This Was Television On September 13

1990: America hears its first chung-chung

In television’s criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally marketable groups—both of which shared equal time on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order, which aired the first of over 450 episodes on this date. The gimmick was simple: the first half of each hour followed two NYPD detectives investigating a crime (usually a murder, frequently one discovered by a Central Park jogger), while the second half focused on the district attorneys’ efforts to put the arrested suspect behind bars. Audiences ate it up, returning to L&O‘s no-nonsense formula through 20 seasons, countless cast changes, thousands of hours of basic cable repeat marathons, and four spinoffs of varying success.

NBC was forced to pull the plug on the original Law & Order in 2010. This was due in large part to the shuttering of Hudson University, where enrollment had plummeted after it finally surpassed UC-Sunnydale on U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of the colleges with the highest mortality rates in America.  -A.D.

Also on September 13:

2005: Bones, starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz as federal investigators, debuts on Fox, where it is entering its eighth season. Loosely based on the career of forensic anthropologist (and series producer) Kathy Reichs, the show caught the post-CSI wave of quirky TV mystery-solvers.

2009: Audiences say goodbye to Arlen, TX and the Hill family as King of the Hill concludes a 13-season run on Fox. The warm-hearted, gently satiric cartoon was created by Mike Judge, best known as the mind behind Beavis and Butthead and Office Space, and Greg Daniels, primary showrunner of the American version of The Office.

Today’s Birthdays: Norman Alden, king of the ocean (d. 2012); Scott Brady, riding shotgun (d. 1985); Eileen Fulton, world-turner (79); Tyler Perry, human franchise (43); Jeffry Ross, roastmaster general (47); Ben Savage, world-meeter (32); Jean Smart, designing woman (61); Joe E. Tata, Peach Pit proprietor (76).

5 Responses to “This Was Television On September 13”

  1. Bob

    Yes, Law & Order was “formulaic” as my son has pointed out on many occasions, but it was a comfortable formula.

    There are probably thousands of people out there who think of Jerry Orbach as Lenny Briscoe, not knowing that he was an outstanding performer in countless Broadway musicals.

    Reply
    • Noel Kirkpatrick

      The formula would also allow for a lot of guest actor experimentation, and it was flexible enough to allow the show to tackle a range of societal issues. The formula was there not only for the sake of economics, but proved narratively useful as well.

      And my knowledge of Orbach is basically L&O, Dirty Dancing, and the candelabra in Beauty and the Beast (a role he landed, no doubt, due to his Broadway chops). (And Broadway, in turn, was very good for L&O, with a deep bench of actors to use for lawyers, judges, and criminals. The Good Wife does EXACTLY the same thing now.)

      Reply
      • Bob

        Good points. I’m reminded of another performer, Angela Lansbury, who many people know from Murder, She Wrote, but are unaware of her brilliance on Broadway (Sweeney Todd, Mame,and many more), and as the diabolical and domineering mother in the movie, The Manchurian Candidate.

        Reply

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