Update 12:55 p.m. ET: It is done. NBC has canceled the mothership Law & Order while renewing L&O: SVU and picking up new spinoff L&O: Los Angeles.
Dick Wolf may not get his record-setting 21st season of Law & Order. So screamed multiple media reports Thursday.
So is Wolf using the media to negotiate with NBC on a 21st season of Law & Order? Or have talks with the prolific producer of NBC’s valuable franchise completely broken down? We’ll know for sure by Monday when NBC is set to present its new season wares at its upfront presentation in New York.
NBC sources said Thursday that the situation is still fluid and there is no final decision on the fate of Law & Order, which is produced by NBC’s Universal Media Studios (UMS). The New York Times Media Decoder blog said Wolf’s camp “informed people involved with the show” that it’s effectively kaput.
A renewal would make Law & Order the longest running drama on television, breaking a long-standing record set by classic Western Gunsmoke. But UMS and NBC hit a snag when Turner’s TNT, which airs re-runs of Law & Order, would not commit to picking up season 21. Turner pays $1 million per episode for Law & Order. UMS was amenable to bringing the show back. But they told Wolf that per-episode costs would have to come down, say sources. (Wolf himself takes home a $350,000 producer fee for each episode of the show - double what many top producers make.)
New York magazine’s Culture Vulture reported that NBC offered Wolf a limited episode commitment of between six and ten episodes and Wolf balked.
NBC has already picked up multiple high- priced dramas - including JJ Abrams’ Undercovers and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Chase - for next season.
Law & Order has bounced around the schedule of late, including in the Friday dead zone. It’s currently airing on Mondays. This season, it’s averaging about 6 million viewers and barely cracking a 2 rating in the 18-49 demo.
As needy as NBC is for 10 p.m. content, Law & Order’s highest-rated days are long gone. And coughing up millions of dollars just so Wolf can claim a record is not exactly the path back to hit-town.