Which ‘Law & Order’ Show Was the First in the Franchise?

Law & Order and its many spinoffs have been highly popular over the years. There are numerous shows in the Law & Order franchise, but which one came first? We’ve compiled the information you need to know about this important question in the realm of television.

How many ‘Law & Order’ shows are there?

Dann Florek, Richard Brooks, Carolyn McCormick, Chris Noth, Jerry Orbach, Michael Moriarty, Steven Hill from season 3 of 'Law & Order'
Dann Florek, Richard Brooks, Carolyn McCormick, Chris Noth, Jerry Orbach, Michael Moriarty, Steven Hill from season 3 of ‘Law & Order’ | Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank

To put it bluntly, there are a lot of Law & Order shows, especially if you include the ones in other countries as well. There’s the original Law & OrderLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, the upcoming Law & Order: Organized CrimeLaw & Order: Criminal IntentLaw & Order: Trial by JuryLaw & Order: LALaw & Order True Crime, and Law & Order: Hate Crimes, which has yet to premiere. Most of them were created by Dick Wolf or sometimes others as well.

But there are also versions of the series in other languages. According to the Law & Order Fandom page, Paris Enquêtes Criminelles premiered in France and is the Criminal Intent version. There’s an SVU show in Russia as well as Criminal Intent too. There’s even a UK version called Law & Order: UK.

That means there are 12 Law & Order shows and that’s a lot of police procedural content. there’s even a movie called Exiled: A Law & Order Movie. There are also a number of other shows that are closely related and tie in with the ones mentioned. Those include Homicide: Life on the StreetNew York UndercoverConvictionDeadline, and Crime & Punishment.

Which ‘Law & Order’ show was the first in the franchise?

Chris Noth, Dann Florek, and Paul Sorvino in 'Law & Order'
Chris Noth, Dann Florek, and Paul Sorvino in ‘Law & Order’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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The first Law & Order series in the franchise is the original Law & Order. The show first premiered in 1990 and lasted until 2010, clocking in at 456 episodes according to IMDb. Many spinoffs would come after this successful series shown on NBC. The show has a huge amount of seasons – 20 to be exact, so it’s the perfect show to binge-watch if you love police procedurals. 

The original cast consisted of Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek), Sergeant Max Greevey (George Dzundza), and Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth). The prosecutors that assisted them include Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty), Adam Schiff (Steven Hill), and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks). The final season of the series finished its fantastic run on May 24, 2010. With low ratings, it was canceled because contract negotiations fell through involving financing the project according to Deadline.

The narrator of the opening introduction had a part in the pilot

Many Law & Order fans can say the opening introduction sequence by heart. “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: The police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

So who is the Law & Order narrator? The famous voice is Steven Zirnkilton, an actor whose words have become synonymous with the franchise. According to the actor’s Fandom website, Zirnkilton voices every opening introduction for the five Law & Order series in the United States. He was also in the pilot episode of Law & Order in a small role as a detective that included two sentences. 

Law & Order is the original series in the L&O franchise. It had a highly successful run, and it will always be an important element in the history of the franchise.