September 16, 2004

The B- List

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It’s Monday night and I’m sitting here trying to think of some topic for my column, an activity I should’ve been spending more time on during the past two weeks. I keep putting off writing because I’m watching one of my favourite shows on TV. It’s even an episode I haven’t seen, so that’s like finding gold. Honestly, I don’t spend that much time watching TV during the week, it just seems like it. See, I do all my TV watching in a big block on Monday night, tonight, wallowing in the glory that is: Law & Order.

That’s right, I’m one of them, a Law & Order addict.

You all know them, perhaps you even are one yourself. Maybe you’re out of the closet, like myself, and don’t care anymore about the stares you get from your friends when you hoard the remote and force them all to join you in a five-hour marathon. Or maybe you haven’t reached that point of acceptance yet and you watch secretly in your own room, afraid of what others would think if they should find that you know all the actors’ names from all the seasons. Yes, I know who S. Epatha Merkerson is.

My own case of addiction is so advanced, I couldn’t hide from public scrutiny if I wanted to. Monday night, everyone I live with knows where I will be: laying down on the long green couch, remote in my right hand, slowly dissolving into a Law & Order coma. Watching the police chase down the perpetrator, the DA’s finessing their case and discovering all the fine details, and the ultimate judgement that comes down from the courtroom. Ah, what bliss to watch the fictional American legal system in action.

It’s a hard thing to remember that the show is fiction, especially because the episodes are frighteningly realistic and “ripped from the headlines” as the commercials so enjoy proclaiming. Of course, they also have the disclaimer at the beginning of all episodes that the show is made up. So, however you want to work out that conundrum, that’s up to you; I can be of no help. I prefer to believe (in the way that means I know it’s not the truth, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was?) that the show’s characters are real and that Jack McCoy is out there fighting the good fight. A certain friend of mine is obsessed with the idea that Jack McCoy should be the vice-president to President Bartlett.

Even though I am in love with the main characters of Law & Order, the show is constructed so that you don’t have to know anything about the characters to enjoy the program. Each episode is a self-contained story that doesn’t rely on the personal lives of the characters for plot development. Of course, the show didn’t always used to be so perfectly packaged for mass consumption. The older shows have much more to do with the lives of the police officers and DA’s, so therefore they are less accessible to a casual viewer. To make the show easier to watch on a casual basis, each show started to focus more on the intricacies of each case and less on the personal lives of the stars.

Strangely, this fact has made me love the show so much that I do watch it religiously, never missing a new episode. Other shows that do require a viewing commitment don’t seem to capture me as much. Well, aside from Smallville, but that’s another column that I’ve already written. Sidebar done, back to Law & Order. The show doesn’t need me to watch every week to be able to follow the plot, and yet it’s this very aspect of casualness that makes me want to watch the show as much as I can.

Watching Law & Order is a large group activity for me. I always know that as I sit here for hours at a time watching the television, my housemates will slowly come out of their respective rooms, stand around for a bit chatting, pretending they’re going to back to studying, before settling down in the living room and joining me for an episode. Or two. Or three. Even when they leave, I know they’ll come back out in an hour or so, and I’ll be here waiting with my Law & Order. Since we all have such different schedules, I feel like this is a good tradition for us to have, a nice way for us to spend time together.

Though, nothing will beat last year for viewing Law & Order, specifically second semester, when my friend Angie and I would sit together Monday nights for the entire five-hour marathon. The swinging-door policy of housemates viewing the show with us was the same then, but the two of us were the mainstays, each with our own spot on the couch that we always had dibs on. Law & Order is a great show, highly addictive, fast-paced, always churning out controversial topics that incite debate, but the real beauty of it for me is the social situation that arises from watching the show. Good times with good friends. And now my clich