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The 7 Most Awkward Law & Order Celebrity Cameos


Every so often on Law & Order you get a "Ripped From the Headlines" episode. The procedural drama equivalent of the sitcom' Very Special Episode, a RFTH episode is guaranteed to have at least two of the following: A plotline suspiciously similar to some incident that shocked the nation a good two or three months ago; shameless stunt casting in the form of a celebrity guest acting against type; and Benjamin Bratt not acting very well. With most of our afternoons free anyway, we here at CRACKED sat down and noted the most uncomfortable of these episodes during one of our daily L&O marathons.

#7.
Stephen Colbert, Criminal Intent, season 3

Colbert's character is a forger of antique documents assisting a cult-like church in trying to prove its founder's sainthood. Colbert's mother is part of the congregation, and when one of the members is murdered, the son's past forgeries suggest a sinister motive. CI always tackles high-profile crimes, and no heinous act grips the public quite like…historical letter forgery!

Ripped from the headlines?
Yes. A skilled forger by the name of Mark Hofmann achieved notoriety by "discovering" early Mormon documents that cast doubt on the foundations of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Hofmann had cooked them up himself, and he managed to fool the Justice League of Handwriting Experts, or whoever gets to declare these things genuine.

Soon he was faking all kinds of documents: Brigham Young's false claim to succession, a Pilgrim constitution, Mark Twain's Bar Mitzvah speech. His finds were so in-demand that he started killing people pressuring him for new material. (Take note, CRACKED editors.)

Worth watching uncomfortably?
Colbert makes us laugh when he pretends to be a creepy, naive man. With this episode, he proves to the world that "creepy" is actually his entire dramatic range. It's almost impossible to watch his scenes here because you're anticipating punchlines that never come-it's like he faked right… and went right.

The overwrought dialogue doesn't help. On the other hand, doesn't this seem like a Colbert Report bit? A man who fabricates American history to bamboozle churchy folk with their own hypocrisy? Throw in some false grizzly bear leads, and this one reeks of Steve.

#6.
Jerry Orbach, season 2

When we used to stumble out of bed every weekday at 1 PM for our breakfast L&O rerun, we were content in the snug bubble of predictability that eased us into our day. One of the most predictable aspects: Jerry Orbach's ingeniously embittered turn as Detective Lenny Briscoe.

Imagine our reaction one morning when we saw good old Detective Briscoe pop up on the screen… playing a lawyer. Huh? As our egg-on-cold-pizza dripped down our chin, we began to wonder: Just how much hash is too much hash? How could New York' most one-liner-prone gumshoe be appearing as a friggin' attorney?

Ripped from the headlines?
It's your typical wife-and-lover homicide or something. Anyway, it doesn't matter: Nobody remembers the plot. It's the one where Lenny plays a lawyer. That's the plot.

Worth watching uncomfortably?
Yes, if you're in the mood for a good mindfuck. It's one thing when a bit player shows up twice or three times in different roles (we're looking at you, Zach Grenier), but quite another when that bit player later turns into the most beloved fixture of the franchise.

It's especially rich because Jerry Orbach is essentially playing Lenny with a more Jewish name and an extra $10 invested in his haircut. You can just look at his face and tell that he wishes he were working the streets. With no corpse to compare to his ex-wife, he has to settle for legal zingers: "It's called plea bargaining, not plea scalping." Someone get this man to a bloody crime scene.

#5.
Gary Busey, season 12

While Busey playing his wife's killer is so natural that screenwriting software has it in autotext, this episode makes the list for casting Busey as a Vegas lounge singer. He doesn't get to sing, but the suggestion alone makes us drool.

Plus, the Busey is innately surreal-he could read the phone book and it would still freak us out. The episode is called "Formerly Famous," and if that's not literal enough for you, Joe Piscopo plays the manager of "the next N'Sync."

Ripped from the headlines?
Who's crazier, Gary Busey or Robert Blake? What if there was a way to combine their relative psychotic states to make a whole new category of insanity? This episode answers that question, giving you the Blake trial by way of Mr. Joshua. Some details of Bonny Lee Bakely's murder are included, including Blake/Busey stumbling into a restaurant and the child custody motive, but the verdict is changed. Even in fiction, it's goddamn Gary Busey, and he's always guilty.

Worth watching uncomfortably?
Definitely worth it, if only for Busey's maniacal leap from the witness box, which surprisingly doesn't reveal that he has painted his loins in blood (damn prudish censors).

You know he's utterly capable of breaking the fourth wall and wrestling script runners to the ground while singing "Camptown Ladies." Also enjoyable is this sage line of dialogue from a judge: "I wouldn't be Solomon if I didn't occasionally split the baby." Please, sir, I beg you, pick a nicer metaphor around Gary.

