UnScripts:Law & Order: Puritan New England

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The original Law & Order (which is sometimes called Law & Order: Law & Order) was canceled in 2010, potentially making way for the unrealized Law & Order: Puritan New England.

At the end of the 2010 spring season, NBC canceled longtime staple Law & Order, a program that had run on the network for twenty consecutive seasons and been instrumental in wresting away viewers in the critical 65-and-older demographic from competing network CBS and the upstart Bingo Channel. The storied program has since become the most syndicated show in the history of television, often airing a cumulative seven hours between TNT, AMC and Bravo on any given weekday, not to mention providing the basis for Sam Waterston’s lucrative insurance commercial career. The show’s current heir-apparent is Law & Order: Los Angeles, a show that uses the exact same premise as Dick Wolf’s original brainchild, albeit with a different cast and setting. This incarnation of the show, however, was not the only Law & Order spinoff that NBC considered. Other possibilities entertained by the network’s brass included Law & Order: The Nuremberg Trials—a program premise which was ultimately deemed too risky to air—and the decidedly less provocative Law & Order: Cases in Torte Law, which was agreed to be too boring, even by Law & Order standards. One premise that was given some degree of consideration by the NBC program executives, though, was the intriguing Law & Order: Puritan New England, a show that promised to grip viewers with plots “ripped from the headlines of late 17th century Massachusetts.” This particular premise made it as far as the scripting stage, and though it was never filmed or aired, the pilot script written for the project is considered by many to be one of the better ones in a canon that contains nearly a thousand such scripts. This daring script is transcribed in its entirety below.

The Script

COLD OPEN

                              NARRATOR
          In the Puritan justice system, the People are represented by two 
          separate yet equally important Groups: the Constables, who investigate 
          crime, and the presiding Judges, who prosecute the God-offending dregs, 
          condemn their sinful actions, and punish their grievous crimes.  These 
          art their Stories.

Dun-dun

EXT. RURAL NEW ENGLAND ROAD – MORNING

Two women in period dress speak in an animated and lively manner as they casually stroll down the rural road.

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          …but my husband cares not for Bread, it seems, ’less the stuff be cover’d 
          by a goode and healthy Mold of several days.

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          And is that all that ails you?  I fear how you would act when confronted 
          with a real Crucible, if this trifling matter vexes so!

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          Well, my goode husband and I have also consummated our Love but thrice in 
          seven years since Marriage,— I fear that I may soon seek’st base Fornication 
          with the neighbors’ slave ’twere it not for…— God’s blood, look’st there!

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          What is it?

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          ’Tis the proctor, Constance Putnam!  He plows his Field on the Sabbath!

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Good Lord!  Quickly, fetch the Constables!  Help…help!

EXT. CONSTANCE PUTNAM’S FIELD – LATE MORNING

In the midst of Mr. Putnam’s large, damp field are two investigators.  The older of the two, Constable Steadfast 
Handjobb, is an ostensibly grizzled veteran of the force.  The other, younger constable is Increase Friction, 
Handjobb’s young-gun loose-cannon occasionally-sarcastic partner.  The junior of the two constables is examining 
Mr. Putnam’s field with the finest forensic equipment of the day, which is to say a magnifying glass.

                              INCREASE FICTION
          Look’st tho’ this Field were plowed not an hour ago.

Steadfast Handjobb picks up and handful of dirt and tastes it, looking contemplative.

                              STEADFAST HANDJOBB
          Yea, and with a plow, too.

What is ostentatiously a forensics person, or the closest period equivalent thereof, enters the frame.

                              FORENSICS PERSON
          We’ve ropeth’d off the entire Field, and placed little cones within all the plowèd Furrows.

                              HANDJOBB
          Find’st thou anything?

                              FORENSICS PERSON
          Yea, come hither.

The two men walk to another area of Mr. Putnam’s field and peer down at the ground.

                              FORENSICS PERSON
          Knowst thou what this is?

Constable Handjobb bends down once again and tastes the substance in question on the ground.

                              HANDJOBB
          Yea, ’tis horse Droppings.— The Perpetrator must have made use of such a beast.

                              FORENSICS PERSON
          Didst thou really have to taste…—

The unnamed forensics person’s statement is interrupted by an off-frame interjection.

                              FRICTION
          Handjobb, come hither!

