else, or any pairs to over-come in the rankings. So what do you think? Did I over-rank someone, do you not agree with Lenny as number one? Do you love Greevy and wish he never was killed off? Let me know in the comments. (By the way, you are crazy if you don't have Lenny as number one, just sayin).
Next up, "The Order"......well the lawyers.


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