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The Staggering Number Of Law & Order Episodes Jerry Orbach Actually Filmed

As the flagship series in the "Law & Order" franchise is set to return to the airwaves with an unexpected primetime revival, fans are understandably excited to once again lay eyes on some of characters who made the original show such a joy to watch from week to week. While we already know the likes of Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson are set to appear in season 21 of "Law & Order," we can only assume other faces from the "Law & Order" past will also turn up in some capacity, as well.

Sadly, one face from the O.G. "Law & Order" we know will not be back is that of Jerry Orbach, who arguably became the face of the franchise after portraying the steadfast, and infamously quippy Detective Lennie Briscoe for 12 full seasons. Though Briscoe ultimately retired in a 2004 episode of "L&O," Orbach likely would've played the part for several more seasons via guest appearances had he not passed from prostate cancer that same year. Even still, Orbach remains one of the longest-tenured actors in the "Law & Order" family, and the number of episodes he appeared in over his run might surprise even die-hard fans of the show.

Orbach appeared in nearly 300 episodes of Law & Order

By the time Jerry Orbach decided to put Lennie Briscoe's badge down for good, he had filmed an astonishing 274-episodes of "Law & Order." And yes, he delivered his usual sardonic, laugh-out-loud one-liners — too numerous to count — over and over again, throughout that stretch. En route, Briscoe became not only the clear fan favorite amongst the "Law & Order" detective corp, but the best-loved character of Orbach's decades-long career. That's saying a lot for an actor who had more than 90 film and television credits to his name prior to his passing.

As it happens, Orbach's lengthy "Law & Order" run wasn't restricted entirely to the original series, as Lennie Briscoe made appearances on several other franchise offerings, including "Special Victims Unit," "Criminal Intent," and "Trial By Jury." He even turned up in three episodes of the "Law & Oorder" adjacent procedural "Homicide: Life on the Streets." So, including guest spots on those series, Orbach's "Law & Order" franchise episode count actually comes to whopping 282 episodes. 

Surprisingly, that's not even close to the most appearances any actor has had on "Law & Order," with S. Epatha Merkerson taking top honors on the strength of 391-episodes, and Waterston already boasting a robust 270 ahead of his series return. It's safe to say, however, that even if Briscoe sits in third position regarding "Law & Order" episode count, he's still number 1 in the hearts of fans.