question of the day: What is the enduring appeal of the ‘Law and Order’ franchise?

This suggestion for a QOTD came in from reader Patrick before I posted yesterday’s trailer for Law and Order: UK. But that coincidence only reinforces the necessity of the question itself.

The question: What is the enduring appeal of the Law and Order franchise?

I think it’s an especially interesting question to ask because L&O completely defies the standards of dramatic television at the moment. Whether it’s cop dramas or doctor dramas or retro-1960s-ad-men dramas or frakkin’-toaster-holocaust dramas, TV drama these days is all about years-long story arcs and complex characters and complicated relationships between the characters. They’re like Russian novels.

And that’s great. But it makes it hard to watch just one episode of Lost or Damages or The Closer. Not so Law and Order. Which is, I think, part of the ongoing appeal of the show. When the original L&O debuted in 1990, it didn’t stand out with its standalone stories more focused on plot than character (the Russian-novel trend began with The X-Files a few years later). Today, though, L&O is like a light snack instead of a dramatic feast. I love the Russian-novel trend, because it makes for very satisfying entertainment, but it requires a significant investment of time (and one that doesn’t always pay off in the end). But every episode of L&O guarantees a resolution.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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