That is one of the most intriguing questions heading into the upfronts this year. Of Dick Wolf‘s five Law & Order series, only one — first spinoff Law & Order: SVU – is still on the air. But its renewal is being complicated by financial issues. Now in its 15th season, Law & Order: SVU is the longest-running drama series currently on TV. As a high-end drama at that age, it is inherently expensive, leading to periodic budget reviews. Last year, SVU, along with Wolf’s then-freshman Chicago Fire, received early pickups. This year, Chicago Fire and freshman spinoff Chicago P.D. were among the shows to get early renewals by NBC last month, but SVU wasn’t. (All three are produced by NBC sibling Universal TV, where Wolf is based.) I hear the holdup has to do with a pay cut Wolf had been asked to take in order for SVU to come back, something he has been unwilling to do.
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Both sides have a point. Wolf’s camp could argue that SVU is having one of its strongest seasons in years, with star Mariska Hargitay getting notices for her nuanced performance. Averaging a 2.5 adults 18-49 rating (most current), SVU ranks as the No. 4 NBC scripted drama this season behind The Blacklist (4.3), Chicago Fire (2.9) and Grimm (2.6). Last night, the show matched its best 18-49 Live+Same Day rating (2.1) since the season premiere, up 21% from last week. SVU also is up double digits vs. last season, by 21% in 18-49 and by 17% in total viewers, and has an off-network deal with USA. Plus, I hear Wolf had taken a pay cut on the show once and is reluctant to do it again.
On the other hand, as solid as they are, SVU‘s numbers still are nowhere near the show’s heyday, prompting the network’s request for cost reduction. Ironically, NBC is in position to hold firm in part because of Wolf’s success with the Chicago Fire franchise. With young series like The Blacklist, Grimm, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. (2.4 in 18-49) doing as well or better than SVU, the network is far less dependent on the veteran than it was just a couple of years ago. Read More »
Longtime Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU cast member Dann Florek filmed his last episode on Friday. After showrunner Warren Leight Tweeted pics from the set on Florek’s last day (see below), Florek also took to Twitter to send off his 18 years on active duty with the L&O franchise. The veteran originated his role as police captain Don Cragen on the first season of the original Law & Order before departing the show after its third season. Creator Dick Wolf brought Florek’s Cragen back for 1998 TV movie Exiled: A Law & Order Movie before installing him as head of a sex crimes unit in NBC’s 1999 spin-off SVU. He now exits that show after 15 consecutive seasons:
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Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes needed a better joke writer to help him acknowledge the anniversary of the blunder he made at last year’s UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference when he wrote off Netflix, comparing it to the Albanian army trying to take over the world. He had to eat those words as Time Warner, along with just about everyone else, began licensing programming to the online streaming service. “This is the appropriate place to point out that the Albanian army did take over the world. Alexander the Great? It’s close.” The line only elicited a few chuckles from analysts, but they didn’t seem to mind after hearing Bewkes say a lot of things they wanted to hear. Time Warner’s ad sales have been ”up double digits (since the upfront market) and are holding.” Although 4Q was a little soft, ”some of that is advertisers pulling stuff forward to the upfront. … We’re looking fine for the first quarter,” especially with the return of NBA games.
He also assured investors that they don’t have to be concerned about Warner Bros’ prospects following the end of the Harry Potter film series. He said that within hours, the Harry Potter presence that has done so much for Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando “will move in a material way in that direction” — suggesting that the company and Comcast will confirm reports that Universal Studios Hollywood will get a version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. ”Everybody stay tuned.” He also says that the studio has high hopes for additional franchises including the Batman/Dark Knight series. Read More »
UPDATE: Deadline commenters are so right: 2nd LOLA outing tonight was vastly improved story- and dialogue-wise. Plus, Terence Howard nailed it. That said, I do hope the next Hollywood plot will suck less…
Previous: Tonight is the 2nd episode of Law & Order: Los Angeles after the first one sucked. Following that unfortunate debut, Dick Wolf stopped by Kate Mantilini restaurant in Beverly Hills for breakfast and conversation with Los Angeles magazine about the series and the city. Look, I love all things Law & Order, and René Balcer, and the franchise’s writing and plotting. But LOLA reeked bigtime. Now I know why: here’s what Wolf said about his desire to have the show portray LA stereotypes: “It is the way of fruits and nuts. We are trying to fulfill an expectation of what LA is about. The first episode was very deliberate — it’s not going to be Hollywood every week, but I thought it really was the best way to introduce the show, to show that it was really different from the New York version.” Well, Dick, you thought wrong. That was precisely the problem with the first show, and I fear it’s going to be the problem with the series’ view of Hollywood as it pertains to LA: You can be cynical. You can be subversive. But, jeez, you just can’t be so obvious and boring. There wasn’t one thing in that first crapfest that didn’t insult my veteran LA resident’s intelligence.
More excerpts courtesy of the mag’s website: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After months of negotiations, USA Network has closed a deal to bring Law & Order: Criminal Intent back for an 8-episode 10th season with the series’ original star Vincent D’Onofrio, who will return as Detective Robert Goren, a role he played for the first eight seasons. Discussions are under way with Kathryn Erbe and other CI alums sans Jeff Goldblum, who recently announced his exit, to come back for the show’s farewell season. Throughout the entire dealmaking process, USA’s intention was to bring Law & Order CI back only if D’Onofrio agreed to return.
