The series shows the workings of the judicial system, beginning with the arraignment and continuing through the lawyers process of building a case, investigating leads and preparing witnesses and defendants for trial.
Lennie Briscoe, now retired from the NYPD, joins the District Attorney's office as an investigator. Through him, and the various lawyers, jury members and court officials we meet along the way, the show explores the intricate workings of the jury system. Written by
OK maybe it was a bit too harsh to cancel this show after only 1 season and no, perhaps it was never given a fair chance and this still could had turned into yet another great watchable series of Law & Order episodes but I can also really understand why they just pulled the plug out of it.
Like most "Law & Order" watchers I always enjoyed most the second part, in which the prosecution of the crime in court took place. So having a "Law & Order" spin-off ENTIRELY focusing on the court part sounded like an awesome idea. It however never really worked out as it could had because of multiple reasons.
When the regular "Law & Order" first started off in 1990 there were zero female characters in it. They slowly changed it by inserting more female roles, such as Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) and A.D.A. Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy), presumably because there was a demand for female characters. This "Law & Order" spin-off has 2 female characters as its main leads. Nothing wrong with having female leads but by watching this it becomes obvious that the "Law & Order" franchise just isn't ready yet to have female leads. The "Law & Order" universe always has been sort of a man's world, with strong tough male characters, as cops and prosecutors and everything around that. When a woman ever acts tough it's always the danger that she comes off as a bitchy type of character instead of tough. It then is also much harder to really care or sympathize ever for any of those characters. S. Epatha Merkerson still gets away with it in "Law & Order" and so does Mariska Hargitay in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" but that's because they are great actresses. Unfortunately Bebe Neuwirth and Amy Carlson weren't really. It was also a bit too obvious that they were cast more because of their looks. Looks that by the way really didn't fitted the parts they were playing.
But also the approach of storytelling made this show pretty poor to watch at times. We never got to see whatever really happened because the episodes obviously always started off with the prosecution part. It was often is if you had missed the first part and often it took a long time before you got an idea what crime had been committed. It made it painfully obvious that the "Law & Order" franchise shall always need the cop part of it.
But it also must be said that "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" had the unfortunate faith that Jerry Orbach died after filming only 2 episodes. It was obvious that Orbach was supposed to carry the series, in at least its first season, since he was already an established and well known face in the "Law & Order" franchise. They knew they were taking a risk with it because I believe that he was already seriously ill when this show began production. In the second episode he was already that sick that he couldn't speak anymore and they changed the final scene of that episode so that he could whisper, simply because he couldn't speak louder anymore. That scene is still a real special one to watch, just because it makes you realize how sick he was at that time and because it was his last ever shot sequences within a Law & Order series and in anything else really. After his death, Kirk Acevedo had to carry things on his own but he and his character just weren't good enough. The series also still had Fred Dalton Thompson as an already established face within the Law & Order franchise but his part only was always 3 minutes long at most. He wasn't just as much as Steven Hill got always used in "Law & Order", which also seemed like a great missed opportunity to me.
Also the way they wanted to show things from the 'presecuation' way was also quite poor at times. Basically the only thing that makes this thing differ from the prosecution sight shown in "Law & Order" is that we now always get to see the judge entering the courtroom from his/hers office and we often get a look into the jury room, while they are deliberating. Quite lame all if you ask me.
But also the stories for the different episodes just weren't much good. They are definitely not among the best written ones for any Law & Order series. It made some of the episodes just bad and terribly uninvolved to watch. Basically the greatest episode was the crossover one with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" called night/day, starring also Angela Lansbury and Alfred Molina.
Obviously not the worst show that ever aired but I also won't exactly miss it either and you're basically still better of watching "Law & Order" or any of its other spin-offs.
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