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Movies & Shows

‘Law & Order’ Spin-Offs: A Complete Guide to the Long-Running Show and Its Many Sequels

Have you watched them all?

Some call it “chung, chung,” and some call it “dun, dun,” but whatever it sounds like to you, everyone knows the familiar sound that signals the start of a Law & Order episode. The popular NBC TV drama has surpassed nearly every other show with its time on the air and the number of popular Law & Order spin-offs it spawned.

The original Law & Order debuted in 1990 and has 23 seasons with 499 episodes — despite taking an 11-year hiatus from 2010 to 2021. It takes the trophy for being the longest-running law enforcement drama on TV.

Nearly every famous actor you can think of has appeared as a guest star in at least one episode, and fans still enjoy reruns of old episodes and Law & Order marathons.

three people walking and smiling
The cast of Law & Order: SVU in 2012Getty

Thanks to its resounding success, Law & Order became a network franchise and produced several spin-offs, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–Present ), starring Mariska Hargitay and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001–11), starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe.

Currently Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime are all airing new episodes.

Here’s an in-depth look at the popular crime drama and the many Law & Order spin-offs.

1. Law & Order (1990-2010, 2022-Present)

man looking off; law and order spin-offs
Sam Waterston in Law & Ordermoviestillsdb.com/Studios USA Television

New York’s finest police detectives and prosecutors band together to make the city safer in the series that started it all. Viewers are taken inside the justice system, from investigation to verdict, and they encounter plenty of twists and turns along the way. Typically, the first half of the hour-long show features the cops, while the second half takes viewers inside the courts.

While the show was canceled in 2010, it was revived in 2022 and is about to premiere its 24th season. NBC said the show has only grown in popularity and viewership since its return two years ago.

Since its inception, the show has had a revolving door of detectives, but one character has remained constant. Last season, veteran actor Sam Waterston (who played D.A. Jack McCoy) announced his departure after starring in over 400 episodes.

In a statement shared on Instagram, the actor said, “L&O’s continuing and amazing long run, along with its astounding comeback, is all thanks to you [the fans] and to [Law & Order creator] Dick Wolf, but for whose vision, patience, perseverance, and unique combination of creative and business talents, none of this would have happened. I feel very blessed. I hope to see you all on the flip side.”

Scandal star Tony Goldwyn has taken his place, and the perennial series continues.

2. Law & Order: SVU (1999-Present)

The show’s first spin-off, Law & Order: SVU, debuted in 1999 and is still running today. In fact, it’s the most successful show in the entire franchise.

The spin-off closely followed the formula of the original L&O, except the detectives focused purely on sex crimes. Many episodes have featured plots inspired by true events, which have captivated true crime fans for many years. Unlike its predecessor, SVU isn’t all business, as it also delves into the personal lives of its characters, which has proved to be a winning formula.

The show follows Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) as she rises through the ranks of the police force. While her partner has changed several times, she has remained a fixture on the show, fighting off the bad guys and advocating for victims.

Hargitay is not just an actress — her work on the show has inspired her to become an advocate for survivors of sex crimes in real life. In 2004, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which aims to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.”

3. Law & Order: Organized Crime (2021-Present)

This is the newest addition to the franchise, created in 2021 as an SVU spinoff. Fans who were upset when rebellious NYPD detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) left his long-time post as Benson’s partner on SVU now get to tune in as Stabler tackles organized crime in New York City.

The show will be moving from NBC to its streaming service, Peacock, for its fifth season.

4. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001-2011)

The second spin-off to be released, two years after SVU, Criminal Intent focused less on court proceedings and more on delving inside the minds of criminals. It provided insights into not only the crime but also the emotional struggles within the elite law enforcement team in high-profile cases.

The show ran for 10 seasons, with quite a bit of cast turnover and many reputable actors, including Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeff Goldblum and Chris Noth. Before its sixth season, ratings began to decline, and it was moved from NBC to the USA Network.

5. Law & Order: True Crime (2017)

Law & Order: True Crime, starring The SopranosEdie Falco, launched as a miniseries in 2017. All eight episodes covered the true crime story of the Menendez brothers, who infamously murdered their parents in 1989. This was the only spin-off highlighting the defense instead of the investigators and the prosecutors.

Falco received critical acclaim for her complex role as defense attorney Leslie Abramson, but the show remained a miniseries and didn’t get another season.

6. Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005-2006)

Despite boasting an A-list cast including Bebe Neuwirth and Candice Bergen, this spin-off only lasted 13 episodes. The 2005 series focused solely on the prosecution of the Manhattan homicide division and featured regular guest appearances by the stars of L&O and SVU.

It received the lowest ratings in the entire franchise, and many attributed that to the lack of action from not showing the police investigations that led to the legal drama.

7. Law & Order: Los Angeles (2010-2011)

This spin-off proved that L&O viewers prefer watching detectives battle the gritty streets of New York. Set in LA, this series mimicked the original and followed detectives in the robbery-homicide division of the LAPD.

Because of its setting, writers utilized flashy Hollywood plotlines, which seemed to fall flat despite their luster. It also featured a rotating cast of Hollywood heavy hitters, including Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard, but even they couldn’t save this one from cancelation after just 22 episodes.

8. Law & Order: UK (2009-2014)

More of an adaptation than one of the proper Law & Order spin-offs, the plots of the original L&O were repurposed for viewers across the pond in Law & Order: UK. The show was moderately successful, with five seasons from 2009 to 2014. However, some cases proved challenging for the writers, given the differences in the legal system in England.

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