A tip of the hat to the folks at Universal who are, slowly but surely, releasing all the seasons of “Law & Order” on DVD. The latest set, issued earlier this month, is “Law & Order: The Twelfth Year” (2002, Universal, unrated, $36.)
Most shows run out of steam by the time they’ve reached their third seasons let alone their 12th. But this iconic, New York-shot procedural manages to stay interesting thanks to always-surprising crimes, plenty of local color and realistic performances.
Jesse L. Martin, S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterson star as the detectives and prosecutors out to solve and try cases that range from dog maulings to arson-murders. Arguably the most indelible cast member is Jerry Orbach, who stars as the dry-witted Detective Lennie Briscoe.
Born in the Bronx, Orbach grew up primarily in Wilkes-Barre, Nanticoke and Scranton. He’d already enjoyed a successful career as a star of Broadway musicals when he joined “Law & Order” during its third season in 1992. He replaced a departing Paul Sorvino, who, coincidentally, now lives part of the year in Scranton.
Orbach quickly became a fan favorite, winding up as one of TV Guide’s top 50 television detectives of all time. The actor already knew he had the cancer that would take his life when he left “Law and Order” in 2004 for what he hoped would be a lighter work load on “Law & Order: Trial By Jury.”
But he was only strong enough to shoot the first two episodes of new series before he was forced to quit. Orbach died on December 28, 2004, at the age of 69.