Why 'Law & Order's' Michael Cutter Still Sets The Bar
TV doesn't make lawyers like Michael Cutter anymore.
It's been just over six years since the character was introduced as Law & Order's chief prosecutor, taking over for a promoted Jack McCoy. Almost four years since NBC shuttered the legendary series. But Cutter - one hundred percent perfectly played by Golden Globe nominee Linus Roache - has lived on, first through a guest stint on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and now through perpetual reruns of the mothership on cable.
And it's been watching those reruns for hours every Sunday that's led us to want to repeat something we said six years ago: Michael Cutter wasn't only the best lawyer Law & Order ever saw, but also one of the best to ever be seen on TV.
Why bring this up again now, you ask? Why devote column space to a show that's moved into the history books? Because we've realized Cutter represents an elite class of TV character. Everyone has their favorite when a series is airing; becoming invested in the characters is one of the major reeasons why a show works or doesn't work. It's not out of the ordinary to say that when Law & Order was on, we were huge fans of Cutter's impassioned prosecutions of the bad guys.
It is out of the ordinary to watch the same episodes years later, and be impressed by him all over again. To feel energized by Roache's performances again. To realize that yes, we've missed this guy, and no, he didn't really get enough credit.
It's hard to create a character that stands the test of time like that. Think of all the series on all the channels over just the past six years, and all the players on every single one of those shows. Even if you just zero in on lawyers, legal and procedural shows are probably the biggest genre on television. Focusing on the Law & Order franchise is still no small affair, not with two decades and a half-dozen spinoffs. Yet even with all that history, and the show's mandate not to focus on the personal lives of its characters, we still were enraptured by Michael Cutter.
What made him so great was that you never quite knew what he was going to do next. "This guy's nuts, you know that?" said the murder suspect in Season 20's 'Innocence,' and it was so true. We saw Cutter routinely outwit defendants into making confessions on the stand. He often gave District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) headaches with his 'I don't give a damn' attitude. He took on the governor of New York and, with some nudging from McCoy, even the federal government.
Let's not forget the episode where he convinced foreign dignitaries that the murder suspect they were giving asylum to was an enemy spy, just to get him back on U.S. soil - and then told them he made the whole thing up. If he really was crazy, it was like a fox.