In the television criminal justice system, the viewers are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The 15 recurring police characters who've investigated crime and the 13 or so district attorneys who have been prosecuting the offenders for the past 20 years.
This is the story of "Law & Order."
Dick Wolf's gritty and brilliant show begins its 20th season this Friday (Sept. 25) at 8 p.m. on NBC, tying "Gunsmoke" for the longest running primetime hour-long drama.
In that time, "Law & Order" has gone through 245 changes to its ensemble cast, 475 time slot changes for both first-run and syndicated episodes, 74 scrolls down its complete cast list on IMDB and 29 spin-offs.
(My friends and I in college were furious when it moved from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sure, our GPAs got better, but it completely messed up our routine of gathering in the common room to watch the best show ever.)
Among the key to its success is the ability to miss four or five episodes in a row without having to worry about missing key plot developments in the series. Each episode stood on its own. Through the strength of its writing and dramatic acting, "Law & Order" remains as solid a show in 2009 as it did in 1990.
A while back, Pet Rock ranked its five favorite second-chair ADAs. This time, we are constructing the ultimate "Law & Order" ensemble cast. A fantasy team, if you will. Granted some of these pairings have happened in many an episode already, but this is my "Law & Order" Dream Team. Feel free to share your choices in the comments.
District Attorney: Adam Schiff (played by Stephen Hill)
Do I really need to explain this one?
Executive Assistant DA: Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston)
Possibly the best lawyer in TV history, but of course, I'm biased in that opinion. He never met a law he couldn't circumvent or a defendant who couldn't induce his awesome histrionics.
Second-chair ADA: Abbie Carmichael (played by Angie Harmon)
Possibly the strongest depth chart in the "Law & Order" draft room, but Carmichael was quite bad-ass. And that voice, oh, that voice!
Detective 1: Lennie Briscoe (played by Jerry Orbach)
Again, do I really need to explain this one?
Detective 2: Mike Logan (played by Chris Noth)
The quintessential NYC detective portrayal.
Detectives' boss: Capt. Donald Cragen (played by Dann Florek)
More of a hothead than Van Buren, Cragen always managed to balanced his stress, angst, anger and loyalty in an entertaining way.
Police psychologist: Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (played by Carolyn McCormick)
All due props to Skoda, but Olivet was always more challenging and not afraid to push back at McCoy.
Medical examiner: Dr. Elizabeth Rogers (played by Leslie Hendrix)
The Briscoe of medical examiners.
Share your "L&O" dream team in the comments and watch this video from the current cast.