                              HANDJOBB
          Yea, what ails you?

                              FRICTION
          Look’st.

The camera peers down to reveal a handful of squash seeds in the furrow of the field.

                              HANDJOBB
          Squash seeds…— look’st like this was about more than merely plowing one’s Field.

Here ends the cold opening and begins the show’s opening sequence, which features several clips and images in 
montage of the show’s cast accompanied by a reinterpretation of the classic Law & Order theme played in a 
pleasant air of the period.  Eventually, the opening sequence ends and the drama resumes.

EXT. RURAL NEW ENGLAND ROAD – NOON

Constables Handjobb and Friction stand abreast of each other, and face the two women from before, whom they are 
interrogating regarding the developing case.

                              HANDJOBB
          So, ye both claim to’ve seen a man plowing the Field of Mister 
          Constance Putnam nary an hour ago?

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Yea…— ’twas awful, a truly terrible sight.

                              HANDJOBB
          Not just plowing, Goodewoman.  We found minute Seeds of squash in the 
          Furrows;— therefore, we believe that he planted as well.

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Plowing and planting on the Sabbath?  I would have never guessed that 
          Mister Putnam was such a man.

                              FRICTION
          But art thee sure it was Putnam that was plowing?

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Yea.

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          No doubt;— it was the goodeman’s field, after all.

                              FRICTION
          But did’st thou actually see it was Mister Putnam, beyond doubt?

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          I must confess, I could’st not clearly view the goodeman’s face, due to 
          the large buckl’d hat he was wearing, which obscur’d his Visage.

Constable Handjobb scribbles down some notes on a piece of parchment.

                              HANDJOBB
          Well, we want to be sure ’twas him;— it is a very serious thing he stands 
          accus’d of doing.

                              GOODEWOMAN #1
          Well, Constable, Mister Putnam owns some seven hundred acres of land;— 
          I know of no man who would willingly plow so many Furrows and sew his 
          seeds within, let alone illicitly…—how I wish a goodeman would do such 
           things to me.

                              FRICTION
          Well, regardless ma’am, we must be certain of the Accusation.  Hast the 
          Goodeman Putnam any neighbors that we may interrogate?

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Yea, one: a Goodeman by the name of Prudence Mather.  He lives four miles 
          up the road.

                              HANDJOBB
          Might he have witness’d anything, you reckon?

                              GOODEWOMAN #2
          Like I said, he lives four miles up the road.

                              HANDJOBB
          Thankee, goodewomen.

EXT. PRUDENCE MATHER’S DOORSTEP – AFTERNOON

Constables Handjobb and Friction, who are quite out of breath from their miles-long trek, stand before the door 
of what is ostensibly Prudence Mather’s home.  Friction knocks on the door while Handjobb reaches to his overcoat 
pocket to produce his period-accurate badge, which is printed on a piece of rolled up parchment.  Prudence Mather 
comes quickly to the door, and opens it to the exhausted constables.

                              HANDJOBB
          Constables Handjobb and Friction, police.

                              PRUDENCE MATHER
          What bring’st thee here, Constables?

                              FRICTION
          We’re here investigating a Matter relating to the plowing and planting 
          of Mister Putnam’s Field.

                              MATHER
          Oh?

                              HANDJOBB
          …—An act which occur’d on the Sabbath day, today.

                              MATHER
          My GodHANDJOBB
          Did’st thou see anything suspicious today,— anything pertaining to 
          the plowing of the Field in question, or to Mister Putnam?

                              FRICTION
          An horse,— or other Beast of burden,— perhaps?  Or a conspicuously 
          large burlap Sack that might’ve held seeds?

                              MATHER
          No, I did’st not.

                              FRICTION
          Art thou sure?  Lying to a Constable is a damnable Offense in the Eyes 
          of God, I’ll have thee know.

                              MATHER
          Yea, I’m all but certain;— his property and mine art separated by a small 
          forest: look’st for thyselves. 

Mather points to the side of his house, to indicate the forest of which he speaks.

                              HANDJOBB
          Damme.

                              FRICTION
          Well, dust thou know anything that might be relevant to our 
          Investigation?

                              MATHER
          I do know that Mister Putnam often enjoys visiting his brother, 
          Verity Putnam, on the Sabbath Day.  Perhaps speak’st with him?

                              FRICTION
          Yea, thankee, and where does Mister Verity Putnam live?

