Well, all the ones available on Netflix, anyway. Still, that’s just a season shy of 300 episodes, and watching that much of anything is bound to leave its mark on you. You’re saying to yourself now, “Wow, what an impressive feat. Truly, this is a shining example of the kind of human achievement our generation ought to aspire to emulate.” And you’re righter than you know. It is so easy to watch this show passively; it’s visual elevator music. But pay attention, and you’ll find yourself wading nips deep in a pool of constitutionally questionable police work, and unrealistically deft lawyering.
It is revealed in one episode that partners Olivia Benson and Eliot Stabler have a clearance rate of something like 93%, and a conviction rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 86%. PRETTY TIDY. It’s probably got something to do with the countless times El and Liv give each other the glib did-you-hear-someone-call-for-help-in-there? excuse for busting into an apartment sans warrant. Classic. Admittedly, this is not as frequently used as the showy, yet effective, Eliot-throwing-a-guy-into-the-wall-of-the-interrogation-room move, which usually results in the suspect conceding, “Alright, alright! I was there that night, but I didn’t kill her!” or something.
These tactics usually at least get the intrepid detectives a talking-to from Capt. Cragen (“Detectives, my office!”), and sometimes leads to confessions getting thrown out via the defense’s ever present MOTION TO SUPPRESS. God, it never fails. Just when they think they’ve got the perv who diddled and stabbed whomever he diddled and stabbed this week, some slimeball attorney waltzes in with that little blue slip of paper and a smug grin. Oh, you thought you had this one all wrapped up, did you, A.D.A. Casey Novak? Well guess what: the knife with the suspect’s fingerprint, signature, and 4 types of government issued ID super glued to it is OUT! Time to rebuild the case in 12 hours by going back to the crime scene and discovering some mislabeled home movie containing a full video-diary style confession.
Do certain episodes stick out in my mind? Sure. Like the one where John Stamos is a “reproductive abuser,” and something like 25 women from two continents show up with all kids he made them have. Episodes like this are especially great because the actors have to do their best to pretend what’s happening isn’t wholly absurd. The writers have to work statistics into the dialogue without seeming clumsy and forced, but statistics are, by nature, clumsy and forced, so the result is predictably hilarious.
“Wait, this guy did what? Seems pretty far-fetched.”
“Detective, did you know that well over 3% of all American women have been forced into childbirth by a member of the cast of Full House?”
“Sounds about right.”
Stuff like that. Then you’ve got that whole arc with Olivia’s long-lost brother, who, turns out, does share the illicit proclivities of their estranged father. This one is pretty great too, because it lets Benson be the loose cannon for a change. Driving to Jersey, going on unauthorized stakeouts, ignoring her caseload in favor of personal vendettas. Horning in on Eliot’s turf for a few episodes.
I will say this: nobody seethes like Eliot Stabler. I’ll describe his go-to angry face for you. He’s visibly upset about the situation at hand, but he’s a good guy at heart so he decides he’s over it and turns away. The guy he’s turning away from gets in one last parting shot, like, I don’t know, something about his wife. Stabler wheels around and gets way up in this dude’s personal hula-hoop. He speaks quickly and softly and you’re not sure if he’s angry or hoarse, but then you see it—there is a vein in his forehead that looks like someone glued a goddamn twizzler to his face. It is startling, to say the least.
Would I recommend watching every episode of Law and Order: SVU. No. I’m happy to do this kind of grunt work in the name of pop culture, but you should be doing something else. Watching every episode of Criminal Intent, probably. Or watching your microwave as you test which things are cool to microwave. Productive things.