About The 1991 Episode Of ‘Law & Order’ Where Jerry Orbach Played A Defense Attorney

Hey, wanna bend your brain a little bit? Go open Netflix and watch the Season 2 episode of Law & Order titled “Wages of Love.” It starts out just like any other Law & Order episode: small talk (“They want all cops to live in the city. On our salaries?!”), dead body, investigation, wise-cracking, New York-based food talk (“Best hot dog in the city?” “86th and 3rd, the Papaya place”), misdirection, etc. But then, around the 23 minute mark of the commercial-free version, after the detectives played by Chris Noth and Paul Sorvino arrest the correct culprit, something incredible happens. Jerry Orbach shows up as a defense attorney.

That’s right. In 1991, one year before he started his 12-year run as Detective Lennie Briscoe, Jerry Orbach played a defense attorney named Frank Lehrman in an episode of Law & Order. It’s … it’s really weird, especially since all the classic Orbach/Briscoe moves are there, albeit a little less pronounced. I mean, check out the look on his face in the banner picture up there. Weary, tired, unimpressed, ready to let slip with a one-liner about one of his ex-wives (probably, although we never do get the specifics on Frank’s love life in our short time with him), it’s classic Briscoe, just on the other side of the law. It’s like flipping on TNT some Saturday morning and seeing an episode where Sam Waterston plays an early-1990s drug kingpin who’s on trial for murder. (Would I drop everything to watch this hypothetical episode? Yes. Yes I would.)

All of which brings up an interesting point: What if, instead of landing the Briscoe role in Season 3, Jerry Orbach popped up throughout the series as Frank Lehrman, kind of like the male version of Danielle Melnick? What if Frank and Danielle started a high-powered Manhattan defense firm together in Season 9? WHAT IF THEY GOT A SPIN-OFF CALLED LAW & ORDER: THE ADVERSARIES? WHAT IF THEY GOT MARRIED? It’s almost too much, really.

And while I’m in the business of brain bending, chew on this: The woman Orbach’s character is defending, Melanie Cullen, is on trial for killing her husband and the younger woman he was leaving her for. The husband’s name? Edward Cullen. Now, I’m not saying an 18-year-old Stephanie Meyer was watching television one night in her college dorm and decided on the spot to name one of the main characters in her as-yet-unwritten series of vampire novels after the murder victim in a hot new show called Law & Order, but I’m not not saying that either.

Two notes in closing:

– While we’re on the subject, allow me to direct you to the Wikipedia page for Detective Lennie Briscoe, which might be the most meticulously researched entry on the entire site. Take, for example, this paragraph, in which every sentence but one contains a citation to a different episode of the show.

A Jewish Christian, Briscoe was raised Catholic, but is Jewish on his father’s side and occasionally attends Jewish services as a courtesy to his first wife.[21] His father served in the United States Army during World War II and helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp in German occupied Poland.[22] He suffered from Alzheimer’s and had died by 1994.[23] Lennie did not get along with his father and once described him as a “schmuck”. Nevertheless, he took several days off when he died.[24] In 1997, his mother was living in Florida.[25] She was still alive in 2003.[26] In 2002, his daughter Julia was likewise living in Florida.[27] During the Prohibition in the 1920s, his grandfather brewed gin in his bathtub and sold it door to door in milk bottles.[28]

I like to think it was put together by a bored Supreme Court clerk.

– Remember how I said the episode was from 1991? Get a load of this state-of-the-art hunk of technology. Law & Order is like a time capsule.

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