Alessandra Stanley's "TV Watch" blog in the NY Times has some interesting thoughts on the L&O phenomenon:'Law and Order': Soon to Be Gone but Not Forgotten
I identified most with the following comments on the effects of re-runs (instant, frequent, and apparently endless in the case of the L&O franchise) on human psychology:
New episodes aren’t necessary as long as there are reruns. One reason the current season isn’t doing well in the ratings is that the show is essentially a rerun-in-progress. No need to rush home for the latest episode or waste DVR space, because it will soon end up on the continuous loop of “Law & Order” provided by TNT and other cable networks.
In 2002, Michael Kinsley wrote a very funny and completely true essay on Slate that described his wife’s addiction to “Law & Order” reruns, which he found utterly baffling. “Other than reruns of ‘Law & Order,’ she has almost no interest in television at all,” Mr. Kinsley wrote. “She’s not even interested in new episodes of ‘Law & Order’ itself. She couldn’t tell you what night it’s on and has no view about what this country is coming to when a man like Fred Thompson can be plucked from the obscurity of the United States Senate and entrusted with the responsibility of running the prosecutor’s office on ‘Law & Order.’ ”
Even people who watch television for a living can find themselves transfixed by a rerun, though duty calls for a look at “American Idol” or a new PBS documentary about oil production. When a show has lasted 20 seasons, it’s possible to have seen an episode several times and not have a clue who did it; one of the few rewards of a bad memory is that reruns can still seem fresh on the third viewing.
Mr. Kinsley's wife and I are spiritual kinfolk.
(I say this as someone who can anticipate a high proportion of the lines on Are You Being Served?
before they are uttered, and STILL manage to feel delight when I hear the actors speak them. It's similar with revivals of great ballets, I think, if one knows them well. Balanchine, most of all -- for me at least.)