                              MATHER
          His Property lies on th’ other side of Towne, sirs.

                              HANDJOBB
          And how far be the trek there?

Mather thinks a moment.

                              MATHER
          Hm, no further than eight or nine Miles, I should think.

Handjobb sighs.

                              HANDJOBB
          Thankee, good Sir.

Dun-dun

EXT. VERITY PUTNAM’S DOORSTEP – LATE AFTERNOON

Handjobb and Friction stand before yet another doorstep, this time of Mr. Verity Putnam, once again in physical 
exhaustion.  Handjobb knocks on the door, which is answered shortly.

                              VERITY PUTNAM
          What seem’st to be the Problem, Constables?

Constable Handjobb exasperatedly unfurls his parchment badge.

                              HANDJOBB
          I’m Constable Handjobb, and this is Constable Friction.  We’re here 
          to inquire upon the actions of your brother, one Constance Putnam.

                              V. PUTNAM
          ’S that so?  And what begs this inquiry?

                              FRICTION
          We believe your brother might be involved in a Sabbath-plowing-and-
          planting incident.

                              V. PUTNAM
          ’Sblood, that’s so unlike him.  Dust thee think that I were also 
          involved?

                              FRICTION
          Nay, sir, we were curious as to whether or not your esteemèd brother 
          were here at all today.

                              V. PUTNAM
          He was not here this day, nay.

                              HANDJOBB
          Hast thou any idea as to where else he could have been?

                              V. PUTNAM
          Well, my brother was not the most devote of Church-goers, though he 
          still did attend Mass more often that he did not: tho’ he were not here, 
          perhaps he was in attendance at the Church.

                              FRICTION
          And which Church would that be, sir?

                              V. PUTNAM
          The one near Towne’s centre

                              HANDJOBB
          And how far’s that from here, sir?

                              V. PUTNAM
          ’Tis not a long journey,— but a few Miles towneward.

                              HANDJOBB
          Thankee, sir.

Varity Putnam closes the door behind him, and Handjobb and Friction step away from the gentleman’s door.

                              FRICTION
          We really must obtain ourselves a Wagon.

                              HANDJOBB
          Aye, you’re telling me.

INT. PURITAN CHURCH – EVENING

Handjobb and Friction sit before one of the local reverends, and are visibly quite tired from all their running 
about throughout the day.

                              HANDJOBB
          G’evening, Reverend.

                              REVEREND
          G’evening.  What brings thee here?

                              HANDJOBB
          My Partner and I were wond’ring…—

                              REVEREND
          ‘Partner?’  Ye twain aren’t of a gay disposition, I hope?

Handjobb answers quite nervously.

                              HANDJOBB
          Oh, nay, nay goode Rev’rend, we are Constables.

                              FRICTION
          Yea, and we’re here to inquire about the attendance of one of your 
          Parishioners.

                              REVEREND
          Whom would that be?
 
                              HANDJOBB
          One Constance Putnam, Rev’rend.  Was he present at this day’s Service?

                              REVEREND
          Nay, I can’t say that I remember him.

                              FRICTION
          That resolves it then.

                              REVEREND
          Resolves what?

                              HANDJOBB
          Rev’rend, we believe that Constance Putnam may very well have plow’d 
          and planted his field today, on the Sabbath.

                              REVEREND
          Bless me, what is this world coming to…?

                              HANDJOBB
          I know Rev’rend, ’tis a tragedy.— Yet thanks to you, we’re about to take 
          this Bastard down.  Friction, let us to’t!

                              FRICTION
          ’Tis Sunset, Handjobb.

                              HANDJOBB
          Aye, well…we shall apprehend the Sinner on the morrow, then!

Dun-dun

EXT. CONSTANCE PUTNAM’S DOORSTEP – MORNING 

Constable Handjobb and Constable Friction are accompanied by a number of unnamed, less-important constables outside 
the home of Mr. Constance Putnam.  They are all armed with muskets.  Handjobb and Friction press themselves against 
the wall on either side of Putnam’s door, and prepare to forcibly enter the residence.

                              HANDJOBB
          Ready, goodemen?  Three…two…one…enter!  

Handjobb, Friction, and the other constables dramatically storm the Putnam house amid much shouting and clamor, 
eventually coming upon Putnam with his family at breakfast.

