Spoilers ahead for the revival premiere of Law & Order on NBC, called "The Right Thing."
The long-awaited revival of the original Law & Order has officially arrived on NBC, making creator Dick Wolf's dreams come true after more than a decade off the air. Wolf has had plenty of other shows going strong since the end of the original Law & Order with Season 20 back in 2010, and Special Victims Unit and Organized Crime have kept the franchise going. Somewhat surprisingly, the Season 21 premiere didn't feature any SVU or OC characters crossing over even for a cameo. And I, even as a longtime fan of SVU and never missing an episode of OC, have to say: the original might be better off without crossovers.
Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson were back as District Attorney Jack McCoy and Det. Kevin Bernard, respectively, and joined by newcomers Jeffrey Donovan as Det. Frank Cosgrove, Camryn Manheim (playing her fourth different Law & Order character) as Lt. Kate Dixon, Hugh Dancy as Executive ADA Nolan Price, and Odelya Halevi as ADA Samantha Maroun. The case itself almost felt designed for a crossover with SVU, as it dealt with the murder of a rapist who had gotten off on a technicality, but Mariska Hargitay was nowhere to be seen as Olivia Benson, and there was no reason for OC's Christopher Meloni to appear as Elliot Stabler.
After the detectives gathered the evidence (and Cosgrove lied his way to getting a confession), it came to the attorneys to close the case against the rape victim who had murdered the man who assaulted her. It wasn't an easy feat, since Cosgrove mentioned the confession despite Price getting it thrown out, and Price and Maroun were sympathetic to the woman who did the shooting. But Price still got the conviction when Maroun made the closing argument and drove the point home that murder is a crime, and the woman was guilty of that. The case opened and shut in the premiere, unlike how SVU launched OC, and it worked on the whole. Here's why.
The Format Is Familiar
Even though Law & Order was off the air for nearly twelve years, SVU kept going with the format of two separate but equally important groups representing the criminal justice system. Anybody who was going to tune in to the revival may well have stuck with the show's most successful spinoff over the years, and even jumped on board with Organized Crime when it premiered in 2021. The procedural format is familiar to SVU and OC fans, and frankly, not hard to follow even if you're new to the franchise. A crossover in the premiere might have just complicated the return to television, and that suggests that crossovers won't be necessary.
The Show Is Very Procedural
If nothing else, the first episode of Law & Order Season 21 proved that the original series is far more procedural with more of a focus on the case than SVU and especially Organized Crime. Characters and their histories get a decent amount of focus on SVU, and OC is practically driven by Stabler's emotional stability (or lack thereof). Combining the original show with either of the spinoffs could throw off the tone of all of them, and make the emphasis on case over character more obvious for L&O. Unless there's a big One Chicago-esque three-part crossover that mingles all three shows over all three hours, L&O may be best left more or less separate from the other shows.
The Characters Aren't Closely Connected To The Other Shows
The frequent crossovers – large and small – between SVU and Organized Crime were all but inevitable, and not just because the Christopher Meloni spinoff launched via an SVU backdoor pilot. OC marked former SVU star Meloni's return as Elliot Stabler after years away, for a reunion with Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson that had been highly-anticipated basically since Stabler left Special Victims, and even before there was any guarantee that Meloni would reprise the role.
Benson and Stabler did cross paths with McCoy back in the earlier days of L&O and SVU, but barely enough to count as a connection. To contrast, Benson and Stabler were longtime partners with a whole lot of baggage between them, so it would have been bizarre if their shows weren't closely tied. It wouldn't be hard to fathom if L&O was mostly on its own. Mariska Hargitay did tease that Dick Wolf is planning on a three-part crossover, so fans will get to see NBC take full advantage of a full night of Law & Order action, just like what has been so successful on Wednesdays with Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).