Is it my imagination or does "Law and Order" use a soft focus lens on older stars?

I’m talking the original L&O on tonight . I coudn’t help noticing (or thought I noticed) how some of the scenes were sharper imagewise than others, and a lot of the “soft focus” shots seemed to be happening when older stars got close ups like Candance Bergen as the Judge (guest star) and Jack McCoy in court.

Are my eyes playing tricks on me?

It’s standard practice in TV and film to make the stars and featured guests look as good as possible, with softer lighting and filtered lenses to hide wrinkles and other imperfections. The first line of defense against an aged appearence is the makeup person. It’s not unusual for an actress of Bergen’s age to spend an hour in makeup alone, with another 45 minutes to an hour for hair. (I know this from running base camp on various hour dramas, though not L & O).

They could be using a softer focus on the lens, but a filter over the lens to get the same effect is more likely.

OTOH, a number of guest stars haven’t gotten the soft-focus treatment who might have wanted it; Karen Allen and Melissa Leo come immediately to mind.

Or do you just mean the last year or so?

Could this be part of the transition to HDTV? All actors are suffuring with the High Definition of their “imperfections.” Maybe the d.p. is fuzzing them more than ever, so you finally noticed. If so, bad on him. These things should be subtle enough that you don’t notice it.

Call me ignorant, but I never realized this sort of thing was done. I recall waaay back when “Moonlighting” was on TV, that Cybill Shepherd’s character always looked in soft-focus. I thought it was to recall her previous model life. Does anyone else remember this?

Yes! I was going to ask the same question.