Friday, May 14, 2010

Law & Order (1990-2010)


This cast was only together for the second part of the third season, after Jerry Orbach (Det. Lenny Briscoe, seated) replaced Paul Sorvino, who had replaced George Dzundza after the first season as the "senior" detective. Little did original cast members Dann Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen) and Richard Brooks (ADA Paul Robinette), at left, know that by next season they would be cut out of the picture, to accommodate NBC's demand for female cast regulars. (Carolyn McCormick, next to Brooks, was only a recurring cast member as psychologist Elizabeth Olivet.) Then come original cast members Chris Noth (Det. Mike Logan) and Michael Moriarty (Exec ADA Ben Stone) and almost-original Steven Hill (D.A. Adam Schiff; Roy Thinnes had been the D.A. in the pilot, shot two years before the show was picked up). My mother thought Hill had the best job in show business: In most of his scenes he was sitting down, and often eating.

by Ken

I suppose 20 years is long enough run for a network TV show, but I have to say that, in common with virtually everybody quoted in Brian Stelter and Bill Carter's report this afternoon on the NY Times' Media Decoder blog, I was at least startled if not stunned by this news:

Media Decoder

May 14, 2010, 12:45 PM
NBC Cancels ‘Law & Order’

NBC confirmed Friday that it had canceled the original "Law & Order," bringing an end to a 20-year-old television drama that jump-started an era of television production in New York City.

"Law & Order" was on the verge of becoming the longest-running drama in prime-time television history, surpassing "Gunsmoke." But it appears that the "Law & Order" executive producer, Dick Wolf, has settled for a tie. The final episode of the series will be shown on May 24, NBC confirmed in a news release Friday.

Actors and producers on the program were told Thursday that the series had been canceled, but NBC and Mr. Wolf remained in conversations through Thursday evening, apparently in an attempt to make a deal for a 21st season.

NBC said Friday that it had ordered a new series, "Law & Order: Los Angeles," or "LOLA" for short. It also renewed "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" for another season. The network plans to officially announce its 2010-11 schedule on Monday in New York.

NBC is also quietly exploring the possibility with Mr. Wolf that the show may be able to produce some kind of movie or extended retrospective next season to give the series a proper send-off.

The report also includes speculation that Law & Order might be resurrected by a cable channel, though TNT, which did so with NBC's discarded Southland says it's not in negotiation. TNT stands to wind up as the sole custodian of the original L&O franchise, having snatched cable rights away from A&E in 2000 for what then seemed a preposterous amount.

Presumably Law & Order: Criminal Intent is also safe for the foreseeable future. Its fate is in the hands of its current hosts, USA Network.

Word is, though, that when NBC announces its fall schedule on Monday, L&O spinoff Law & Order: Special Victrims Unit will be renewed, and a new series, Law & Order: Los Angeles, which sounds like an oxymoron to me, will be introduced.

The general assumption was that NBC would give L&O one more season, to break Gunsmoke's record as television's longest-running network entertainment program, at 20 seasons.

As Stelter and Carter note, the L&O franchise has had an enormous impact on New York, almost single-handedly reviving the city's faltering film industry. At this point it seems as if there's hardly a block in the city where one of the shows hasn't filmed.

And the show have been incredibly important for the increasingly endangered pool of "New York actors," for whom the shows have provided perhaps the city's largest acting employment opportunity. One of the show's current executive producers, Fred Berner, who was reached by the Times reporters on his cell phone Thursday nighte outside a Broadway theater, commented, "I guarantee you, every name in the playbill will have appeared on Law & Order." Berner described the cancellation as "a devastating blow to the New York City production community ."

As it happens, I've been dipping more and more lately into TNT's Saturday- and Sunday-morning blocs of L&O, which are especially satisfying because they generally span the show's history, giving a weekly sample both of the many lead casts and of the show's emphases through its evolution.

NBC's problem with the original Law & Order is apparently steadily falling ratings, and that for a show that isn't cheap to produce. Of course the network's pop-it-in-here, pull-it-out-there approach to scheduling the show can't have encourged regular viewership, though I'm sure the all-over-the-place scheduling was a response to falling ratings. Still, how many fans never noticed that the show had been sneaked into the swampland Friday 8pm time slot, with the abandonment of entertainment programming in NBC's weeknight 10pm slots? And then, when the Jay Leno experiment was deep-sixed, you had to have superior tracking skills to follow L&O to its Monday 10pm slot.

There must be a certain relief among the people currently cranking the show out that they no longer have to find new plots. All that said, it's a strange feeling, knowing that the show will air its last episode May 24.

The final cast: S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita Van Buren), Jeremy Sisto (Detective Lupo), Anthony Anderson (Detective Bernard), Sam Waterston (D.A. Jack McCoy), Alana de la Garza (ADA Connie Rubirosa), and Linus Roache (Exec ADA Mike Cutter)



At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been watching since the mid 90's and this last season was terrible. The acting and production values were fine but the heavy handed PSA story lines were to much.

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Beverly Hills Psycologist said...

I loved this show, I thought the writers were quite clever with the mind games and Psycology of it all.

At 10:43 PM, Anonymous eric said...

i've always liked the show, i was just a teenager when they first started, i would be at my grandmothers and she always watched, i ended up liking moriarty's charachter, and here i am still watching. my wife thinks it's so funny, she was 10 when it first started....


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