'Law & Order' returns after 12 years with some familiar faces that have fans thrilled

Twelve years after Law & Order ended its 20-season run, the legal drama series made its highly anticipated return to television with a few familiar faces.

While viewers were thrilled to have Law & Order Thursdays back, they were most excited for the return of District Attorney Jack McCoy played by Sam Waterston, Det. Kevin Bernard played by Anthony Anderson and a surprise return by Carey Lowell, who reprised her role as prosecutor Jamie Ross. Unfortunately, one cast member was noticeably absent — Lennie Briscoe, who was played by Jerry Orbach.

Orbach died of cancer in 2004, six years before the original series finale. However, viewers still took to social media to say how much they missed the actor:

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As for the premiere episode, Season 21 will introduce some new stories but with the same structure as the original beloved show. The format is split between following the detectives as they investigate the crimes and the legal proceedings as the lawyers bring the case to trial. And just like the first 20 seasons, stories will be inspired by real life headlines.

For example, the case during Thursday's episode featured a Bill Cosby-like character who insisted he was wrongly charged and convicted of serial rape.

Fans loved the Season 21 premiere, with one person saying they were so happy to have "Real TV" back and others tweeting about how much they love the dynamic between Anthony Anderson and his new partner Frank Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan):

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Law & Order airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Watch Jimmy Kimmel throwing a surprise wedding for a couple obsessed with the number 2 for 2/22/22:

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