                              PUTNAM
          What is the meaning of this?

                              FRICTION
          Constance Putnam, thou art under arrest for the Plowing and Planting 
          of thy Field…—

                              PUTNAM
          But I haven’t plow’d today yet!

                              FRICTION
          …On the Sabbath.

                              PUTNAM
          But ’tis a Monday!

                              HANDJOBB
          Thou would do better, to not object or resist.  We have witnesses that profess it so, and Evidence that condemns you. 

He produces the horse droppings from the day before and presents it to Putnam. 

                              HANDJOBB
          I suppose thou can tell’st me what this is?

                              PUTNAM
          This entire thing is absurd!

                              HANDJOBB
          Take him away, Friction.

Friction produces a miniature stockade into which Putnam is placed, much to the horror and grief of his 
onlooking family, which is quite large.  (Screenwriter’s Note: cries of ‘Oh no!,’ ‘Nay, Father!,’ ‘Please, 
tak’st him not!’ etc. from his family may be added extemporaneously upon shooting.)

                              FRICTION
          You’re coming with us, goode sir.  Thou hast the Right to Silence, 
          anything thou say’st can and will be us’d against thee in a goode and 
          lawful Court; thou hast the right to a Lawyer, tho’ why thee would 
          want such a thing is beyond me…

FADEOUT

EXT. GROUNDS OF THE COURTHOUSE – DAY

Handjobb and Friction stand next to a man—who is seen to be a prostrate Putnam—pressed between two boards with 
large rocks being placed on top of the upper board.  As this happens, the two constables are interrogating the 
compressed Putnam, with the implication being that this has gone on for quite some time.

                              PUTNAM
          I am innocent, I tell ye!  Innocent!

                              HANDJOBB
          We have witnesses confirming they saw a Figure plowing thy Field, and 
          yet more witnesses confirming that ye were not anywhere thy could’st 
          have been upon that day!  Confess to your Crime!  Confess!

                              PUTNAM
          I shall not!

                              HANDJOBB
          Friction, add another boulder t’ the boards!

                              FRICTION
          Yea.
 
Friction moves to add another boulder to the board, but he is interrupted by an offscreen interjection from what 
is revealed to be Putnam’s attorney, Continence Pynchon, who has just arrived.

                              CONTINENCE PYNCHON
          Cease this at once!

                              HANDJOBB
          On what Authority?

                              PYNCHON
          On that of the Court, sir. 

Pynchon produces a piece of parchment from his coat pocket. 

                              PYNCHON
          This barbaric Pressing ye perform is only to be done in matters 
          concerning Murder, Rape, Theft, Witchcraft, Adultery, Usury, Embezzlement, 
          and Tom-peeping thro’ a lady’s Window;— my Client stands accus’d of no such 
          Crimes.

                              HANDJOBB
          And who might’st thee be?

                              PYNCHON
          I am Mister Putnam’s hir’d Attorney, Continence Pynchon, here to defend 
          him ’gainst the false accusations levied upon ’im.

                              HANDJOBB
          False accusations, sir?

                              PYNCHON
          Yea,— now I suggest thee stop crushing my Client ’neath those boards, 
          so that I might defend him in the Courthouse. 

Pynchon walks away self-assuredly toward the building.

                              FRICTION
          How I hate lawyers.

                              PUTNAM
          Speak’st for thyself.

INT. COURTHOUSE – DAY

Putnam and Pynchon sit across the table from the local attorney Samuel Williams, who will be presenting the case 
against Putnam on behalf of the public.  (Screenwriter’s Note: ideally, the part of Samuel Williams should be 
played by someone roughly analogous to, but decidedly not, Sam Waterston.)

                              SAMUEL WILLIAMS
          Mister Pynchon, if convicted, your Client shall be hanged by the neck 
          for his crimes ’gainst Man and God;— we will lessen the punishment to 
          but being drowned in the creek, if he but admit to the Accusations.

                              PUTNAM
          I shall do no such thing!

                              PYNCHON
          Hold your tongue, Mister Putnam….— He shall do no such thing, sir!

                              WILLIAMS
          Very well then;— there is no choice, then, but to press ahead with 
          the Trial.

                              PYNCHON
          Do not be so hasty, Mister Williams: it so happens that my client has 
          a certain amount of Knowledge regarding a local Coven of Witches.