#4.
Julia Roberts, season 9

Love in Hollywood means you'd do anything for your sweetie. When you're the more famous/talented one, you get to feel good about lifting your partner up to your level. But you're also obliged to step down to their level when they ask. So you grit your teeth and star in their off-off-off-Broadway show, or jump on stage during their concert, or cheer when the camera pans to you in the stands during their basketball game.

Julia Roberts dated Benjamin Bratt for a few years. Here' the proof.

Ripped from the headlines?
The murder in question is Viagra-related. Because nothing said "zeitgeist" back in the '01 like Viagra. It really deserved more of our cultural attention, didn't it?

Worth watching uncomfortably?
The biggest star in the world-the Viagra reference of actresses, if you will-being plopped into the same pool of working stiffs that have kept Law & Order honest for 87 seasons results in an implosion of the senses.

Her scenes mostly involve her seducing Curtis, which really only serves to make us think about how much better it would have if it were Lenny (Lenny seducing Curtis, we mean). Anyway, she does that staring-sexy thing she always does. Good times for all.

#3.
Cynthia Nixon, season 1

Two young black men hit on an incredibly young and pale Cynthia Nixon, so she shoots them both dead. It' not unlike how her Sex and the City character would have responded, if you replace "shoots them" with "allows them to have sex with her."

Her character later claims that the pair was about to assault her, and Nixon spends the rest of the episode defending her trigger-happy reaction.

Ripped from the headlines?
The entire incident occurred almost verbatim in 1984, when New York City was suffering its highest crime rate in history, and a guy named Bernhard Goetz, like Nixon, shot two young black men on a subway. That went over about as well as you would imagine.

This L&O episode also features a reality-based victims' rights group consisting of black men who swagger into the courtroom and re-enact the crime, which results in a riot. (This was early in the series, when witnesses could crack wise on the stand and the court would erupt in laughter. The legal half of Law & Order was, after all, a Night Court spin-off.)

Worth watching uncomfortably?
To complete the Sex and the City circle, there's a wonderful scene in which two uniformed cops are searching Nixon's apartment and they discover some books on how to achieve orgasm. They're yukking it up just as Nixon walks in. She gives them a "sad bear" look like Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Miranda would have turned their penises to ash with the power of her mind, and used them to garnish her Cosmo. So yeah, there' a delightful awkward pleasure in this one.

#2.
Jennifer Garner, season 6

Detective Rey Curtis meets a random girl in the street and, uh, yeah, they sleep together after mustering the maximum amount of "chemistry" that Law & Order can afford. Their resulting courtship features the line: "Now, Oasis-that's the ticket." Oh Rey, you're adorable.

Ripped from the headlines?
Front page banner: "Benjamin Bratt Out-Acts Someone."

Worth watching uncomfortably?
This whole episode is noteworthy for being the first one dedicated to the lead characters' inner lives. "Weird" doesn't begin to describe it. Characters wo are supposed to be lover banter with each other like they're grilling some perp, and the dialogue is filled with awkward pauses, as if everyone's waiting for Profaci to come in with a ballistics report.

We're pretty sure the plot has something to do with morality, which is where a pre-fame Jen Garner sails in, playing Tempty the Skank. Unlike her prudish (though often leather-clad) character on Alias, here Garner treats some steamy afternoon delight with a married man as no more scandalous than clipping her toenails.

Also in this episode, Lenny goes and kills the hottest ADA in the show's history

#1.
Chevy Chase, season 17

There's really no question about who demolishes the field of what-the-Christ-am-I-watching contenders. Seriously, we bow to L&O's perfectly insane stroke of casting genius: Chevy Chase doing Mel Gibson.

Ripped from the headlines?
Photocopied is more like it. The writers spent three seconds "fictionalizing" Mel's ubiquitous rant, which is five seconds less than they usually take when they're desperate to cash in on a justice-related celebrity shitstorm. It's about as subtle as having Cassady and Green investigate Vice President Dan Ackroyd for shooting his pal in the face.

Worth watching uncomfortably?
Almost anyone else repeating Gibson's soliloquy verbatim would be boring and played. Chevy Chase spewing out "Are you a Jew?" and "sugartits," however, is mind-blowing.

What actor would even set himself up for such a thing? Well, look at the state of Chase's career: He hasn't made a movie AS GOOD as the terrible Vegas Vacation in ten years. Someone must have seen him storm off the set of Politically Incorrect, or witnessed one of his increasingly crotchety public appearances, or compared the roles he turned down (American Beauty) with those he accepted (Goose on the Loose, anyone?) and realized that sometime during his three decades of rehab and failed projects, Chevy Chase earned his PhD in desperation.

No, you wouldn't connect Chase with Gibson unless you were playing Six Degrees of Ass '90s Movies, but that's part of its Zen-like weirdness: He embodies Gibson's meltdown completely. Chevy, this may be the funniest moment you have ever given us. Since the talk show, that is.

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