|Law & Order will remain as ubiquitous as ever next season. |
NBC announced Thursday that it has re-upped the three main cop-and-lawyer warhorses in its Dick Wolf-manned arsenal--Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; and Law & Order: Criminal Intent--for the 2006-07 season.
The Emmy-winning original has been serving up justice in a neatly partitioned hour for 16 seasons now, although in the past couple years it's slipped to second in popularity behind the sex crimes-solving spin-off, SVU, which is now in its seventh season and attracting about 13.9 million viewers a week to plain-ol' Law & Order's 11.1 million. The five-year-old Criminal Intent draws a weekly average of 10.9 million people anxious to check out Vincent D'Onofrio's uncanny intuition and Chris Noth's craggy skepticism.
"All of us at NBC are grateful to [creator and executive producer] Dick Wolf and his amazing team for producing these extraordinary shows, and we're glad they'll be back again next season," NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said in a statement.
Understandable. Despite dropping a few points in the ratings here and there, the faithfully watched Law & Order troika have been the most consistent performers next to ER on a network that has seen itself go from "Must See TV" to "Isn't Anyone Out There Watching TV?"
As the mothership of the franchise enters its 17th season--the longest run ever for a police drama--and continues to spawn copycats, we must ask the question: What is it about Law & Order and its two really good offshoots that make them so highly watchable, even in copious repeats (besides it being the only chance to get your daily fix of the late, great Jerry Orbach)?
We're guessing people don't tune in for edge-of-your-seat action, although the series' ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios throw us for a loop every once in a while.
No, it's not that. Rather the Law & Order formula has become about as comfy-cozy over the years as sipping a mug of whipped cream-topped cocoa by a roaring fire while wearing a pair of cashmere socks. And everyone likes cashmere.
"I'm thrilled that we are continuing to do what this remarkable team has done so successfully for the past 16 years--create episodes that excite, educate, disturb and sometimes, even infuriate our audiences," Wolf said.
Whether it's Sam Waterston as Executive ADA McCoy pouring a bucket of bullets onto the table to emphasize how easy it is to turn a small firearm into a semiautomatic weapon, B.D. Wong as SVU's resident shrink, Dr. George Huang, deciphering every suspect at a glance, or D'Onofrio's oddball genius Det. Goren knowing someone's guilty by the way he or she blinks--the elements have provided for a winning recipe.
So even though Law & Order has had to repopulate the precinct every few seasons, the house that Wolf built has an extremely solid foundation to rest upon.
The revolving door that has gone through the most revolutions on the series has been the post of assistant district attorney to Waterston's head trial honcho (there's a DA higher than him, but he doesn't appear to actually do anything besides discuss how verdicts will affect his re-election).
A similar shakeup is on the horizon as ADA Alexandra Borgia, played by Annie Parisse, will reportedly try her last case in May. There's no word yet on who her replacement will be in the fall or how Borgia will make her grand exit, although nothing could compare to Elizabeth Rohm's "is it because I'm a lesbian?" moment last year when her character, Serena Sutherland, was fired. Parisse joined the cast midway through last season after Rohm's departure.
In other fictitious law enforcement news…
Detectives Goren and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) on Criminal Intent have an impressive lack of a personal life, so they're more capable of keeping their noses to the grindstone--hence, no traumatic onscreen shakeups for them.
Meanwhile, the tension (sexual, professional, brother-sister--take your pick) between Det. Olivia Benson (Golden Globe winner Mariska Hargitay) and Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) has seemingly reached the boiling point on SVU and we last saw Olivia requesting a new partner. But, no word of any shifts in the lineup for next season, so it appears that the special-victims crew will get it together before anyone is forced to say, "I quit."