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'Law & Order' a dangerous addiction

A commentary

By Mary Fischer
CNN Headline News
Jesse L. Martin, left, and Jerry Orbach play detectives on "Law & Order," a staple of TV programming.

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Law & Order
Dick Wolf

(CNN) -- Right now, wherever you are, whatever cable or satellite service you have, an episode of "Law & Order" is running. The same goes for the "Law & Order" derivatives "Special Victims Unit" and "Criminal Intent." If you can't find them, you're not really trying.

As far as I can tell, whole networks seem devoted to these programs. It used to be that one network would have some of each or certain seasons of one show. But the different factions are clearly divided now. Those networks that have one or the other are so pleased with their conquest that they show them all day long.

Not that I'm complaining.

For a long time, I avoided all of them. I used to watch the original, but about the time that Chris Noth left, I decided it was time to take a break. Years went by, and the number of episodes of the original just kept climbing.

Then, when they announced that they were making a third "Law & Order" show, I became curious. Could they keep turning the whole half-crime investigation, half-crime litigation thing into show after show?

The "Law" part of "Law & Order" gets smaller and smaller with each sequel. The original gives the police and prosecutors a half-hour per episode. But the lawyers don't get nearly as much time in "SVU," and they seem to be an afterthought in "CI."

Then one day as I was flipping around, I got interested in one and then started watching the episode that followed. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I watched the next two. I realize now that was the day I just gave up. "Law & Order" is everywhere, and I can't fight it anymore.

For a while, I concentrated on "SVU," but it just wasn't enough. So I started watching them all, the early seasons of the original, the new "CI" and recent "SVU" episodes.

Now I'm addicted to all the versions. (Well, I've never seen that other "Law & Order" that follows real life police and prosecutors. I do have some self-restraint.)

While I think they're all well-made, I have one complaint.

I'm afraid to leave my apartment. These stories are "ripped from the headlines" you know. That means there's someone out there who's done all the wretched things in these shows. There is danger lurking everywhere, people!

And that's the evil genius behind the making and marketing of the "Law & Order" franchise. It's on all the time. If you start watching, you want to watch more.

Then you become paranoid. Now that you've seen all the episodes, you're too frightened to leave your home. So you stay in and watch TV. Since it's the only thing on, you re-watch "Law & Order," "SVU" or "CI."

Well done, Dick Wolf -- the man behind all the "Law & Order" shows that are all over the place -- you've made me a prisoner of television.

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