|People close to “Law & Order” were told Thursday afternoon that the pioneering NBC drama had been canceled. But the network has not yet confirmed the decision, and there were indications late Thursday that talks about its fate were continuing.|
The series, produced by Dick Wolf, is tied with “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running prime-time drama on network television. Its 20th season will conclude this month.
In phone calls Thursday afternoon, Mr. Wolf’s production company informed people involved with the show about the cancellation, including Fred Berner, an executive producer based in New York, and Ed Zuckerman, a former co-executive producer. Mr. Zuckerman described himself as stunned by the news. “It’s been such a pillar of the television world we all live in,” he said.
Mr. Berner said the actors on “Law & Order” were also informed of the cancellation.
If true, he said, “it’s a kick in the gut to New York.” Thousands of people in the city are employed, directly and indirectly, by the series and its two spinoffs.
It is possible that the show still has some life left in it.
NBC and Mr. Wolf “are still having conversations,” two sources close to the talks said Thursday evening. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized by their employers to comment on the record.
Reached on his cellphone while on vacation in China, Rene Balcer, an executive producer of “Law & Order,” had no comment on the reports on Deadline Hollywood Daily and elsewhere that the show had been canceled. Other producers of the show and its spinoffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
An NBC spokesman said he had no comment.
Many in the television business had expected NBC to renew the series this month, if only to allow Mr. Wolf to beat “Gunsmoke,” something he has long sought to achieve.
“Law & Order” profoundly influenced the generations of police procedurals that have come and gone since it had its premiere in 1990. The two “Law & Order” spinoffs, “Special Victims Unit” and “Criminal Intent,” will most likely not be affected by the decision about the original program.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said that “Law & Order” was tied with “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running prime-time series on network television. The two are tied as the longest-running prime-time dramas — “The Simpsons,” an animated comedy series on Fox, has had a longer run.