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It Doesn’t Take a Detective to Ace Our ‘Law & Order’ Quiz

In the criminal justice system … we’re putting trivia on trial


spinner image Cast of rebooted original 'Law & Order' surrounded by blue, dark blue and red circles with question marks in them
NBCUniversal

In 1988, producer Dick Wolf conceived the original Law & Order TV series to sing the praises of the American criminal justice system. Since debuting in 1990, it has spawned more than half a dozen spin-offs, transforming Law & Order from a singular series into a decades-old franchise encompassing more than 1,000 hours of prime-time television — all featuring Wolf’s signature brand of “ripped from the headlines” storytelling. Have you watched them all? Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then take the stand to put your Law & Order knowledge to the test.

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Question 1 of 10

A voiceover opens every episode of Law & Order that begins, “In the criminal justice system …” How does the voiceover end?

The opening narration says: “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.” The man behind the voice is actor Steve Zirnkilton, who has performed the voiceover for every Law & Order series.

Question 2 of 10

True or false: Law & Order star Sam Waterston only intended to appear in the series for a single season.

spinner image Sam Waterston as DA Jack McCoy and Jeremy Gabriel as Jordan Payne in a still from 'Law & Order'; surrounded by blue, dark blue and red circles with question marks in them
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Sam Waterston joined Law & Order as district attorney Jack McCoy in 1994 during its fifth season. When Dick Wolf asked him to join the show, he agreed — but only for a year. “I didn’t think I’d be there long,” Waterston told The New York Times. He ended up staying for 16 seasons and returned for the Law & Order reboot that premiered in 2022.

Question 3 of 10

True or false: The Law & Order franchise airs on CBS.

Law & Order and its various spinoffs have all aired on NBC. But the network almost missed the Law & Order boat. Dick Wolf originally intended for the show to air on Fox. When Fox rejected it, he filmed a Law & Order pilot for CBS — which also rejected it. That was in 1988. NBC finally gave the series a home in 1990 when it ordered an initial run of 13 episodes.

Question 4 of 10

True or false: The iconic “dun dun” sound that signals scene changes is intended to sound like a judge’s gavel.

The famous “dun dun” — or “chung chung” — that plays between scenes was created by composer Mike Post. It’s “the stylized sound of a jail cell locking,” Post once told Entertainment Weekly. According to Post, the sound is actually an amalgamation of at least six different sounds, including an actual jail door slamming, the sound of someone hitting an anvil with a hammer and the sound of 100 men stomping on a wooden floor.

Question 5 of 10

Every U.S. Law & Order series has taken place in New York City, with the exception of one short-lived spin-off that was set in what city?

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spinner image Tall buildings, ferris wheel and lighthouse along water; surrounded by red circles with question marks in them
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spinner image Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial with trees and water in front of them; surrounded by red circles with question marks in them
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New York City is such a vivid presence in Law & Order that it often feels like a character in the show instead of its setting. In 2010, however, Wolf left New York for sunnier weather with Law & Order: Los Angeles. Starring actors Terrence Howard, Corey Stoll, Alana De La Garza, Rachel Ticotin and Alfred Molina, the show lasted just one season before being canceled in 2011.

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Question 6 of 10

Which actor has appeared on the franchise as a guest star?

Law & Order and its various spin-offs have played host to countless celebrity guest stars, including Bradley Cooper, Sarah Paulson and Idris Elba, as well as Robin Williams, Martin Short, Alec Baldwin, Carol Burnett, John Stamos, Angela Lansbury, Henry Winkler, Pedro Pascal, Jennifer Garner, Claire Danes, Allison Janney, Whoopi Goldberg, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart, just to name a few.

Question 7 of 10

True or false: Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay is a real-life advocate for victims of sexual assault.

spinner image Kerry Butler as Denise Lynch and Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson in a still from Law & Order S V U; surrounded by blue, dark blue and red circles with question marks in them
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

For 24 seasons running, Hargitay’s character, detective Olivia Benson, has investigated sex crimes on Law & Order: SVU. But Hargitay doesn’t just play an advocate for sexual assault victims on TV. She once trained as a rape crisis counselor, and in 2004 she established the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that supports survivors of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

Question 8 of 10

Which former Law & Order actor reprised his role for the newest series, Law & Order: Organized Crime?

For the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, actor Christopher Meloni played detective Elliot Stabler. In May 2011, however, he decided to leave over a contract dispute. Ten years later, in 2021, he reprised his role as Stabler in the spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime, in which Stabler returns to the New York police department as a member of its organized crime control bureau.

Question 9 of 10

Which Law & Order actor was also a former U.S. Senator?

The late actor Fred Thompson joined the show as district attorney Arthur Branch in 2002 and played him on 116 episodes spanning five seasons from 2002 until 2007. Prior to joining the Law & Order family, however, Thompson was a U.S. senator from Tennessee, serving from 1994 until 2003 — which means he made his first appearance on the show while still holding elected office. He left the show in 2007 to launch an unsuccessful presidential bid.

Question 10 of 10

True or false: On Law & Order: SVU, Ice-T has had the longest-running TV performance of any Black actor on prime-time television.

spinner image Ice-T as Sergeant Adafin Fin Tutuola sitting at a desk in a still from Law & Order S V U; surrounded by blue, dark blue and red circles with question marks in them
Zach Dilgard/NBC

In 2017, Ice-T celebrated 18 seasons playing detective Odafin Tutuola, making Tutuola the longest-running Black character in prime time. The previous record holder was fellow Law & Order alumnus S. Epatha Merkerson, who portrayed lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the original Law & Order for 17 years. But Ice-T wasn’t done breaking records: In 2022, he marked 24 seasons on SVU, making him the longest-running male actor on TV.

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