NBC's long-running Law & Order TV franchise includes the original L&O, Special Victims Unit (SVU), and Criminal Intent, all of which film in New York City
NBC's long-running Law & Order franchise (the original L&O, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) films in New York City
What began in 1990 as an under-the-radar show with a clever concept (the first half of the program follows NYPD detectives as they track down a murder suspect, the second half follows the New York district attorney's attempt to prosecute him) eventually exploded into a ratings-grabbing phenomenon. After several increasingly successful years on the air, NBC's Law & Order had its first spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. (SVU, as it's usually called, has gone on to become even more popular than the mother ship.) Another spin-off, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, has also prospered.
Although each Law & Order TV show has its own take on criminal investigation and the justice system, the vital thing they all have in common is New York City. Law & Order couldn't exist without NYC, and NYC appreciates the show in return. In fact, you might say that Law & Order is New York City's favorite TV show. While plenty of TV shows are set in New York City (e.g. Seinfeld, Friends, How I Met Your Mother), most are filmed in Los Angeles, which usually prevents those shows from having a genuine New York flavor. But L&O, filmed in the Big Apple, is the real deal.
Law & Order Reflects New York City Life
Fortunately the real New York City doesn't have as much gruesome murder and mayhem as what is depicted in this long-running franchise, so don't assume that all the serial killers and sadistic weirdos that populate the world of Law & Order are common in NYC. But even though L&O takes some license when it comes to crime, the shows are all very good at depicting the everyday lives of many New Yorkers. This is especially evident in the scenes where you see the cops interviewing witnesses or relatives of the victims. These people are often seen going about their daily routines, in the middle of their jobs as delivery people or building superintendents, going about their business inside their tiny New York apartments, or simply trying to hail a taxi out on the street. It's the unique details of New York City life that gives Law & Order its authentic feel.
L&O: Filming in a Neighborhood Near You
New York's favorite TV show isn't filmed in front of a live studio audience, but it is filmed all around this alive and bustling city. Most New Yorkers will tell you that they have run into a Law & Order set at least once while walking down the street. From location shots in the downtown City Hall area (for the courtroom half of the show) to the leafy residential parts of uptown, Manhattan provides the exciting background of Law & Order.
More often than not, when you run into Law & Order filming on the street, you won't actually spot anything too interesting. There will be trailers lining the streets, film equipment cluttering the sidewalks, and film crew people with headsets and clipboards running around, but most of the time they're just getting ready for the next shot (which can take a long time to set up). If you're lucky, though, you'll show up at just the right moment and get to see actors from the show shooting a scene in front of the cameras.
The Show That Every New York Actor Has On His Resume
Many actors don't care for the West Coast and prefer to live in New York City, but that can be very hard on their careers since Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world. Having a major show like Law & Order in the area has been a great benefit to the East Coast television industry, and over the years just about every actor in town has appeared in at least one of the Law & Order shows. Many have appeared in all three, playing multiple roles. Broadway actors in particular appreciate Law & Order. Theater doesn't pay nearly as well as film and television, so getting a few big paychecks from a show like Law & Order can help them afford to continue doing stage work.