In The Television Industry, There Are Two Types Of Criminal Justice Shows: Law And Order And Its Spin-Offs And Everything Else. These Are Their Stories. Doink Doink.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Nikki Finke and Nellie Andreeva at Deadline, on May 13th, withe the scoop:


Here’s the latest news on this fast-moving story. A deal was in place if NBC picked up the Law & Order flagship for a 21st season consisting of 16 episodes. But insiders say Dick Wolf is now accusing the network of going back (some use the word “reneging”) on that arrangement made in March: “He’s so fucking angry, you have no idea.”

As recently as the start of this week, even NBCU chief Jeff Zucker was privately telling people that L&O would get one more season. That’s certainly what Wolf and his longtime reps (UTA and Ziffren Brittenham legal eagle Cliff Gilbert) were led to believe from NBC suits Marc Graboff and Jeff Gaspin. That is, until last night.

Wolf simply wanted NBC to live up to the deal that both sides had agreed to back in March. According to that arrangement already in place, NBC/Universal Media Studios was supposed to go to TNT and negotiate a new deal (the old one was up) whereby the cable channel would finance some original episodes of Law & Order in order to continue getting runs of the show. “And, for whatever reason, NBC was unwilling to engage in a serious way with TNT. They didn’t do it. At the last minute, they said, ‘We’ll pick the show up and this is how we’re going to do it’. Which was ludicrous.” That’s when NBC threw its agreement with Wolf out the window and demanded Wolf kick in to help “finance the pickup of Law & Order out of all the money he’s made. And his reps said, ‘Never going to happen’,” according to an insider. Another source explained the situation: “Graboff broke off the negotiations last night when they fell apart based on Team Dick’s unwillingness to make certain deal concessions deemed unreasonable.”

But that’s not all. According to NBC insiders, immediately, Team Dick contacted Gaspin. And that email exchange revealed that Gaspin didn’t realize the show had been cancelled. Network sources say there was a lack of communication between Graboff and Gaspin, who didn’t know the negotiations had broken off. But then Gaspin confirmed it. This morning and afternoon, the producers began calling reps for the show’s stars and telling them about the cancellation.

Andrew Scott at TV Squad:

UPDATE: NBC has officially canceled its cornerstone legal series ‘Law & Order,’ the network confirmed today in a press release.

“The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his ‘Law & Order’ franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated. The legacy of his original ‘Law & Order’ series will continue to make an impact like no other series before,” Jeff Gaspin, Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment said in a statement.

Executive producer Dick Wolf had only this to say: “Never complain. Never explain.”

first reported the story yesterday.

‘Law & Order’ will have its series finale on Mon., May 24 at 10PM ET.

The show ends after 20 seasons on the air, which ties ‘Gunsmoke”s record as the longest-running drama in television history.

Frankie Stone at The Wrap:

It was the worst possible coincidence. On the very day that NBC announced a snazzy social media marketing initiative aimed at building viewer loyalty, it pissed off those same people – along with its own talent and the creative community – by fumbling the “Law & Order” cancellation.

When news broke the afternoon of May 13 that the 20-year series was canceled, it was a seismic jolt. For starters, there had been mounting on-background affirmations, seemingly from the camps of both NBC and producer Dick Wolf, that renewal was a near-certainty.

Also, with the final May 24 episode in the can, there was no chance to tie up loose ends and see the characters off – courtesies commonly extended to series with 1/10 the longevity.

The significant 21st season, when “L&O” would become the longest-running scripted series on US primetime television, was something viewers wanted to experience. None as much as Wolf himself, a linchpin creative talent at NBC whose “L&O” franchise is embedded in the network’s schedule. Just five months earlier, no less than NBC’s president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad publicly referred to herself as “a ‘Law & Order’ junkie” who didn’t want to be responsible for pulling the plug before the record-breaking year.

Knowing that it was squaring off against a warhorse, one of its most valuable producers and a famously passionate fan base … coming off a season more embarrassing than even the 1983 “Manimal” low point … knowing it had fed into (and certainly didn’t deflect) speculation of renewal … needing to put its best face forward to advertisers in four days at its upfront … and with weeks, possibly months, to plan for this potential outcome … what was NBC’s strategy to buffer and position this?

PR 101 would be to get ahead of the rumors and make this decision public with a gracious standalone announcement and have media talking points, social websites’ comments and Audience Services e-mail responses at the ready. Ideally with Wolf and the show on board.

NBC chose to handle it their old-fashioned way: by doing pretty much nothing. It was Conan, Leno and the “Tonight” show all over again.

After the news leaked Thursday afternoon, NBC officially no-commented to the media for nearly 18 hours. Even stranger for a company that boasts about its digital and social media talents, it appears to have posted nothing – not even a polite vague acknowledgement – on the numerous fansites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Not even its own.

The information gap was filled by sources from both camps with various levels of actual knowledge and media relations skills. Half claimed the cancellation was done and irreversible while others said it remained undecided and the sides were talking. We eventually learned the truth was somewhere in the middle but in the meantime, these conflicting sides resonated across an increasingly angry digital community.

Finally, the next morning, NBC issued an announcement. It attempted a flimsy end run, announcing renewal of “SVU” and pick-up of a new LA “L&O” before acknowledging the cancellation. The requisite effusive language was there. Wolf’s comment wasn’t; he chose to issue a terse rejoinder.

