There's a lot of talk that this will be the last season for "Law & Order" on NBC -- and almost as much talk that new episodes will air on TNT after the NBC run. I've been looking at the season finale, which airs on May 18, and it sure looks like a farewell of sorts.
Not because of the story, or even because of the inside jokes about Fred Thompson's political aspirations. Rather some other elements seem designed to mark the show's place in TV history. Among them:
-- Jeffrey Tambor, who played a nutty judge on "Hill Street Blues," is a semi-nutty judge in the episode.
-- Harry Hamlin, who played a savvy defense attorney on "L.A. Law," is the defendant.
-- Hamlin uses a vulgar two-word expression that's an echo of a line in the pilot of "N.Y.P.D. Blue."
-- The plot has some unsettling material that would have fit into "L&O: Special Victims Unit."
I'd take the last one as a torch-passing, since "SVU" seems to have the longest legs of the remaining "L&Os," and the others as an argument that "L&O" should be ranked among the top crime shows in TV history.