As you may have heard, Law & Order original recipe has been cancelled (though rumors are rumbling it’ll return for another season on TNT). Sure, the sexy crimes one is still around, but sometimes you just want your plain, not-too-kinky L&O, right? Now that we’re doomed to watch re-runs forever, we’re celebrating the show’s Jewiest episodes. To quench your thirst for chosen criminals, victims and, of course, defense attorneys, here are The Eight Greatest Jewish Moments of Law & Order. (Remember, this is only for L&O proper, none of those xeroxes.)
Episode: The Fertile Fields
Original Air Date: April 7, 1992
Special Jew Guest Star: Jerry Stiller
Plot: Jew is burned by a group of black street toughs, but did they kill him? [Chung chung!]
Best Line: “You want to stay alive, stay below 86th Street.”
The Takeaway: It’s amazing it took until the second season to get a Jewish plot line. Sadly, it’s tame compared to later Jewy episodes. The best part, however, is seeing how rough and tumble the Upper West Side was back in the 90s. Apparently, Zabar’s on W. 81st was as high as a Jew could travel before getting slashed and burned.
Original Air Date: April 13, 1994
Big Fat Greek Guest Star: Michael Constantine
Plot: When a Jewish driver kills a black child in Harlem, NYC devolves into a riot town — and it’s open season on the Semitic.
Best Line: “I know a Jew when I see one.”
The Takeaway: I didn’t know a Jew could start a riot so easily! Harlem erupts, but the trial centers around a boy who killed an Italian he mistook for a Jew. As if any NYC black kid can’t tell a meatball from a matzoh ball! Episode also features recurring defense attorney Shambala Green. I just like saying Shambala, and is that a Jewish last name?
Episode: Blood Libel
Original Air Date: January 3, 1996
Special Klan Guest Star: Chris Cooper
Plot: Lil’ anti-Semite ices a Jewish teacher who ratted on him. Smarmy kike-hater Chris Cooper shows up to hatch a conspiracy theory of “Elders of Zion” proportions.
Best Line: “It was just a joke. Ezra Pound made fun of the Jews, Hemingway too.”
The Takeaway: Now we’re talking! It’s a real live anti-Semitic plotline. The shot above is a coded message hidden in a high school yearbook. Clever schmucks. The real magic touch comes from Chris Cooper, guest starring as the “Klan Lawyer” Roy Paine, cooking up a theory of Hebraic misconduct starting with Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). The theory is that we Jews stick together, and are even willing to cover up Jew-on-Jew murder by blaming the gentile. There’s K-word all over this episode (and for a little history on that word’s origin, here’s a lesson from Richard Schiff.)
Original Air Date: May 21, 1997
Special Jew Guest Star: Susie Essman (Pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm, she’s got like 2 lines.)
Plot: Gunman opens fire at a Jewish charity boat party. Was it antisemitism?
Best Line: “Listen, if I wanted to kill Jews I would just run a red light in my taxi. This is New York City.”
The Takeaway: It turns out the shooting had nothing to do with antisemitism, and the latter half of the show’s just standard gentile fare. However, when Briscoe and Curtis interview an Arab cab driver, he shoots back the best Jewish line of the entire L&O run. (It’s worth repeating: “Listen, if I wanted to kill Jews I would just run a red light in my taxi. This is New York City.”) It gets me every time; we’re everywhere! Who writes for this guy, Henny Youngman?
Original Air Date: November 15, 2000
Special Jew Guest Star: Evan Handler (of Sex and the City fame)
Plot: An adopted Yid emigrates to Israel to avoid prosecution for killing his father’s business partner, only to have a Beit Din discover his conversion ain’t good enough to be granted a Holy Land passport. [Chung chung!]
Best Line: “A shonda!”
The Takeaway: Perhaps the most engaging of all Heebonically themed L&Os, this one features model-cum-actress Angie Harmon trying to speak Hebrew while three rebbes try to keep their jaws up. Watch Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), who’s gone gunning for the church a few times, study Jewish law to win the case. And Evan Handler, as much a potato-faced nudnik as ever, is a a delight.
Original Air Date: January 15, 2003
Special Jew Guest Star: Peter Jacobson (his first appearance as defense attorney Randy Dworkin, pre-House)
Plot: Bookie kills a guy so he can keep sending piles of cash to Israel.
Best Line: “And while we’re still on the subject, let’s not forget about my great Aunt Sophie who spent six glorious years in that garden spot known as Auschwitz until American violence said, ‘Soph! you can go home now.’”
The Takeaway: If you’ve never seen a Randy Dworkin episode of L&O, this is the place to start. He lobs a fast one past McCoy. First, he stacks the jury with Jews. Then, he casually introduces the fact that his client donates all his money to fight terrorism in Israel.
Episode: Bible Story
Original Air Date: December 5, 2005
Special Jew Guest Star: Mark Feuerstein
Plot: A thug is murdered outside of a synagogue after he rips up a holocaust chumash.
Best Line: “Look what this religious stuff does to people. Wasn’t it enough that my uncle survived? Why did he have to come home with a fake book?”
The Takeaway: This one’s got all the bells and whistles. A hate crime, a real estate feud and even a twist or two. It was an inside job! It was a fake book! It was Judaism’s fault! Enjoy checking out pre-Royal Pains Mark Feurstein, who plays a slick non-religious Yid.
Episode: In Vino Veritas
Original Air Date: November 3, 2006
Special Anti-Semite Guest Star: Chevy Chase
Plot: Famous actor gets pulled over for a DUI and starts accusing the Jews of screwing up his life. Turns out his son killed a Jew bitch!
Best Line: “What do you care? She was just some Jew bitch!” Also of note, the word “sugartits” slipped past the censors.
The Takeaway: Ripped from the gossip column! See, whenever Chase’s character gets drunk, he goes off whoopin’ and hollerin’ about Jewish conspiracies. It’s possibly your only opportunity to see Fletch fly into an anti-Semitic rage. Right at the opening scene, he gets out of his car, bloodied and drunk, and screams, “You’re a Jew, aren’t you?” right in the cop’s face. And it aired just four short months after Mel Gibson’s breakdown, ruining Chase’s chance to ever appear in a Lethal Weapon movie.