When ” Law and Order ” first debuted on NBC in 1990 , I was not one of its viewers. However , I stumbled upon it five or six years later and immediately became a fan . I like police procedurals and this combination of courtroom drama and police procedural quickly took my fancy. Working in New York as I did ,I knew many of the locations intimately and it was interesting to see them featured in a TV series and to figure out which real -life crime a particular episode was based on . While all the actors were good , my two favorites were Jerry Orbach as Det. Lenny Briscoe, and Sam Waterston as ADA Jack McCoy. Jerry Orbach’ s Lenny Briscoe seemed like the quintessential New York City detective and , for me , much of the charm of Law and Order went away with his death in 2004. In my opinion , the spinoffs , Law and Order ( Special Victims Unit ) , Law and Order ( Criminal Intent) and Law and Order ( Trial by Jury) were just not in the same class as the original and did not sustain my interest.
Some years ago , I had heard that Dick Wolf , the producer of Law and Order, was trying to come up with a L& O series set in France but then I didn’t hear any more . It turns out that Law and Order now has series set not just in France but also Britain and Russia . The British series is set in London and the first two seasons are now available on Netflix , on DVD though and not streaming. I have finished watching the first serason and am halfway through the second.
When I first started watching it , I almost gave up because of the difficulty of understanding some of the Britiah accents . The London locale and the completely different cast of characters also took some getting used to. It was also more than a little strange to see how trials are conducted in U.K , not least because of the barristers in their silly- looking powdered wigs . However , I’m glad I persisted because I now understand what the characters are saying and I’ve begun to like some of them almost as much as I do Jerry Orbach and Sam Waterston .
In the British version of L & O , the two detectives are DS Ronnie Brooks and DS Mattie Devlin and they report to Det. Insp. Natalie Chandler . Brooks is very similar to the Lenny Briscoe character while Devlin is closest to the Mike Logan character played by Chris Noth. On the legal side the two protagonists are Sr. Crown Prosecutor James Steel and his junior Alesha Phillips , both of whom report to London Crown Prosecutor George Castle.Each of them is loosely modeled on his or her counterpart in the U.S series. Is it any surprise then that my two favorite characters are DS. Brooks and James Steel ( the British equivalents of Lenny Briscoe and Jack McCoy) ?
When I used to watch the U.S version , I would occasionally get turned off by the sordidness of the crimes occuring in places that I was only too familiar with .In the UK version , the crimes are just as sordid but because of their unfamiliar setting they seem less unpalatable and hence I can tell myself they are just fiction. ( I hope that makes sense). The storylines are very reminscent of the original U.S version : similar but different. The biggest difference is the ubiquitousness of CCTV cameras which blanket the streets of London and are an important resource for the detectives.I wonder why they are not used more in America . On the Law side , it seems to me that the English prosecutors do a lot more legwork than their American cousins and the conduct of the trials is markedly different. The dialog is crisp and througout the episodes one is treated to the wry British sense of humor. As is usual with British productions , great care is taken to develop the minor characters which makes the story more interesting and plausible.
The British shoot only 13 episodes a season and I’m two thirds of the way through the second season . One more DVD and then I face a wait of several months before the third season becomes available. It will seem like a long wait because I’ve come to like this series as much as I did the original , if not more.
P.S I must confess to a sense of curiosity about the other versions , particularly the French ones set in Paris. London and New York have certain similarities and it cannot have been too difficult to transfer Law and Order from here to there. Paris is completely different: the city is different , the people are different and the cimes , I imagine , are different. How will Law and Order translate to such a setting ?
As for the Russian version , that will be even stranger since there is little order and even less rule of Law in Moscow.