Law & Order: Season 1 (1990 - 1991)

SEASON:

Season 1
Law & Order

Critics Consensus

Formulaic to be sure, Law & Order nonetheless synthesizes an endlessly watchable blend of crime procedural intrigue and legal system dramatics.

77%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 13

100%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 20

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Episodes

Air date: Sep 13, 1990

In this first telecast of Law & Order, a case of fatal criminal negligence takes front and center. During a particularly frantic night in an emergency room, a young woman dies, prompting her father to sue the hospital. Investigating detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) uncover evidence that the E.R.'s chief resident, Dr. Edward Auster (Paul Sparer), has a history of alcoholism, and may have been drinking at the time of the tragedy. D.A. Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) orders his subordinates Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) to charge Auster with murder.

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Air date: Sep 20, 1990

In a fictionalized replay of the Bernhard Goetz incident, former dancer Laura di Biasi (Cynthia Nixon), a white woman, is arrested after shooting two black youths on a subway. Di Biasi claims that she was acting in self defense, but Assistant D.A. Robinette (Richard Brooks), himself an African-American, suspects that the woman had a hidden agenda. This not only leads to a racially charged murder trial, but also considerable friction between Robinette and his partner Stone (Michael Moriarty). (Trivia note: Guest star Cynthia Nixon and Law & Order regular Chris Noth later starred together on the HBO sitcom Sex and the City.)

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Air date: Oct 4, 1990

A victim of AIDS is murdered, and detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) collar a suspect who may have been responsible for a string of killings in the gay community. The suspect claims that he is an "angel of mercy," putting AIDS sufferers out of their misery. Reluctantly, assistant D.A.'s Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) take the case to court, operating upon the theory that the killer was nothing more than a homicidal homophobe.

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Air date: Oct 11, 1990

The then-contemporary "Preppie Murder" case was the obvious inspiration for this 1990 episode of Law & Order. A wealthy and well-connected young man is charged with the murder of his girlfriend. The efforts of Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) to prosecute the case are stymied by a huge publicity blitz, and by the Defense's strategy of putting the dead woman's character on trial. "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die" was originally telecast October 11, 1990, as a last-minute replacement for the scheduled episode "Poison Ivy" (which was moved up to November 20).

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Air date: Oct 23, 1990

When a millionaire is murdered and his wife is wounded in a parking garage, it appears as though both were victims of a random armed robbery. But after detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) arrest a suspect, assistant D.A.'s Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) uncover evidence that another perpetrator was involved. And worse is still to come: It may be that the killing was deliberate, and that someone very close to the victim stood to profit from his death.

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Air date: Oct 30, 1990

When a councilman is mugged, detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) follow a trail of evidence leading to Anthony Scalisi (Paul Guilfoyle), a prominent mobster. Typically, this is not the end of the case -- not when the D.A.'s office decides to use Scalisi as bait to trap some supposedly "respectable" city officials. The fact that assistant D.A.'s Logan (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) are shown meeting for the first time, not to mention the conspicuous absence of series regular Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff, is proof enough that "Everybody's Favorite Bagman" was the pilot episode for Law & Order -- though it was not the first episode to be telecast.

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Air date: Nov 13, 1990

An outwardly decent and upright family man is found in Central Park, beaten senseless by a baseball bat. The police investigation reveals that the victim was a customer of wealthy socialite Laura Winthrop (Patricia Clarkson), who keeps solvent by running an expensive "escort service." At her subsequent trial, Winthrop may beat the rap thanks to the power of public opinion; after all, isn't prostitution a victimless crime? But the D.A.'s office has a trump card in the form of one of Winthrop's girls, who has tested positive for AIDS.

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Air date: Nov 20, 1990

Originally scheduled to air on October 11, 1990, this Law & Order episode was bumped forward to November 20 of that year. The flames of racial unrest are fueled when a young African-American honors student is shot by Freddo Parisi (John Finn), a white cop. Much to their dismay, detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) are faced with the likelihood that the cop may have planted a weapon on the deceased to get himself off the hook. Likewise made uncomfortable by the implications and possible consequences of the incident, assistant D.A.'s Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Robinette (Richard Brooks) nonetheless set a trap to catch Officer Parisi in his own web of deceit.

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Air date: Nov 27, 1990

Summoned to an expensive Upper West Side elementary school, detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) find a young pupil in a semi-comatose state. The investigation leads to prominent therapist Jacob Lowenstein (David Groh), a chronic philanderer, and Lowenstein's wife Carla (Marcia Jean Kurtz), who shows signs of being severely battered. After the death of the Lowensteins' daughter, assistant D.A. Stone (Michael Moriarty) realizes that the only way to find out who was responsible is to turn the defiantly protective Mrs. Lowenstein against her control-freak husband -- or vice versa. Clearly inspired by the infamous "Steinberg Case," this was the Law & Order telecast which prompted the series' producers to include a disclaimer at the beginning of each subsequent "based on fact" episode.

