Television fans have a lot to be thankful for in this Golden Age of entertainment, but the Law & Order franchise is in a league of its own.
The franchise, which comprises a number of different television series dealing with some aspect of the criminal justice system, have been a constant source of entertainment on television, creating over 1,000 hours of original programming.
LAW & ORDER (September 13, 1990 to May 24, 2010)
The crime procedural, which ran for 20 seasons and 456 episodes, featured both a police investigation of a crime, as well as the prosecution case set forth by the New York County District Attorney at the Manhattan DA's office.
The first thirty minutes of an episode typically features a lead detective trio (in the final season, Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, and S. Epatha Merkerson), while the second thirty minutes follows their legal counterparts (in the final season, Alana de la Garza, Linus Roache, and Sam Waterston).
Trial by Jury, which starred Bebe Neuwirth, Amy Carlson and Jerry Orbach, followed the preparation by the legal teams, both prosecution and defense, for a jury trial.
This was the first Law & Order spin-off to be canceled due to low ratings after one season. Orbach's death (which occurred while the show was in production) was one factor in the show's cancellation; competition from the hit series Numb3rs was another.
Special Victims Unit, which is currently on its 19th season, follows the cases investigated by Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and the team in the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. The show focuses on detectives investigating sexually-based crimes and crimes against children and the elderly.
Hargitay remains the sole cast member to have starred in all 19 seasons of the long-running crime procedural.
Originally titled Law & Order: Los Angeles, LA was the first American Law & Order series set outside of New York City.
As with the original series, the first half hour of the show focused on the police investigation of a crime; the second half took place at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and focused on the prosecution of the criminal suspect(s).
On May 13, 2011, Law & Order: LA was canceled by NBC after only one season, but because of the hiatus, did not air its final episode until July 11, 2011.
The series, which ran for 10 season and 195 episodes, focused on high-profile cases investigated by the Major Case Squad, with special focus on the actions of the criminal pursued, often including scenes from the victim's or perpetrator's lives not involving the police.
The detectives depicted, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, during the final season, often attempt to infiltrate the mind of the suspect. The series aired its first six seasons on NBC, before moving to the USA Network for its final four seasons.
While not a direct spinoff of the Law & Order series, the police drama was created and produced by Dick Wolf and took place in the same universe as the franchise.
The four-season series, which aired on Fox, is notable for being the first police procedural on American television starring two people of color (Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo) in the starring roles.
The first anthology series to stem from the franchise, True Crime premiered in 2017, with its first season taking a look at the case surrounding the Menendez Murders. Edie Falco starred as Leslie Abramson, Gaston Villanueva as Lyle Melendez and Gus Halper as Erik Melendez.
The eight-episode first season received mixed reviews, and no details of a possible second season pertaining to a new crime have been announced yet.
Also created by Dick Wolf, the short-lived dram followed the lives of newspaper reporters working at the fictional New York Ledger.
The paper featured on the series, starring Oliver Platt as Wallace Benton, was seen in many episodes of Law & Order and was inspired by the New York Post.
Set as a midseason replacement series on NBC, this 2006 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spinoff series saw Stephanie March reprising her role on SVU as Alexandra Cabot. In the series, Cabot returns to New York and become the Bureau Chief ADA supervising a group of young but talented assistant district attorneys after a stint in the Witness Protection Program.
The show failed to receive a second season renewal as, like Trial by Jury, it was routinely beat in the ring by CBS' Numb3rs.
As the Law & Order universe series depleted at NBC, Dick Wolf created a new franchise set in the city of Chicago, which has slowly expanded into a franchise of its own.
With Chicago Fire, P.D., Med and the short-lived Justice, the franchise continues to grow, having aired almost 300 episodes to date with no sign of slowing down.
The Chicago series has crossed over with SVU in the past, and we are anxious to see how the Law & Order universe will continue to grow from these two franchises.