The Law & Order series that started it all is on the way back to television, where it will join Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime on NBC. The original run of the iconic series ended after twenty seasons back in 2010, but the success of Dick Wolf shows across three nights and two networks indicates that the revival with some original series stars on board will be a hit. That said, the newest casting of somebody who is not a familiar Law & Order face is good news for the franchise. Welcome Burn Notice veteran Jeffrey Donovan to the universe!
Jeffrey Donovan, who starred in all seven seasons of USA’s Burn Notice, has joined the cast to lead NBC’s Law & Order revival, with Deadline reporting that he’ll play an NYPD detective who will be new to the franchise. So, this isn’t a case of a recasting that brings Donovan in to pick up an existing role for the show’s return after eleven years off. Few other concrete details are known about the revival at this point, other than that some original series stars are expected to return (specifically Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson) and Rick Eid is stepping away from running Chicago P.D. to serve as showrunner for Law & Order. So, why is it good news that Law & Order’s lead won’t be a familiar face?
Well, while it worked to center Law & Order: Organized Crime on Christopher Meloni’s familiar face as Elliot Stabler, formerly of Law & Order: SVU, he is surrounded by an entirely new cast of characters other than when SVU stars stop by for a crossover. Plus, Stabler was overseas for almost the entire time that he was gone from Special Victims, so there’s a reason why he wasn’t around. It would be a stretch for Law & Order to just throw everybody back into their old roles, eleven years later and eleven years older. Benson and Fin have both moved up the ranks on SVU as well, so it wouldn’t make sense if any and all returning characters were in the same position they were in 2010. Newcomers like Donovan's character are going to flesh out the show.
Plus, I think it’s safe to say that Law & Order won’t just want an audience of fans from more than a decade ago. If the show is going to attract and hold onto new viewers, those new viewers will probably welcome some characters who don’t come in with years of history already.
And I can’t help but look to CSI: Vegas over on CBS to compare. That show brought the CSI franchise back to television for the first time in years, with original characters who were once primetime mainstays but who had been absent from television for a while. So there is a whole crew of new CSI techs to serve as characters to ease new viewers into the universe without just focusing the revival on the serialized case for the original stars. Jeffrey Donovan’s Law & Order casting could be exactly what the revival needs to succeed similarly to CSI: Vegas.
Sure, CSI: Vegas isn’t crushing in the ratings up against Chicago P.D., but as a viewer, I’d say the formula is working. And if Law & Order follows more of a CSI: Vegas formula than Law & Order: Organized Crime, then Dick Wolf could have his ninth hit show on the airwaves. If you want to revisit Law & Order’s original run, you can find several seasons streaming on Peacock now. For some current action set in that universe, check out Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET on NBC, respectively in the fall TV lineup.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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