With the bad news finally out, NBC’s still hiding. As of this writing, there’s nothing posted by a network representative on Twitter, Facebook or fansites including its own – a routine part of crisis PR. They have no dedicated response (another PR basic) to viewer e-mail coming in through the “Contact Us” system on

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic:

The secrets of this show’s success are manifold. To begin with, both the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders are, shall we say, easy on the eye. They play against a colorful cast of witnesses and defendants. (How many successful young actresses got their start by playing teen psycho killers on the show?) And there’s the dependable formula—discovery of body, wisecrack, false start, arrest, interrogation, release, arrest of the correct perp, indictment, suppression motion, shocking new evidence, impassioned argument by Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), verdict—usually, thank heaven, guilty. W.H. Auden once described mystery stories as progressing from innocence to common guilt and back to innocence again: “The law becomes a reality and for a time all must live in its shadow, till the fallen one is identified. With his arrest, innocence is restored, and the law retires forever.”

But the true secret of the show’s appeal is that it’s not a crime show at all. It’s a fable about the field called tort law—the branch of civil justice in which people hurt by others’ sloppy or vicious conduct can wring some measure of payback from those who hurt them. The idea may seem ridiculous. No figure in American popular culture is more roundly reviled than the ambulance-chasing, injury-faking, fast-talking shyster shakedown artist. Consider the plaintiffs’ lawyer Jan Schlichtman as portrayed by John Travolta in the film of A Civil Action. In Jonathan Harr’s book, Schlichtman is portrayed as a canny lawyer, to be sure, but one with ideals of justice for the poor; by the time writer-direct Steven Zaillian is done with him, the screen Schlichtman is a greedy, amoral shark, who runs about the city making “call me” gestures to the injured even before the ambulance arrives.

Or consider the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts as a paralegal who helps a community find compensation from the soulless corporation that has poisoned its water. Early in the film, one of the victims asks Roberts whether she is a lawyer. “Oh, no,” she says. “I hate lawyers, I just work for them.” (The film has a happy ending—the injured get scads of money—but that victory is won by lawyers, and is not shown onscreen.)

We profoundly believe that the world does not need legal bottom-feeders. But when a powerful figure inflicts injury on the powerless, we need someone to make things right. The need for a tort system aches like a missing limb.

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’ll admit never having been a huge fan of the show. Not that I have anything against it; it’s generally been well-made over the decades, but I just don’t have the need for a regular cop procedural. So I don’t want to dance on its grave. But I will say that, if the only reason to keep it on the air was to set a record for Dick Wolf—and it wouldn’t have been for the ratings—then that’s the wrong reason. You’d be royally and rightfully pissed if you were a fan of the show that got killed so L&O could collect a record.

Still, I’m guessing that L&O is one of those shows that people will mourn out of proportion to the amount that they actually watch it. For one thing, it’s been on so long that there are a lot of people who had an L&O habit once and feel sentimental. And it’s so widely rerun (and spun off, etc.) that plenty of people watch it even if they never watch the original in its timeslot anymore. I suspect, though, that they like to know that it’s somewhere out there, churning out murders and efficient trial starring New York stage actors for them to watch, someday.

I also wonder, once the dust clears, whether it may be that L&O is simply “canceled,” but still has the chance to pick up new life—and go for that record—on cable, where it has a faithful following. A TNT deal had been talked about in the past before, for instance, and really the meat-and-potatoes cop drama is becoming more a staple of basic cable.

Allison Waldman at TV Squad:

‘Law and Order’ is over. It had a great run. Really. It spun-off four other shows, including the drama that’s taking its place on NBC in fall 2010, ‘Law and Order: Los Angeles.’ It made a lot of sense for the original to finally wrap with this May 24th’s season finale, and here’s five reasons why:

1. It’s going out on top. Too many shows overstay their welcome, lingering long after they’re still a viable program on the schedule or have good stories to tell. That’s not the case with ‘L&O.’ In fact, this season has been a good one and the pairing of Linus Roache with Sam Waterson has been dynamic. For all intents and purposes, ‘Law’ is going out while still something special.

2. It had become too formulaic. The ‘ripped from the headlines’ formula that was been ‘Law and Order’s’ bread and butter had become a twisted mess in the past couple of years. Maybe it was the headlines, but the roman a clef storylines were cutting too close to the bone and with every new scandal, you just waited for ‘Law and Order’ to do their spin on it. Elliot Spitzer? Did it. Mel Gibson? Yes. Heidi Fleiss? Check.

3. NBC needs to move on. After the year that NBC has had, this was no time for sentiment to trump practicality. It’s true that Angela Bromstad, NBC Entertainment President, said that she didn’t want to be the executive to pull the plug on ‘Law and Order,’ but I give her credit for making the tough decision. NBC doesn’t need to hold onto the past; it’s time to embrace the future. That means new drama series that might have a run half as long as ‘Law.’

4. Television history has already been made.
Does the record book really matter to anyone? Most people don’t even remember that ‘Gunsmoke’ had the longest run in television history. So ‘Law and Order’ will be tied with that CBS western, big deal. They’re both still way behind ‘Guiding Light’ which had 72 years on the air — radio and television — before ending in September 2009. And if you want to know about history, Fox’s ‘The Simpsons’ currently wrapping year 21 and will be back for a 22nd.

5. It’s not really gone.
While NBC will not be producing new episodes of ‘Law and Order,’ the show will hardly be gone and forgotten. It’s a huge fixture in syndication as well as on USA Network. The program plays all over the world in television markets and the DVDs are available for sale and rent. Also, since there really won’t be an ending to ‘L&O,’ it wouldn’t shock me if two or three years from now creator/executive producer Dick Wolf convinces NBC to do a TV movie, reuniting some of the original cast members. If not a reunion movie, perhaps a series of TV movies. Don’t be shocked … it could happen.


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