These Are the People in Your Neighborhood
In the Law & Order universe one meets a recurring group of characters – played by various classically trained, but hopelessly “average” looking actors – who rarely get their due. They are as much a part of the show’s success as Jack McCoy’s eyebrows, Lt. Van Buren’s interrupted curbside lunches for worthless case updates, Det. Green’s teeny tiny notebooks filled with pantomimed crime scene notes and Adam Schiff’s enduring fear of Albany.
Trust me, I’ve been to Albany and I don’t want them on my ass either.
1. The Body Discoverer
Now this is where the rubber meets the road. And you can’t just merely be minding your own business when happening upon the mangled body of a shock jock or a school teacher. No, you really need to be kvetching with your spouse, fumbling for lost keys in your beast of burden bag or perhaps about to finally give your 7th grade crush a kiss. These folks seem rather nonplussed – even for New Yorkers – at finding an unexpected body and rarely seem more than amused by their discovery. They ham it up with the uniformed officers first on the scene and almost never seem to care they missed their dinner reservations, blew off out of town relatives or are going to be late for their shift at the The Spread Eagle.
2. The First Suspect
Always good for a laugh, a snarky retort and the stench of stale smoke and body odor that leaps out of your TV and into your home. These folks are all about doing things the hard way, and even as the detective rattle off the list of previous arrests and allude to rap sheets approximating the length of their limbs, the faux perps always seem so indignant. Oh sure, they’ve committed some crimes, but not this one. One tap byVan Buren on the two way glass confirms their “I was at home watching TV/I was in Rikers/I was unconscious” alibi.
3. The Friend/Roommate/Boss/Coworker
They always lie. They always rifle through files, racks of clothing or CDs while blithely offering unhelpful and generally erroneous information to detectives. And upon their second visit from the detectives they always sheepishly state, “Look, I know I lied before.” and offer up some sanitized version of the truth, which usually involves a tawdry affair, embezzlement or refusal to donate precious body organs.
4. The “This Might Not Mean Anything, But…” Person
Now, I’m a super observant person with a spectacular memory, but not even in my wildest dreams could I recall the kind of minutiae these folks can. Never mind they are always a 3rd cousin once removed, or a bookstore clerk that only helped the victim twice or a physician coming off an eleventy billion hour shift, they always remember one specific detail that makes the detectives roll their eyes, suck their teeth and set their lasers on the killer who they now have to keep from boarding a train to Baltimore or a flight to Rio.
5. The Black Lady Judge
I don’t know what their numbers are in real life, but daytime TV and Law & Order would have you believe the courts are filled with chubby, black, medium toned women with eyelids at permanent half mast and with lips perpetually in search of lemons to suck. They range in type from the Jocelyn Elders, “Overruled, but watch it, counselor, or I’ll find you in contempt faster than you can say ‘concrete suite at the steel bar Sheraton’. We clear?” to the C.C.H Pounder type who fight every urge in their body not to say, “I know you aren’t sitting up here asking me for bail?” and instead take a deep breath and calmly state, “Bail denied. Defendant is remanded to custody penning trial.” While generally fair and reasonable, they are not above demanding the lawyers approach the bench, covering the mic with a well manicured hand and threatening to snatch those knuckleheads bald headed if they engage in anymore courtroom theatrics.