In the blogosphere the people are divided into two seperate yet equally important groups: the producers who research new content, and the commentators who analyze and talk about it. This is a story of what happens when it all comes together.
DET. GREEN: We’ve got a man here, a single man, who has endeavored to watch every single episode of the now canceled Law & Order. He’s taking copious notes about conviction rates, plea bargains, and other outcomes, on a season-by-season basis.
Now this other guy is crunching all of that data, cross-referencing it against real New York City crime rates, and making some intelligent conclusions based on the comparisons. It all comes together at Overthinking It. It’s pretty sick stuff.
DET. BRISCOE: I liked TV better when only boobs watched it…
MEDICAL EXAMINER ROGERS: The analysis isn’t complete. Their researcher has only completed the first ten seasons. But the results thus far are nothing short of fascinating.
Here’s the top-line chart on the outcomes achieved by the DA’s office during the first ten seasons of Law & Order:
LT. VAN BUREN: You should really read the post for a more detailed explanation of these categories. The post’s author, Matthew Belinkie, goes on to tell us that the real-life plea bargain rates are over 95%. But he points out that it would make sense for us only to see the most interesting cases from Ben Stone and Jack McCoy.
ADA KINCAID: Actually, I think this is the most surprising chart. They’ve plotted the general conviction rates of the Law & Order attorneys against the actual murder rate in New York City during the years of the show:
So what potentially happened between 1993 and 1994 to make the show’s writers reverse course so sharply?
DA SCHIFF: I’ll put in a call to the mayor’s office:
[I]n November 1993, at the same time the DAs of L&O were stumbling to a 59% success rate, Rudy Guiliani was elected Mayor. One of his big campaign issues had been, well, law and order, and tackling the crime rate was the centerpiece of his first year…
Here’s why I think this is interesting: Giuliani didn’t just fight crime, he fought crime in a lot of very visible ways that average New Yorkers would take note of. I don’t mean to take anything away from his acheivements — there was a remarkable drop in crime during his administration. But even before the murder rate started dropping, Giuliani created a strong public perception that there was a new sheriff in town. He restored people’s faith in law and order, and Law & Order immediately responded.
Take a look at 1994 on the chart above. The murder rate dropped by about 15%, and the L&O conviction rate shot up by more than 20%. There was a whole new feeling of optimism in the city and on the show (not to mention a young new DA by the name of Jack McCoy).
DR. EMIL SKODA: Without sitting down with Dick Wolf, there’s only so much I can say. But you could take the connection a step further and say that the character of Jack McCoy is very much based on the real life Rudy Giuliani. Remember, Giuliani became famous as the U.S. Attorney for S.D.N.Y. and prosecuted the hell out of the Mob. Giuliani used to be a Democrat and McCoy is certainly more liberal than Giuliani the Mayor — but in the late ’90s, the show brought on Angie Harmon’s character in a clear attempt to bring some more hard-ass fascism into the show, a nod to Giuliani’s mayoral administration I think. Thanks for lunch.
EADA MCCOY: Overthinking It has made its baseline data available to all. So you can go over there, check it out and make your own conclusions!
But there is one conclusion that you must make. And that conclusion is that the analysis of how the show changed in the post 9/11 environment will be very interesting for all parties involved.
You can pretend that there aren’t people like the citizens at Overthinking It, but they are there. And they are doing this work! And we must respect it, we must value it, and we must defend it if need be.
Logged & Ordered: The First 10 Seasons [Overthinking It]