For some reason, I woke up very early this morning and was unable to go back to sleep. So I sat down on the couch with the TV at low volume, in the hopes I would doze at least while watching.
In a surprising development, a rerun of Law & Order was on. But as I paged through the guide channel, I noticed some unfamiliar words in the synopsis: "Greevey and Logan." And then another strange word: "Stone."
For those who may be unfamiliar with the 20-year history of Law & Order, Greevey and Logan are Max Greevey and Mike Logan, respectively the senior and junior partners in a pair of detectives who are the "police who investigate crimes" as mentioned in the show opener. Greevey was George Dzundza and Logan was Chris Noth, and although Logan had several years on the show and later reappeared in the spinoff Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Max Greevey died in the second season opener (more or less off-camera, as Dzundza had already departed the show).
"Stone" was Ben Stone, played by Michael Moriarty, and was one of the "district attorneys who prosecute the offenders." Moriarty left in 1994, after outspoken criticism of then-Attorney General Janet Reno's remarks about violent television shows (like Law & Order) led producer Dick Wolf to bid him farewell. Wolf and others, however, claim that Moriarty's erratic behavior led to his dismissal.
Either way, it's almost impossible to see one of these for some reason -- they either air, apparently, very early in the morning or not at all. Some of them show a TV series that was looking for its stride -- early episodes carry a heavy load of cop-show and lawyer-show cliches that are much rarer during stronger middle seasons, before Law & Order developed and was buried by its own cliches. But some of them, because they lack the tired shorthand that many later-season episodes used to paper over story holes, demonstrate why this show became well-known and well-liked.
Appearing after Hill Street Blues sort of sputtered to an end and while L. A. Law was tiring itself out, Law & Order offered a much more realism-styled police and legal procedural with quality acting and stories. I say "realism-styled" because five minutes of conversation with any police officer or lawyer will point out that the show itself is not particularly realistic.
It was certainly nice to remember this time of the show, with episodes that even at their clunkiest have a freshness constant reruns have taken from the later ones.
Not nice enough to regularly wake up at 4 AM, though, not as long as Netflix exists.