Four episodes into the latest member of the 'Law & Order' family, 'Trial By Jury', and we've got a great example of the attention that is being paid to the continuity and history of the franchise. Three of the guest stars played roles which they had previously assayed on the 'Law & Order' mothership.
It's one thing to have high profile appearances by Sam Waterston, and Carey Lowell; and Fred Dalton Thompson bestrides both shows, and the late Jerry Orbach moved from show to the other.
But to make certain three great character actors played the characters they usually portray on 'L&O' - especially when most of the audience just lets TV wash over them and probably never would have noticed it? Well, that shows how much care goes into Dick Wolf's corner of the TV Universe.
Jeffrey DeMunn has about seven appearances to his credit on 'Law & Order' as Professor Norman Rothenberg, a high-profile legal expert who knows just how long he can dance on the ethical dividing line.
Close behind is newly published author Ron McLarty who has at least five appearances as Judge William Wright behind him.
And then there's Peter Gerety, best known as Detective Stuart Gharty on 'Homicide: Life On The Street' as well as his lookalike cousin Judge Phelan on 'The Wire' (both of whom reside in Baltimore). Gerety has only played public defender Dean Conners once before on the original series, but he also played another attorney, Charles Powell, in two other episodes.
This writer hopes that his Dean Conners will return again soon on 'Trial By Jury'. There was this compelling quality in his "schlub" of an Everyman's need to believe in his client's innocence, as if it would also bring him salvation as well. (I'll have to catch his previous appearance on 'Law & Order'; it could be he really was in need of salvation, from what I heard.)
In its short time on the air, 'Trial By Jury' doesn't just have these officers of the court as the only examples of judicial crossovers. Although she's moved on to 'Boston Legal' to play Shirley Schmidt, Candice Bergen is due back as Judge Amanda Anderlee - which she also played on 'Law & Order'. (A previous blog entry hypothesized that Amanda and Shirley are twin sisters.)
And Susan Blommaert's appearance as Judge Rebecca Steinman qualifies the character for induction into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame. Judge Steinman not only appeared on the original series about three times, but she also made an appearance on 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'.
They probably won't be the last lawyers and judges to cross over to 'Trial By Jury' from the other 'L&O' shows. Add to them the various cops from the three other series, and 'Trial By Jury' may well end up becoming the true hub of Dick Wolf's corner of the TV Universe.
Keep an eye on this blog - pretty soon I'll have a list of other lawyers and judges we should expect to get their day in court.....