Before the franchise became a chalk outline of itself, "Law & Order" hacked at the Gordian knot of social issues and criminal passions with crisp writing, urban naturalism, and the quintessential New York cast of characters.
And oh what a cast. Not just those who played the police who investigated the crime and the district attorneys who prosecuted the offenders. We mean the villains, the victims, the poor shlubs jogging or arguing or making out in an alley when they accidentally stumbled on a corpse. Like soap operas, "Law & Order" has been the Dick Wolf school for actors for more than two decades. Here's just a few of the now-famous alumni who did their time.
Shorthand guide to "Law & Order" shows: "L&O" (the original), "SVU" (Special Victims Unit), "CI" (Criminal Intent), "TBJ" (Trial by Jury)