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Air date: Dec 4, 1990

An artist specializing in S&M paintings is found murdered, dressed in full leather fetish regalia. During their investigation, detectives Greevey (George Dzundza) and Logan (Chris Noth) follow the trail of clues to city arts commissioner Henry Rothman (Larry Keith). As an alibi, Rothman insists that he was with prominent socialite Elizabeth Hendrick (Frances Conroy) at the time of the murder -- but it turns out that Hendrick has more than a few leather-clad skeletons in her own closet.

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Law & Order: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

The iconic police procedural series "Law & Order" is perhaps best known for its two-part structure. The first half-hour of each episode is devoted to the men and women who investigate crimes and the second dramatises the experiences of the individuals in the judicial system who bring the associated criminals from those cases to justice. In its first series, the program introduces us to several related characters - including Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth), Sgt. Max Greevey (George Dzundza), Capt. Donald Cragen (Dann Florek), Exec. Asst. DA Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) and DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill). Cases this series include a doctor's possible negligence when a woman dies in the ER following a stressful graveyard shift; a woman with a rocky relationship history who dies following an argument and may have been killed by one of her former boyfriends; the search for conspirators in an abortion clinic bombing; and ultimately, Cragen's implication in an internal affairs investigation.

Critic Reviews for Law & Order Season 1

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (6)

We hope "Law & Order" will help illuminate the process and inform the public. It has its weaknesses, but a strong cast and right aim help overcome them.

Jan 31, 2018 | Full Review…

Greevey and Stone are a little too sanctimonious for my taste, each tending to moralize about the law to their younger cohorts. And the trial sequences are unsuspenseful and hammy.

Apr 20, 2020 | Full Review…

Tightly paced and well acted, this first glimpse of ''Law and Order'' takes cops, D.A.'s and an entire hospital staff and makes them all utterly convincing and absorbing.

Nov 28, 2018 | Full Review…

Law & Order has golden potential. Executive producer Dick Wolf says he wants to make TV that matters about issues that count. "Law & Order" is now half a giant step in that direction.

Nov 28, 2018 | Full Review…

Through the concept of the following legal procedure must have sounded intriguing when first advanced, its execution comes off as leaden and contrived. This is television by the numbers, connecting the dots to make the picture.

Jan 26, 2018 | Full Review…

It's a little gimmicky, but it works, primarily on the strength of the cast.

Jan 26, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

"Law & Order" combines two familiar TV types - the catch-the-bad-guys thrills of cop shows and the put-'em-in-jail drama of lawyer shows - into an altogether fast-paced and generally pleasing hour.

Apr 20, 2020 | Full Review…

As good as it is, "Law & Order" is relentlessly downbeat; and because it is so concerned with legal procedure, it is hardly suspenseful.

Apr 20, 2020 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

It's controversial, it's engaging, and it follows a pretty basic formula.

Apr 20, 2020 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Gritty. Really gritty. Aluminum on teeth gritty. And Oh So Watchable!

Dec 19, 2018 | Rating: 9/10 | Full Review…

Because its reach exceeded its grasp, it's a very good show, not a great one.

Sep 13, 1990 | Full Review…

This is series television that looks good but ultimately goes nowhere. They photographed the machine but forgot about its soul.

Sep 13, 1990 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Law & Order: Season 1

  • Jun 07, 2020
    Excellent. Completely addictive. Escpecially the Jerry Orbach episodes.
  • Jul 25, 2018
    Law & Order is one of my go-to shows to watch while sitting on the couch and vegging out. I've seen every episode multiple times, but I find the show comforting. That's what Law & Order is - comfort food. The episodes are formulaic, right down to the trademark opening scene - some unfortunate people have their Seinfeldian conversation interrupted by the discovery of a dead body. Few episodes stand out, but the standard of quality is high and almost every episode is at least passable, and, while the show never dives particularly deeply into the issues it showcases, the show's examination of different societal problems can provide some fuel for thought. Unfortunately, the series not infrequently makes procedural errors (although it is at least more careful about remaining at least superficially plausible than the spin-off SVU), so it may miseducate some people about the legal system - although the people who try to learn law from a police procedural/courtroom drama are at least partly to blame for this miseducation. Season 1 has a slightly grittier tone than the latter seasons and takes place before the show's gradual slide toward sensationalism. It also has a decent cast. Michael Moriarty, with his distinctive soft voice, gives a good performance on the legal side, as does Richard Brooks. On the police procedural portion of the show, Chris Noth's Mike Logan is one of my favorite detectives of the franchise, just behind Lenny Briscoe and tied with Ed Green. I'm less certain about Max Greavy, but George Dzundza doesn't give a bad performance, just not as good as some of the other characters. Despite the episodes in any given season being relatively interchangeable, the "Torrents of Greed" two parter (aired in the middle of the first season) stands out as one of the better episodes of the franchise. Overall, the more realistic tone and a couple stand out episodes make season 1 one of the better seasons of the series.
  • Jun 09, 2014
    It's like watching two shows, a police investigation series for the first half hour, and a legal series for the next half an hour. Great performances, lots of mystery and drama, very realistic.

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