When Creativity Ends, The Law Drama Begins

It started a few years ago and now we have become overwhelmed. Law dramas have taken over. Every where you look, on every network station, there is a law drama lurking in the darkness of prime time.

What I mean by law dramas are cop shows and lawyer shows like: “NYPD Blue”, “The Practice” and “Law and Order.” These are the series that set the bar for the rest, sadly many copycats fall short.

These law dramas have caught on and spread like a Colorado forest fire. The good shows become infectious to watch, with the litigious nature of it all and the way they unravel mysteries like a detective novel. Plus the brutality of a wrongly accused man or two lawyers going at it in open court often brings a “Dostoevskian” grin to it’s viewers. It’s easy to see why it has become over saturated.

But when did this all begin? When did people stop watching pathetically predictable sitcoms and start wanting something a bit more real, but not too real? Did the viewing audience one day say “stop insulting our intelligence just because we don’t want to read.” Whatever it was, tv stations got the message loud and clear and all of a sudden it was like keeping up with the Jones’.

As the sitcom slowly withers away into non existence, the law drama becomes stronger than ever. Just last month NBC’s “Law and Order” added another member to its already flourishing family with “Law and Order: Crime and Punishment.” “Law and Order” is not only syndicated on both A&E and TNT, it also has branched out into “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” both syndicated on the USA network.

Dick Wolf’s newest addition to his successful franchise is different from the others. “Crime and Punishment” is more like a documentary. It allows you to see the trial through the district attorney’s point of view with real cases and very violent criminals. It’s almost like reawakening the OJ debacle but sadly no white Bronco.

Wolf isn’t the only one busy in the courtroom, in fall Fox will be presenting the latest brain fart from madman David E. Kelly (ABC’s “The Practice”). “Girls Club” will be replacing another one of his law series, “Ally McBeal.” “Girls Club” is about three young female attorneys in San Francisco and their personal and professional relationships, AKA “Ally McBeal 2.”

Not to be left off the bandwagon, CBS has slowly been building up a televised shrine to the whole judicial process. The network is boasting six prime time law dramas: “Jag”, “The Guardian”, “Judging Amy”, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, “The Agency” and “The District.” Apparently CBS feels that who need a quality law drama when you can just have a lot of them.

And there in lies the problem. The thing is that this law fad can’t last forever. Let’s face it, most of these shows aren’t in it for the long haul and after the patriotic high of post 9-11 starts to wane so will people’s interest in law dramas. People won’t want to see cops catching the bad guys, or lawyers putting people away for the rest of their lives. Their interest will be elsewhere and then every network will come out with their own copycat version to suit that interest.