Dan Krisch: A Day Of Judgment For 'Law And Order'
BLB: Sensational and ripped-from-the-headlines (but occasionally offbeat).
DLB: Diverse and fascinating, but occasionally formulaic.
ALB: Well done at first, but descending back into ripped-from-the-headlines schlockers.
No contest here. The heart of the Lenny Briscoe years—Seasons 4 through 10—includes some of the best television of all time. It's easy to forget now, given the show's place in the TV pantheon, how unusual and daring Wolf's just-the-crimes, half-cops and half-courtroom formula was when "Law & Order" debuted.
Wolf rarely strayed from his formula, and it produced hours of brilliance, like the episode "Old Friends," in which Moriarty forces a baby-food maker (the amazing Allison Janney) to testify against the Russian mob at the cost of her life; "House Counsel," guest-starring the pitch-perfect Ron Liebman as a $600 an hour mob lawyer who happens to be an old friend of Waterston; and "Pro Se," in which a schizophrenic law school graduate (the sublime Denis O'Hare) decays slowly in front of our eyes while trying to defend himself at a murder trial.
BLB: "I'm a Catholic—I can feel guilty about anything." (Moriarty)