Dick Wolf's Law & Order has been one of the most popular running television dramas. It is responsible for three spin-off series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Pretty much, it is hard to turn on a TV and not hear something about the Law & Order universe. However if by chance you may not be familiar with this series (or any of its spin-off shows), read on. Otherwise skip ahead to the next paragraph. Law & Order is a crime drama that focuses on a unique balance of criminal investigations and the legal proceedings that follow. In twenty-two TV hour long episodes, we watch detectives apprehend suspects and the district attorney's office prosecute them. This standard theme takes on a few variations throughout the season, but on the whole, it stays pretty consistent. Despite the formulaic approach, there is enough difference in detail, in regards to the characters and events, to keep the stories exciting.
Law & Order's third season saw a major change for the Law & Order universe. This season is when the series picked up one of its most popular cast members, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lenny Briscoe. Orbach's first appearance in the series actually occurred in the second season, where he guest starred as a defense attorney. In this third season, he is a mid-season replacement for Phil Cerreta (Paul Sorvino). In the episode "Prince of Darkness", a bust goes awry and it leaves Cerreta in the hospital. Briscoe gets partnered with Mike Logan (Chris Noth) in the following episode "Point of View". At first the two do not seem to get along very well, but their relationship changes when Logan realizes the assignment isn't temporary. I have always felt Noth and Orbach together are make a great pair of detectives and almost immediately you can tell they flow really well together. Their two characters really make this third season strong. Of course, with the other great performances from the district attorney roles also heighten the drama during the legal aspect, but it isn't until season five when Sam Waterston joins the cast as Jack McCoy that it really gets good.
Besides the mid-season character change, there are some pretty exciting stories covered in this season. Probably my favorite episode comes towards the end of the season. The reason I like this episode is because the subject is of particular interest to me. The episode "Virus" relates to the legal aspect of computer crimes. In the episode, a local hacker group called Department of Doom gets put in the crosshairs of the DA's office for unleashing a computer virus into a health computer system. The resulting malfunction caused two deaths. I found this episode interesting because the case drudged through an issue that has yet to be fully defined, computer crimes. And specifically in the early 1990s, the issue was still pretty new. Of course, there was a lot more to the episode besides the computer crime aspect to make it entertaining.
Another really powerful episode, which also comes from the end of the season, is "Manhood". At first the episode looks like it is about catching a cop killer, but after a while the true motive is revealed. The twists and turns in this episode are what really make it exciting. The episode quickly becomes about homosexuals in law enforcement and addressing the issue as a society. This third season also includes some other pretty big stories. In "Night and Fog" an elderly man is a suspect in his wife's death, which at first was thought to be a suicide. But after some good old fashion detective work, Logan and Briscoe reveal a truth the elderly man does not want uncovered. "Consultation" is also a pretty big episode. In it, the cast suspect a Nigerian tribal chief of international drug smuggling. Unfortunately, he has diplomatic immunity. How they exactly deal with the situation from the legal side make this an interesting episode.
Before Briscoe took Cerreta's place, Cerreta and Logan had a couple of good episodes. The episode "The Corporate Veil" combines medical malpractice and greed. The two detectives must reveal the truth to why a young boy's pacemaker failed him well before it was expected to fail. Watching the pair connect the dots becomes most interesting. The episode "Self Defense" is another good story because it shows the internal conflict that can arise between partners. Logan and Cerreta have completely different viewpoints of the events of a crime. A man killed two drug dealers in self defense. Cerreta supports him, but Logan thinks there is something more to the case.
Overall, I thought the stories told in this season were good. The episodes had some entertaining content and the way the characters (both detectives and attorneys) carried cases made it dramatic and exciting. Although there were a couple episodes I felt were dry and progressed in a slow and generic manner. Still there were enough of the good episodes and the introduction of Orbach as an official cast member really made this a strong season. Fans of Law & Order should be sure to pick this season set up, because it has one of the series' best detective pairs.