This year, the TV Crossover Hall of Fame is celebrating the original series in the 'Law & Order' franchise; every inductee has been a regular on that show and has made appearances in at least two other series or TV movies.
Last month we kicked off the theme with a tribute to the late, great Lennie Briscoe. And for February we mark Black History Month with the induction of Lt. Anita Van Buren, who was in charge at the 2-7.
Lt. Van Buren is the longest running African American character in an American television drama. And with Jerry Orbach's departure from the series in 2004 [after playing the role of Detective Lennie Briscoe for twelve years], S. Epatha Merkerson, who played the role, is now the longest-running cast member. She joined the series as Lt. Anita Van Buren in 1993 at the beginning of the show's fourth season.
But longevity in a role, while notable, counts for nothing when it comes to membership in the Crossover Hall of Fame. For that, a character must have appeared in three separate productions, whether a TV series, a TV movie, or even in a commercial or cartoon production.
And Lt. Anita Van Buren more than fulfills the requirements.
"Law & Order" .... Lt. Anita Van Buren (1993-)
Exiled (1998) (TV) .... Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
"Law & Order: Criminal Intent"
- Badge (2002) TV Episode .... Lt. Anita Van Buren
- Stress Position (2005) TV Episode .... Lt. Anita Van Buren
"Law & Order: Trial by Jury"
- Skeleton (2005) TV Episode .... Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
Ms. Merkerson has even played the role of Van Buren in video games:
Law & Order: Dead On the Money (2002) (VG) (voice) .... Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
Law & Order II: Double or Nothing (2003) (VG) (voice) .... Lieutenant Anita Van Buren
Even though she is now assured of "immortality" within this small shrine to the TV Universe, Lt. Van Buren still has a chance to add to her credits. She has still 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' in which she could make an appearance; and 'Conviction' begins in the spring.
The Dick Wolf corner of the TV Universe has made it a regular practice to replace cast members. And after a dozen years, Lt. Van Buren may seem vulnerable for "retirement". But Ms. Merkerson is coming off a fantastic year with her work in "Lackawanna Blues" on HBO, and 'Law & Order' might be wise to take advantage of that by giving her more of a chance to shine on the show.
Just sayin' is all.....