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October 7, 2015

Best 'Law & Order' Guest Stars

by Jane Murphy, posted May 29th 2010 4:00PM
With TNT's reported pass on providing a home for new episodes of 'Law & Order' (or 'Law & Order Prime,' if you please), we move through denial to acceptance. Sigh.

Goodbye Cutter, Rubirosa and Lupo. Sure, we sympathize with those who stopped watching. For some, the "O" in 'L & O' will always stand for 'Orbach'.

Truth is, we'll miss the guest stars as much as the regulars. During the show's 20-year run, 'L &O's' visitors almost always matched the series' stellar cast. From up-and-comers to Broadway veterans, Manhattan is an island of great actors, and 'L & O' used them all. Another consistent casting coup of this serious procedural – comedians appeared in many a killer role.

Since there are over 450 episodes to choose from, here's our stab at some of the most memorable guest stars from 'L&O Prime's' lifetime.

Zach Galifiankis: Okay, he never appeared on 'L & O' (but wouldn't he make a great defense attorney on 'Law & Order: Los Angeles'?) Back in March, when he hosted 'Saturday Night Live,' 'The Hangover' and 'Bored to Death' sidekick had his turn headlining a Digital Short. In 'Zach Drops by the Set', Galifiankis hilariously disrupts the production of several NBC shows. And you say Lupo and Bernard never cracked a smile.

'Zach Drops by the Set'

Claire Danes: As a wannabe supermodel in an episode called 'Skin Deep,' she's a suspect in a photographer's death. Danes' precocity was on full display; she was barely 13 when the episode aired in 1992. Her star-making role, in 'My So Called Life,' would be on ABC's schedule two years later.

Tovah Feldshuh: The mamma from 'Kissing Jessica Stein' recurred as ardent defense counsel Danielle Melnick. Her first 'L & O' case was against original A.D.A. Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) -- Feldshuh's appearances spanned 16 of the show's 20 years. In Melnick's career, she made friends (Jack McCoy was an admiring adversary) and enemies (in season 13, she survives a gunshot wound).

Laura Linney: At her brittle best in 'Blue Bamboo.' This 1994 episode showcases Linney as an ambitious singer looking for a break. When she's hauled in for the murder of her ex-boss, she fesses up with steel in her voice, claiming self-defense. The two-time Emmy winner will return to television later this year in Showtime's 'The Big C.'

Denis O'Hare: In 1996, little-known character actor Denis O'Hare won the tricky role of a homicidal schizophrenic in 'Pro Se.' Before the troubled man's murder trial begins, he resumes taking his anti-psychotic medication and asks to defend himself. Turns out, he's a legal genius. O'Hare's transitions from proficiency to insanity are astonishing. The actor is now nearly ubiquitous, flipping out on George Clooney in 'Michael Clayton' and soon to be seen in 'True Blood.'

Jerry Adler: Best known as Hesh the loan shark on 'The Sopranos,' Adler was unforgettable in season 7's 'I.D.' as past-his-prime judge Nathan Marks. Judge Marks' compulsive harassment of Jamie (Carey Lowell) threatens to derail the state's case. This episode also provides one of Steven Hill's best moments as D.A. Adam Schiff, when he tells his old friend Nathan it's time to step down.

Regina Taylor: In 1993, Sam Waterston and Regina Taylor were Emmy-nominated for their roles on the NBC drama 'I'll Fly Away.' After 'Fly's cancellation, both found work with Dick Wolf. Waterston has been on 'L & O' ever since, and Taylor was wrenching as a reluctant accuser in 'Virtue,' a compelling season 5 episode.

Larry Miller: Two episodes starring the bravely abrasive Miller explore the question: can you get 20 to life for being really annoying? In 1994's 'Coma,' Michael Dobson (Miller) possesses a personality so off-putting that it may be the prosecution's ace in the hole. Two years later, the appropriately titled 'Encore' sees Miller's return as Dobson, and for a suspiciously similar crime.

Chevy Chase: Arguably, Cornelius Crane Chase does his best work on NBC. In a 17th season episode called 'In Vino Veritas,' 'Saturday Night Live's' first breakout star and current 'Community' regular appears as an actor between gigs. Things begin to unravel for Chase's Mitch Carroll when he's brought into the 2-7 on a DWI and launches into an anti-Semitic tirade. 'L & O' isn't always Ripped From the Headlines, but we'll let you, and a certain Oscar-winning actor-director, be the judge on this one.

John Doe: The plot of 'Blaze' recalled the tragic Rhode Island nightclub fire of 2003. Punk pioneer Doe is piercing as a smug rock star pestered by a teenage fan. In addition to 'L & O,' Doe has guest starred on everything from 'Party of Five' to 'Wizards of Waverly Place.' As far as his work with the legendary Los Angeles band 'X,' YouTube is full of their tunes.

The Sklar Brothers: Stunt casting was rare on 'L & O,' and neither Randy nor Jason Sklar -- stand-up comics by trade -- will ever grace 'Masterpiece Theatre.' But we have to admit it's fun trying to solve the mystery of 2005's 'Dining Out' when two of the suspects are identical twins (they're pictured at left, looking less identical).

Tony Hale: Buster, is that you? To Bluth-iacs, the 'Arrested Development' cast member will always be long-suffering youngest sib Buster Bluth. This year, Hale also suffered plenty -- but not for laughs -- in a mid-season 'L & O' episode. As a father caught in an international custody dispute, he was at times enraged or quietly desperate -- Hale kept you guessing. 'Brazil' was perhaps the best episode of 'L & O's' final season, and here's our evidence. In the only clip made available on NBC.com, Hale cedes the spotlight to Linus Roache, but it's a heck of a scene (we hope this is on your Emmy reel, Cutter).

'Law & Order: Brazil'

Have we missed any favorites? Sure we have. Share your 'Law & Order' memories below.

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Standout guest appearances...

One I always remember is the late Dana Elcar as a blind man so bitter about losing his sight that his son plants a computer virus at a diabetes clinic that couldn't help the father keep his vision...

Also, an episode where Richard brooks came back as Paul Robinette, now in private practice and squaring off against Jack McCoy...

And someone already mentioned the early-seasons episode featuring S. Epatha Merkerson as the mother of an infant killed when a gang kid busts in and shoots up the wrong apartment after mixing up the street names because he can't read

May 31 2010 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like the one when Julia Roberts guested with her then hubby Benjamin Bratt. I love love love him and adding her was just a bonus!

May 31 2010 at 6:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thank God for Reruns

Burt Young as the creepy paroled rapist who shaves his body hair and rapes and kills a young girl immediately after his release was exceptional. I barely slept for a week after that episode.

I agree with the Larry Miller episodes. No one does "slimy" better than him.

Special mention should also go to the two very early episodes that had S. Epatha Merkerson and Jerry Orbach playing very different roles than the longstandng roles in which they were eventually cast.

May 30 2010 at 3:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now with L&O officially dead Lupo can move to Philly to be Charlies' smart brother. Swear they are separated at birth.

May 30 2010 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You forgot the episode that Martha Plimpton and Mary Steenburgen starred in. Martha was a drug addict who saw her mother (Mary's character) murder her little sister. Excellent acting all around. I believe Estelle Parsons was in it as well as the Grandmother.

May 29 2010 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TMZ's comment

@tmz that was Law and Order: SVU not Law and Order

May 29 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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