Friday, June 03, 2011

End of the LAW & ORDER Era?

On the Law & Order front, Criminal Intent closes shop this month, and last-show-standing Special Victims Unit's creative shuffles have prompted the usual round-robin of "Is Law & Order done" articles even as New York Senator Chuck Schumer tries to persuade NBC to bring the original series back to the East Coast. While I've already gone over my take on how the Peacock's out-of-the-blue cancellation of the Mothership set off a domino effect that botched the fortunes of recently-axed successor Law & Order: LA, now burning off its pre-retool episodes, Merrill Barr at Film School Rejects argues that the loss of star Christopher Meloni at SVU may well be the sign that it's time for the brand to pack it in. And after twenty-plus years on the beat, I don't think anyone would begrudge them turning in their papers after a job well done.

AdAge's Brian Steinberg, however, makes the case that the fortunes for all procedurals, once that most bulletproof of TV genres (as hilariously elucidated by writer Josh Friedman last year), seem to be down across the board (including for CBS's multitudinous CSI franchise) perhaps signaling a paradigm shift in TV viewing habits. While that may be true, I also think that even if the Law & Order brand does leave the ranks of first-run television in the next year or two (an eventuality that's likelier now than it was a month ago), it's worth too much to NBC/Universal to lie fallow for very long. Having soldiered through changing social and political climates as well as innumerable cast changes, it's the kind of property studios dream of owning. As NBC president Robert Greenblatt says in the Steinberg piece, "It's a franchise I'd love to keep going." And so it will -- eventually.

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