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chung-CHUNG! We interrupt this books blog to pay tribute to the television show Law & Order, which ends its original 20-year-run tonight with an episode involving a troubled blogger. Yikes! “‘Ripped from the headlines,” no doubt.

Seriously, I am a serious L&O fan and I think I have seen every episode at least once, and many multiple times, considering its ominipresence on cable. I was up at 5 Saturday morning to walk the dog and flipped on the TV. chung-Chung! Det. Lennie Briscoe was at the scene of yet another murder in New York’s fictional 27th district. When my cousins and I were writing our first Caroline Cousins mystery 10 years ago, we referenced L&O reruns as a reason for cable TV. One of our amateur sleuths is so addicted to L&O that she occasionally lapses into the lingo: “Hey, I’m the vic here!”

The leads have come and gone (and in some cases moved over to other L&Os — Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent and the short Trial by Jury.) But creator Dick Wolf has sustained the mothership show’s symmetry: first half hour, the cops try to solve the case, second half, prosecuting attorneys follow up. Although “ripped from the headlines”  is often used in promos, the writers usually pull off fictional twists better than most true crimes.

In an SVU episode last year with similarities to the Casey Anthony case, a grandmother ran into the police station declaring her grandchild was missing. But then it turned out the child died from measles, and the law went after a mother who didn’t believe in vaccinations.

L&O in all its many versions and episodes has long been my go-to show on lupus fog days. If I fall asleep in the middle of one case and wake up in the middle of another, no problem. I’ve seen them enough to know the endings. Truth outs, although justice is not always served. Remember Ellen Pompeo pre-Grey’s Anatomy in the “Fool for Love” episode in which she played a character inspired by serial killer partner Karla Homolka?

The popularity of L&O has a lot to do with the appeal of a good mystery novel, be it police procedural, legal drama or some combination thereof. Crime is confined to a certain number of minutes or pages. Clues are discovered and deciphered. Questions asked and answered. Law and order is restored to an increasingly complicated world. We feel safer.

I will miss the original L&O, especially Jack McCoy. Wolf has hinted that he might bring it back as a movie, or it could be revived on cable. Meanwhile, SVU and CI continue, and come next fall, it’s Law & Order: Los Angeles. California, here I come. chung-CHUNG!

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