law and order

Edward Zuckerman On Writing the Funny Episodes of “Law & Order”

Oddly, I was known in-house as the funny episodes of “Law & Order.” That show (the original “Law & Order”) was well-regarded and festooned with and praise, but it was definitely not considered a laugh riot. But I couldn't help myself. I became a TV writer after a career as a journalist and, while I had long been a fan of quality television, the crime shows I'd been watching all my life mostly fell into predictable patterns, heavy on car chases and gun fights. When I arrived at “Law & Order,” where I eventually wrote or co-wrote more than fifty episodes, I just wanted to do something… different. I'd always liked the humor that occasionally popped up in dramas, and my experience writing for television had given me a chance to try that out myself. It was an assignment for a now long-forgotten show called “Hard Time on Planet Earth,” which concerned an alien from a distant planet who had been unfairly convicted of a crime by that planet's tyrannical rulers. His sentence: to be exiled to Earth, where he assumed human form and was watched over by a robotic floating eyeball. Really. In most episodes our hero got into trouble on this (to him) unfamiliar plane. He fought bad guys, he righted wrongs, and he worked hard to clear his name. My story idea: put him on “The Dating Game.” The show bought it. (As a bonus, I had his guardian floating eyeball get into […]

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