Series on the up and up

HALLMARK may have changed its name to Universal Channel, but your favourite programmes are still all there.

Take Law & Order, for example. It is the second longest-running crime drama in the history of television. This is its 17th season.

Incubated and delivered by the gifted and creative Dick Wolf, Law & Order is one of the most successful brands on prime time television. In 1997, it won the Emmy for an Outstanding Drama Series and it holds the record for the most consecutive nominations for a drama series, at 11 times.

It is also one of entertainment's pre-eminent brands, with its successful spinoffs Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Filmed entirely on location in New York, the programme looks at crime and justice from a dual perspective. In the first half-hour, Detective Edward Green (Jesse L Martin) and his new partner Detective Nina Cassady (Milena Govich) - the series' first female detective - investigates crimes and apprehend suspects under the supervision of the precinct lieutenant, Anita Van Buren (Epatha Merkerson).

In the second half-hour, the focus shifts to the criminal courts, as executive assistant district attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and his new assistant district attorney Connie Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) work in the complicated justice system to prosecute the accused under the guidance of district attorney Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson).

Some cases may be simple, but most are multi-faceted. The investigations are challenging, prosecutions are complicated, and decisions about legal procedures and plea-bargaining are vexing. In the arduous and complex process of determining guilt and innocence, lives often hang in the balance.

Law & Order is a Wolf Films production in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. Dick Wolf is creator and executive producer and Matthew Penn, Peter Jankowski, Nicholas Wootton and Walon Green are executive producers.