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6 Shows like Law & Order: New York New York

Laura Light itcherWho needs crazy car chases or choreographed police shootouts when you have top notch prosecutors and darn good cops. Add New York City into the mix and you have a whole host of story lines with a stunning back drop. So for more intelligent dramas about the criminal justice system in NYC, take a look at ‘Blue Bloods’, ‘Without a Trace’ and ‘Law & Order Special Victims Unit’, all TV shows like ‘Law & Order’. ~ Laura Light

The City of Dreams

It makes sense that so many TV shows take place in New York City. To me, there’s no better choice! I’ve personally visited the city five times, year after year, and still dream of returning to the city that never sleeps.

NYC is like a beautiful paradox. On the outside it’s stunning, attractive and full of life, but with that comes the crime and poverty, hence the premise for ‘Law & Order’. It’s an interesting concept, one no other show in the history of US television drama had ever undergone before. It was real, sharp and didn’t always have a happy ending, plot or character wise.

Aside from the cast dynamic, the plots are what made the show truly work. They may have been fresh out of the US news headlines, but they literally could have happened anywhere.  And why not NYC?

So if you like your cops with more brain the brawn or your attorney show not so straight forward, then check out these next three TV series similar to ‘Law & Order’, all with the true essence of NYC entwined in their character.


Shows Similar to ‘Law & Order’…

‘Blue Bloods’ (CBS, 2010 – )

I’m not saying working midnights is fun but I don’t think you can call yourself a New York City cop until you’ve survived a few…

So the show revolves around a family of New York cops. Starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, this gritty and quite realistic police drama really stands out from the crowd. Made by the producers of ‘The Sopranos’, we get to see the inside the lives of a family whose job is to solve crimes, instead of committing them, and thanks to the ensemble of talented actors involved, it’s quite interesting to see their interactions, both personally and professionally.

One of the strongest selling points is the lack of formulaic clap trap that you find on other shows, granted a crime happens in every episode, so Danny (Wahlberg) and his partner can investigate, but the uniqueness in which the show goes about bringing its stories to the audience is the key. Plus, the show is set in NYC and boy don’t we know it!

Similarity Match: 95%
Similar plot themes and locations, but whereas ‘Blue Bloods’ focuses on the family unit, ‘Law & Order’ is based on the crime itself.

‘Law & Order Special Victims Unit’ (NBC, 1999 – )

In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories…

I’ve gotta admit now, I love this show! About the Special Victims Unit (SVU), a new elite squad of NYPD detectives who investigate sexually related crimes, delves into the dark side of the NYC underworld as the detectives investigate and prosecute various sexually oriented crimes, while trying to balance the effects of the investigation on their own lives.

Going on 16 seasons, the basic premise of ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ has remained a constant; but over the years, the show has changed with the seasons (which is why it’s so good!). Detectives have come and gone; Assistant District Attorneys replaced; and we’ve even had to say goodbye to BD Wong and Dann Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen) (tragedies I’m still mourning, by the way).

Similarity Match: 90%
Dark, broody and full of malice, both ‘Law & Order’ and ‘SVU’ show the bleak side of NYC, but whereas ‘Law & Order’ is based solely on the justice system, ‘SVU’ is very crime and character driven.

‘Without a Trace’ (CBS, 2002-2009)

It’s a long way from New York, that’s for sure…

About the cases of an FBI unit specializing in missing persons investigations, this show is a fast-paced procedural drama. The sole responsibility of the special task force is to find missing persons by applying advanced psychological profiling techniques to the evidence. It’s a beautifully shot series with a talented cast, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not revolutionary or groundbreaking by any means, but it is a decent crime drama that keeps you gripped.

Like ‘Law & Order’ not all cases are solved, or end in the death of the missing person, but like you would expect these are fewer than the FBI victories. It’s brash and bawdy, mixed with heavy storylines.

Similarity Match: 80%
It contains a similar plot and shares a brand of humor but portrays NYC as a bright blustering city rather than a dark, dank one.


If You Like ‘Law & Order’, You Will Like…

New York City, a self-sustaining whirlpool of history, tradition and socio-cultural forces, and will always be the best supporting actor a TV production could ask for. Okay, so it offers iconic, instantly recognizable shots, and its unmatched diversity in both its populace and businesses allow an almost infinite variety of plot points to be conceived and plausibly executed in any given episode, but surely there is crime is another cities right? Here’s three more TV series like ‘Law & Order’ that show off their own city! New Yorkers beware!

‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ (NBC, 1993-1999)

You know, I was thinking of printing up one of those bikini calendars. You know, the cops of Baltimore type thing…

It was a depressing day when NBC cancelled this amazing show. About a police homicide investigation unit that investigates violent crimes in the city of Baltimore, it truly did duck the system of other shows, staying true to the source. Filmed in Baltimore, (I had to look it up on a map!) the show had the grittiest plots of any television show I had watched before. Check out season six’s ‘Fallen heroes’. This episode is hard core, violent and a touch brutal. Keeping these elements as a once or twice a season treat made them ten times more effective than in cop shows where it happens every week. Fact!

This thought-provoking show examines how dark large cities can be, something only touched on in ‘Law & Order’ and it shows the real human side to the cops investigating.

‘Cold Case’ (CBS, 2003-2010)

Don’t look at me. I got a daughter who majors in business, a wife who majors in other people’s business. Me, I’m just a restaurant owner…

So I’m going to put it out there; if Jerry Bruckheimer does many more television shows, they’re going to have to name a TV channel after him surely?! Okay, so this is another procedural cop series, but its up-to-the-minute thrills make this show different. Philadelphia detective Lilly Rush (‘Minority Report’s’ Kathryn Morris) finds herself inexorably drawn to the cold cases and tries to breathe fresh life into them, and of course put the killers behind bars.

Both ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Cold Case’ offer no character development, but both explore the difficult job of investigating crime in such a large city.

‘The Practice’ (ABC, 1997-2004)

What Mr. Donnell is saying is he doesn’t trust juries. Well, that’s the system of this country. And if it displeases him, perhaps he should move to Cuba…

We follow the exploits and cases of defence attorneys of a Boston law firm. With its fine acting, dialogue, and interesting legal situations, not to mention a slight sense of humour, perfectly mixed with intense conflict had me hook, line and sinker. ‘The Practice’ creator, David E. Kelley has once again created a top show. I wouldn’t call it ‘Ally McBeal’ good but its close. Guest appearances are top class too, especially John Larroquette’s excellent portrayal of Joey Heric. If you haven’t watched ‘The Practice’ yet, wake up!

Both shows feature a courtroom in a major city, but whereas ‘The Practice’ is more light hearted and character driven, ‘Law & Order’ is gritty and crime focused.


Crime Never Sleeps

New York has played many roles on television recently. Not only in ‘Blue Bloods’ mentioned above, but in Glenn Close’s ‘Damages’ and HBO’s ‘Mildred Pierce’. The city itself stands in for other major cities all the time (like the Chicago of ‘The Good Wife’), and industry know it all’s have said that the days of shooting typical New York shows (like ‘Friends’) in California are numbered. Good for you NY! 

Can anything beat ‘Law & Order’ for you?

Are the days of the court room drama numbered?

Let Me Know In The Comments Below!

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