Additionally, USA plans to extend its relationship with Law & Order chief Wolf beyond Criminal Intent. The network’s production arm, Universal Cable Prods., which produces the series with Wolf Films, has handed him a pilot commitment for a new project.
Law & Order: CI will return with new episodes next year. “We have been the fortunate caretakers of this legendary series, and we plan to give it the world-class farewell it so richly deserves,” said Jeff Wachtel, USA’s president of original programming and UCP’s co-head of original content.
He listed several factors that were key in the network’s decision to push through with the deal. “First, it was to bring devoted audience for the finale and create an event,” he said, noting that the series finale of USA’s Monk still ranks as the highest-scripted cable telecast of … Read More »
“I can confirm that (Law & Order) has moved into the history books, the franchise creator Dick Wolf said at the opening of the TCA session for the latest spinoff, Law & Order: Los Angeles, putting an end to any speculation that the show still may find a new home. He opened the LOLA session with a statement:
“We were extremely disappointed that Law & Order is not coming back for a record 21st season. But that’s life. All series start with a death sentence, they just don’t give you the date of execution. The past is the past, and this (LOLA) is a new show.”
After the panel, Wolf also squashed speculation about a possible Law & Order movie, stressing that this indeed was the end of Law & Order as we know it and saying that he was able to tell all stories he had wanted to tell within the framework of that show.
During the session, he refused to discuss whether financial issues led to the cancellation of the veteran series on NBC, only stressing that “in the 23 years I’ve been continuously on the air, we’ve never failed to make a deal when there was a deal to be made.”
The new series, LOLA, will be closer to the mothership than fellow spinoffs Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: CI, in terms of having the police and legal side play equal parts. “I’m not paying (Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard) to be secondary characters,” Wolf said. … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Rene Balcer, a 20-year veteran of the Law & Order franchise, has signed with UTA, the agency that also represents the franchise creator Dick Wolf. For the past 8-10 years, Balcer was at CAA. Balcer serves as executive producer/showrunner on the latest Law & Order spinoff, Law & Order: Los Angeles, which premieres on NBC this fall. Balcer has been with the Law & Order franchise since the beginning. He wrote an episode in the first season of the flagship Law & Order and joined the series in Season 2. He rose to executive producer before leaving in 2001 to executive produce and showrun spinoff L&O: Criminal Intent, which he developed with creator Wolf. Balcer was at L&O:CI for five seasons before returning to the mothership series in March 2007 as executive producer and head writer. He served as showrunner on the long-running drama for the past three seasons, until NBC canceled it in May.
The newspaper tycoon is in pole position to win control of Five, reports the Sunday Times. Deadline predicted Desmond would take over the channel three weeks ago. Desmond will honour long-term US programming contracts for shows include CSI and Law & Order, but will bring in more reality TV and chat-shows. Endemol is interested in bringing its Big Brother over to Five even though it decided not to bid for the channel. Desmond will also maintain Five’s public-service commitments – i.e. regular news bulletins – in order to keep that valuable high ranking on pay-TV electronic programme guides. But staff members are braced for redundancies.
Skeet Ulrich is set to star in NBC’s latest Law & Order spinoff, Law & Order: Los Angeles. The former Jericho star is the first actor tapped for the Dick Wolf-produced series, which had cast a wide net for its five regular roles. Ulrich gradually emerged as a frontrunner for the lead role of Detective Rex Winters, a handsome, rugged former Marine with the intuition of a natural cop. Winters was 6 weeks on the job when the Rodney King riots occurred, which shaped his entire policy of policing. His personal life is a bit of a mess: his first marriage ended when he had an affair – with his former partner, to whom he is now married. According to the series’ breakdown, LOLA follows closely the template of the other Law & Order series with two detectives, Winters and thirtysomething TJ Jaruszalski at the center, joined by a captain, a prosecutor, and his assistant. LOLA, from UMS and Wolf Films, is executive produced by Wolf, writer Blake Masters, showrunner Rene Balcer and Peter Jankowski. Ulrich recently played a serial killer in an arc on CSI:NY.
Everyone is very tight-lipped. But I’ve confirmed that Dick Wolf just lost an arbitration proceeding to NBC Universal over back-end agreements on two of his Law & Order series. This occurred the same week that all three of his shows were picked up.
UPDATE: Sources tell me that Wolf was challenging the back-end cable deal terms for Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent that were both licensed to USA. ”They were totally arm’s length, but since Dick has always browbeaten NBC into giving him everything he could possibly wish for, he tried again,” an insider explained. “It also reflects his total failure in recent years to launch anything successful, despite unlimited resources and access to NBC’s air. NBC is the worst, but in this case they didn’t deserve to lose, so finally justice prevailed.”
My understanding is that this is unrelated to the ongoing contract dispute over Wolf’s executive producer fees for the three dramas that resulted in NBC Uni filing a lawsuit against the L&O producer back in January. Geez, for such a successful TV partnership, these two camps seem to disagree a lot on financial matters. Then again, Hollywood gets cranky when there’s a shitload of $$$ at stake.