|HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 7/23/07 — With the “Law & Order” family returning this fall to television with major renovations, viewers will notice some fresh young faces patrolling the streets of New York and haranguing witnesses in the courtroom. As NBC itself undergoes an overhaul from a dynamic co-chair, Ben Silverman, the original returns for an 18th season looking refreshed and well rested.|
Its first child,” Special Victims Unit (SVU),” now in its 9th year, also enjoys an injection of renewed vigor, with Adam Beach joining the cast. And the relative baby of the family, “Criminal Intent (CI).” has moved to the USA Network, enjoying the company of a pretty new detective, played by Alicia Witt.
The politics of prosecution will take on new meaning this year as former Senator in real life and DA on the show Fred Thompson is making a run on the President of the United States. Even though he has not officially announced he’s running, he is campaigning as a Republican and doing well in the polls. In fact it is said that one of the reasons he left the show is that FCC Equal Time Rules would mean other candidates would be able to claim time on NBC to present their views.
Replacing him as DA on the show will be Sam Waterston, who will also be involved in presidential politics. Waterston works with a group that is calling for a split ticket to the Oval Office, with both a Democrat and a Republican running as President and Vice President. He told HT “There’s a huge majority of the American people who are ready for a bipartisan ticket, who are not represented in the current system. And this is an opportunity for those people to speak up.”
NBC’s other co-chair Marc Graboff told HT “Sam’s politics are his own affair. As long as he’s not running for office, Equal Time Rules don’t apply, so its fine.”
“The show is going through one of its major renovations of the past ten years. The show has a very different look than it had two years ago”, Dick Wolf explained to Hollywood Today. “It’s a very deliberate shift to hopefully reignite or further penetrate a younger demo. The show has been skewing older, and we would love it to skew younger.
While jockeying for the Gen-Y viewership, Wolf has not forgotten his bread and butter: the loyal over 50s, people “of a certain age” to use the producer’s own delicate phrasing, by promoting Sam Waterstone’s character, Jack McCoy, to the position of District Attorney:
“We’ve talked openly about what happens to men of a certain stature when the next generation comes in. That is fascinating to any of us who are of a certain age.”
A bit like the show itself, which set the standard in crime drama programming, then watched upstarts like CSI explode in popularity on rival networks, using a flashier format and investigators that look like soap stars.
But perhaps with the help of its revitalized network, the tried-and-true formula can outlast its shiny young competitors. Planned for November, NBC will sponsor an entire week of “green episodes”, answering the latest trend in environmentalism. Also, the network will air Law & Order on Sundays, but not until next January, allowing for some much-needed R&R:
“I was more than happy to have the extra time,” Wolf insisted. “I’m very happy being on Sunday night after football. I think you will get a run of 22 with basically no preemptions, no repeats, fine with me”.
While the classic Law & Order format has withstood the test of time, it still is a shock to the dynamic newcomers, not necessarily used to sacrificing character to plot.
“Oh man, the style, the whole thing, its like a vocabulary was created by Dick and the team so many years ago that it is really like a complete world,” explained Law & Order newbie Jeremy Sisto.
SVU add-on, actor Adam Beach, agreed:
“The actors were helping me adjust to the ‘greatest whodunit’, as Ice-T calls it. There’s a structure they have that you have to try to mold with, as opposed to trying to change it,” he explained. “It took me about three weeks to try to not get so actor-ish and become this method, or this kind of ‘I’m bringing talent in’. It’s like just being part of a family.”
Keeping the same structure interesting for 18 years is no small feat, especially without the assistance of the character’s personal-life dramatics.
“I think the actors and the writers have not been adequately recognized over the years for being to pull this off on a year-in/year-out basis“, Wolf lamented, as a clear frustration. “And the reason they pull it off it that they’re not overly burdened by [personal storylines] that have absolutely nothing to do with the case.”
Dick Wolf clearly stumbled upon television gold all those years ago, and has no plans of slowing down, especially not with “Gunsmoke”’s record looming in front. So here’s to Law & Order’s golden years, and to the prospect of many more little L&O spawn in the years to come.