Newest Law & Order series is a twist on a classic

The famous US television franchise added a new series this spring called “Law & Order: Organized Crime”

Today's expression: Land on
Explore more: Lesson #379
July 8, 2021:

This spring, Law & Order introduced its latest installment in the franchise: “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” One of the Law & Order series is the longest-running live-action drama in American television history, with 22 seasons and counting. But the new show is different, and will make you want to tune in week-after-week. Plus, learn “land on.”

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There is another installment in the Law & Order franchise.

Lesson summary

Hi there, thanks for joining us for Plain English Lesson Number 379 for Thursday, July 12, 2021. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer, and this full lesson can be found at PlainEnglish.com/379. That’s where you’ll find the transcript, how-to video, translations, exercises, flashcards, quizzes, and more.

Coming up today: I couldn’t believe it! I must have been living under a rock. But a new series in the famous U.S. television franchise Law & Order aired this spring and it features one of my favorite characters from long ago. Elliot Stabler is back, and the new series is called Law & Order: Organized Crime. That’s the topic of today’s lesson. The English expression is a phrasal verb, “land on.” And we have a song of the week. Let’s get going!

‘Organized Crime’ is a new twist on a classic

If you flip around the cable channels in the U.S., you’re bound to hear a two-note sound effect that sounds like a stylized version of a jail cell door slamming shut. If you hear that sound, you’ve landed on an episode of Law & Order, or one of the show’s many spinoffs.

The original Law & Order premiered in 1990 and concluded its twentieth and final season in 2010. But the concept gave rise to six spinoffs that have aired on U.S. television. Plus, they’ve made versions in the UK, France, and Russia. In fact , one of the spinoffs became even more popular than the original. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the longest-running live-action drama in American television history and the show is currently in its twenty-second season. “SVU,” as it’s called for short, tracks a New York City Police Department unit assigned specially to investigate sexually-based offenses.

The franchise’s creator is Dick Wolf. After having created Law & Order, he went on to create a series of crime, medical, and legal dramas based in Chicago. You’ll know them as Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Justice. He’s also been involved in several other American TV shows. But he recently returned to his most famous franchise and launched a new spinoff called Law & Order: Organized Crime.

Up until this latest spinoff, all the Law & Order episodes have been procedurals, more than a thousand of them in total, over the multiple versions of the title named show. A procedural is a type of program in which a problem is presented at the beginning, the main characters try to resolve the problem during most of the show, and a resolution is presented at the end. Most procedurals are police procedurals where the show opens with a crime, investigators try to solve the crime, and the show ends in an arrest or a trial. You’ll recognize this format if you’ve watched NCIS, any of the CSI shows, or even old episodes of Dragnet; Matlock; or Murder, She Wrote. The television show called House is an example of a medical procedural.

The nice thing about a procedural is that you can flip around the channels, land on an episode from any season, and enjoy it without having any prior knowledge of the show. You don’t need to know what happened before and you’re not left wanting to know what happens next. There’s a beginning, middle, and end.

This contrasts with a “story arc” show, where a single story is developed throughout a season or multiple seasons. And that’s what the new Law & Order show is, a story arc. Detective Elliot Stabler was one of the original protagonists in Law & Order: SVU, but he left the show about ten years ago. His character retired from the police department. At the beginning of Organized Crime, we learn that he has since been living in Italy and working for the New York City Police Department investigating international crimes with a New York connection. When he comes back to the U.S., his wife is the victim of a car bombing and it’s related to his work in Italy. He soon becomes involved with an investigation in the U.S. to uncover a smuggling operation of COVID-19 vaccines and personal protective equipment. The mafia bosses he was tracking overseas are suspected. The story develops from there.

Detective Stabler is played by the actor Christopher Meloni and he was one of the most popular characters when he was on SVU. He’s a tough guy who tries to protect his family and friends from the horrors that he sees at work. But he also has a temper and he’s always been willing to bend or break the rules if he thinks it serves the investigation or justice.

At first, I was surprised they reintroduced his character in the new series. Judging by the political climate, the public doesn’t have much appetite for cops who bend the rules. But this part of the story develops over the first few episodes when Stabler must adapt to the times of stricter rules on police behavior, cameras everywhere, and zero tolerance for mistakes.

Organized Crime has an updated, high-energy version of the classic Law & Order theme music. And just like in the other series, a narrator reads the same script at the beginning of each episode establishing the premise of the show.

Second season is coming

I watched the first episode of Organized Crime and found it to be very disorienting. I was confused! It turns out that a lot of important information was revealed in a previous episode of SVU during a crossover promotional episode. After I watched that episode, I felt more prepared for Organized Crime. And by the end of the second episode, I was hooked. I like the more modern take on a classic show, and I’ll keep watching. Law & Order: Organized Crime is available on Peacock TV, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. There are eight episodes in the first season, but the show has been renewed for a longer second season.

SVU is still one of my favorites. Back before the days of video streaming, I’d sometimes turn on the TV just in the hopes of relaxing and watching something that didn’t require a lot of work to follow the story. I’d flip around and hope that a Law & Order was on USA or TNT or one of those cable channels. Those were great in hotel rooms after a long day of work—easy to follow, one-and-done procedurals.

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Expression: Land on