Wednesday, May 23, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part IV -Time to cut a deal!

The following is part 4 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:

As we continue our assessment of the greatest drama ever to be created by Dick Wolf, we move slightly up the ladder to analyze the District Attorney of New York County.

That the word "Attorney" is included in the title of this occupation is somewhat misleading. Truth is, there's not a lot of attorneying going on. The DA doesn't really do much in the way of prosecuting criminals or sleeping with his hot Assistant DAs. The DA is more of a poli-ticker, guiding the ADA's prosecution based on how the outcome may affect public opinion of the DA office. In their defense (awesome pun), they can also provide sage advice from the decades of experience they have in prosecuting criminals and sleeping with their hot ADAs.

The role of DA in Law & Order has been played by 3 people:

When he retired in 2000, Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill) was the longest-running current cast member at 11 years. That's a long time to run. Schiff, with a voice as dry and peaty as the single-malt in his right hand, can solve the ADA's dilemma in his sleep: "Your star witness, is a one-eyed, transvestite midget, and your victim is a 3-toed sloth out on parole for the armed robbery of a convent. MAKE A DEAL."

After Schiff left, Edward Scissorhands' mom jumped in for 3 seasons (2000-2002) to fill the role of Nora Lewin. She must have had a hard time seeing, because she squinted quite frequently. I think it was a metaphor for her determination to seek justice. Like David Duchovny always says, "The Truth Is Out There", and sometimes you just have to squint to see it.

Arthur Branch and his booming southern twang made their debut in 2003. It's kind of like a cowboy running the DA's office. He's got a quick trigger finger and ten gallons of don't-make-me-put-you-in-the- Texas-Toaster-boy! for anyone who gets in his way. Well, that's how I'd write it anyway.

Branch is known for his conservative approach, though, which has lead to many a clash with noted liberal hot-head Jack McCoy and his harem. For those who don't know, Fred Dalton Thompson was actually a US Senator (R-TN) before accepting the role of Branch. He's pondered a 2008 run for the Big One. He'll obviously win, so for those who care to know a little more about your next President:
  • Supports the right to bear arms (what cowboy wouldn't)
  • No clear stance on abortion (has wavered but believes it should not be government funded)
  • Supports free trade
  • Thinks Al Gore is a nut
  • Would like to continue to "secure our borders" from job-stealing foreigners

Coovo's take: Was that the only picture we could find of Diane Wiest? Thing is those specs are back in style now.

Chances are if you tune in to a TNT re-run, you are either going to get Schiff or Branch. If the life span of Law & Order were a day, Nora Lewin's tenure would be a quick lunch break. She did her best but in the end she couldn't escape the shadow of the Schiffster.

It always appeared, by his voice and slow motion movement, that Adam Schiff was annoyed with his job. Smiles were at a minimum and he probably holds a TV record for consecutive sighs. The thing I like about Schiff is he always backed up his ADA's even when they completely ignored his advice. And when he plopped on that fedora to take himself home for the evening, he reminded me of a that Greatest Generation of people who never stopped working for what they believed. Man I wish I had that hat.

Arthur Branch however made his money in the private sector and now wants to put people behind bars. He is as resounding as Schiff was subtle. I do like him as a DA. His character is strong and his southern wit always leaves me with a chuckle. But he is new age. He plays the political games. And, he has no hat.

To me, it is no contest. I cast my vote for Adam Schiff.

Roller's take: I never liked Nora Lewin that much. Nothing against the actress or the writers, but the character did nothing for me; she seemed weak. Ole' Tennessee Thompson isn't bad, but he's not the reason you hang around for McCoy's inevitable discussion with the DA.

That, my friends, is Adam Schiff. He's everything you want in a DA. He's old. He's crotchety. He wears those awesome old-man hats. His voice makes Joan Rivers sound like Judy Garland. His calm demeanor is the perfect balance to Jack McCoy's temper.

The show, in my opinion, was top shelf in throughout the '90's, although it started to degrade somewhat towards the end of the decade. That Schiff was still around kept the second half of the show strong, but his departure after the 1999-2000 season left a hole in the show for sure, no matter how small his role was.

In the next episode of The Loop and The Lou, Coovo will dissect perfect form in a jump shot, and I'll explain why bacon makes everything better... stay tuned!!


Ryan said...

That chick is scary.

Roller said...

That's Ms. Weist... most likely she's witnessing some kind of awkward situation that comes with providing surrogate motherhood to a boy with scissors for hands.

Marty said...

Is this whole blog going to be about Law and Order....because while I am no stranger to an L&O marathon killing one of my Saturdays, I am not in the habit of getting on the Internet to check and see if anyone has left a comment on whether or not that case should have been referred to sex crimes or not...if nothing else, motivation for your next post.....yes gene, I still have a beard....and i need a haircut

Roller said...

coming soon, Marty...