Troy Patterson, writing in Slate, talks about the long running success of that old warhorse: Law and Order. It's a show I have always liked.
Mrs. Mirror and I have a pact that if we happen to be flipping the channels, and L&O, (in any of its incarnations,) appears on the television, we have to change it immediately if it is too late at night. The addictive nature of the program, combined with its availability on numerous basic cable stations, can do a number on one's sleep patterns.
Patterson, writing about flagship of the franchise, (the plain old Law and Order,) thankfully doesn't try to get postmodern or mythic on us. Instead, he focuses on the show's almost relentless adherence and mastery of the procedural craft:
And despite the show's excesses, its signs of deterioration and ossification, its laughable mannerisms, Law & Order still displays a singular feeling for pace. It's snappier than a procedural of its advanced age has any right to be.
While pursuing false leads is integral to every cop show, L&O has transformed the convention into a kind of institution. As the detectives fish for red herrings throughout New York City, the show brightens with local color, imagining Gotham as the land of prep-school boys in blue blazers, floozies with yellow hair, pink-cheeked yuppies, gray-faced burghers, purple-tongued aesthetes. The tensions of caste and hierarchy in the imperial city—the frequent throwaway bits about downtrodden assistants and dissipated heirs—are diverting, and the humble details of place are essential to the texture. Last week's best bit of stage business saw Bernard shove a park-based dope dealer onto a metal hobbyhorse mounted near a jungle gym. "Siddown," he said, and the horsy creaked.