A eulogy for L&O

Renee James Contributor
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Fill in the blanks: In the ____ ____ system, there are ____ ____ yet ____ important ____. The ____, who ____ ____ and the ____ ____, who ____ the ____. These are their ____.

And this is one more story—about a moment of destiny—except this one didn’t quite happen.

Confession: I love Law and Order. This isn’t a casual thing; I love that show. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used to watch an entire evening of Law and Order when it played for several hours straight on a weeknight.

Let me try to explain. It’s absolutely, perfectly, flawlessly formulated. My life has plenty of moments of uncertainty and I’m happy to report that watching Law and Order isn’t one of them. I love that every single witness interrogated is always too busy to stop what he or she is doing to answer questions. I love that NYC detectives could appear at someone’s door or in their office and they’re simply too involved in their paperwork or their lunch to give them undivided attention. Or they keep coaching the little league team as they glance at snapshots, or continue selling hot dogs and say, “Yeah, that could be the guy.” Unbelievable. It’s so great.

I love that the first person arrested is never the criminal. Never. You know exactly when the real criminal has been found about 30 minutes in—because violins begin to play.

I love when the trial comes to a boil as the defendant takes the stand; almost unheard of in real life. It’s perfect.

To celebrate a milestone birthday recently, my wish was to play the arraignment judge on Law and Order. All due respect to those who made their mark behind the bench—Fran Leibowitz is my all-time favorite arraignment judge—this has to be the best role ever for a non-actor like me. You sit, wear a huge black robe and speak two to three lines. But they’re totally fabulous lines. I even know them: “Do I hear a plea, counselor?” “Control your client, counselor.” Final wisecrack comment precedes, “Bail is set at half a million dollars, cash or bond.” I could so do that.

Here’s the almost destiny part: I recently flew coast-to-coast with a colleague who has enormous sense. After five and half hours in business class, she suggested we treat ourselves to massages. Perfect. Relaxed, centered, smoothed and soothed. It was all good.

On that same trip, I met a new colleague and while at dinner, our conversation wandered in many directions. Television and movies came up and we started talking about our favorites. I mentioned my L&O obsession and my still unfulfilled dream role. Out of the blue, he told me he knew someone connected to the show and while I probably couldn’t play the judge, it might be possible to play the dead body discovered at the beginning of each episode.

Wait just a minute. I could definitely do that. All of a sudden, I’m very close to my dream. I went to Seattle to meet someone from New York who could hook me up with Law and Order. Weird, right?

So you know the rest by now. This is precisely where destiny did not kick in. Just days later, NBC announced the shows cancellation. It’s over.

This announcement troubles me in so many ways. The cast, changeable as it was, felt like a familiar family that adored each other but had its disagreements from time to time. No more Jack McCoy, no more Detectives Lupo and Bernard, no more Anita VanBuren, or Mike or Connie, which makes me want to weep. S. Epatha Merkerson has been my TV hero since forever. She is perfect. And imperfect. Which makes her even more of a hero. For God’s sake, I’m still mourning Lenny and the departure of Detective Green. I miss Mike and Rey and Joe and Abby. I really miss Adam; I even miss Arthur and his scotch. I don’t think I ever quite got over Claire, or even Alex although she wasn’t quite a Claire. Now this?

I rewound the business trip and thought about our random television discussion, the connection I almost made, and that wonderful massage that kicked off the whole thing. And I realized something. The soothing, comforting, calming aura that accompanies a massage is exactly what I like about Law and Order. The show was basically a Video Snuggie. Comfortable, sensible and just right for almost everyone. It was all good. Or would be, by the end of the hour.

Renee James writes social commentary and keeps track of the things that mystify her on her blog: It’s not me, it’s you, found at reneeaj.blogspot.com. Her email address is raaj3@msn.com.