                              WILLIAMS
          Witches?  What part could Sorc’ry possibly play in this Matter?

                              PYNCHON
          A fiaire amount;— ye need only listen to Mister Putnam’s Testimony.

Dun-dun

INT. COURTHOUSE TRIAL CHAMBER – DAY

Presiding over the trial chamber of the courthouse is one Judge Hawthorne, an old, fiery, and decidedly puritanical 
man.  Sitting before Judge Hawthorne behind a very heavy and embellished period table is Putnam, who is flanked 
to his left by Pynchon, his attorney.  Williams, the prosecuting attorney, sits behind another period table next 
to the one which the other two men sit behind.

                              JUDGE HAWTHORNE
          Mister Constance Putnam, ye stand accus’d of plowing and seeding thy 
          Field on the Sabbath Day.  However, thy attorney has informed me that 
          you claim this Act of which you stand accus’d was performed under the 
          influence of Daemonick Sorcery from a local Coven of Witches…—

Those in attendance gasp in shock, leading Judge Hawthorne to bang his gavel in an attempt to call his court to 
order.

                              HAWTHORNE
          Order in this Court!  Order! … Now, Mister Putnam, can’st ye produce any 
          Evidence supporting this claim of yours?

                              PUTNAM
          Well, goode sir, I cannot in Faith say’st so, but…— look’st!  Look’st there!  
          ’Tis an evil Apparition of a Plow!

                              HAWTHORNE
          Where!?

                              PUTNAM
          There!  ’Tis there!

                              HAWTHORNE
          I can’st not see it.

At this point Constance Putnam falls to the floor and begins to roll around, as if he were on fire.

                              PUTNAM
          Aggghhh!

                              WILLIAMS
          Your Honor, I really must object to this…

                              HAWTHORNE
          Objection upheld: Mister Putnam, if ye must be afflictèd by an evil 
          apparition, I suggest ye do it seated.

Putnam abruptly ceases his flailing, and returns to his seat.

                              PUTNAM
          Yes, your Honor.

                              HAWTHORNE
          Now, whom in this Towne belongs to the Witches’ Coven you claim to exist—?

                              WILLIAMS
          Actually your Honor, my objection was in regard to the Nature of the Goodeman’s 
          Testimony itself, which the prosecution feels has little to do with the matter 
          he is being tried for, and, furthermore…—

                              HAWTHORNE
          Mister Williams, what reason have you to object to the Testimony of Mister Putnam, 
          ’less the goodeman’s Testimony implicates yourself in the Hellish Accusations being 
          levied?

                              WILLIAMS
          Judge Hawthorne, I can assure thee I am no…—

                              PUTNAM
          WITCH! 

Putnam frantically points toward Samuel Williams.

                              PUTNAM
          WITCH!

This sudden accusation is met with gasps and cries from those in attendance, leading Judge Hawthorne to bang his gavel yet again.

                              HAWTHORNE
          I’ll have Order in this Court!  Order! … Mister Samuel Williams, thou 
          art accus’d of practicing the Dark Arts, having Consort with daemonic 
          ambassadors of Hell, and having carnal Knowledge of the Evil One;— 
          Constables, take him away!  He shall stand Trial on the morrow for his 
          Crimes.

INT. COURTHOUSE TRIAL CHAMBER – DAY

Samuel Williams sits behind the table that Constance Putnam sat behind the day prior with a look of despair 
and dejection on his face.  Judge Hawthorne bangs his gavel to bring the court to order.

                              HAWTHORNE
          Mister Williams, ye stand accus’d of practicing Witchcraft.  How dust 
          thou plead?

                              WILLIAMS
          I am not guilty.

                              HAWTHORNE
          A likely assertion, Mister Williams.

                              WILLIAMS
          But I am no Witch!

                              HAWTHORNE
          Mister Williams, you of all people should’st be aware of the Protocol 
          for the Interrogation and Sentencing of suspectèd Witches: the more the 
          suspectèd party denies, the more likely they art a Witch.

                              WILLIAMS
          Oh.  Dammit.

Hawthorne authoritatively and confidently bangs his gavel.

                              HAWTHORNE
          Take him away.  He is to be hang’d by the neck on the morrow.

The foreboding, minor-keyed music that plays upon the sentence of every Law & Order episode begins here.

FADEOUT

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER     DICK WOLF


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