Monday night’s episode of Law & Order will be the last of the historic twenty year run of the series. Or will it?
NBC announced their upcoming fall schedule last week along with the announcement that Law & Order would be cancelled, falling just one year shy of Gunsmoke’s record. This coincided with the introduction of a new series, Law & Order: Los Angeles, which will attempt to emulate the success of its predecessor on the West Coast.
In the aftermath of this announcement many articles have been written reminiscing on Law & Order’s glory years and how the show changed television forever, as if the writers are delivering a eulogy to the series. This makes me wonder how many episodes these people have actually seen.
As an avid fan of Law & Order and all of its spin-offs, I can honestly say I have seen every episode of every series (with the exception of the post-D’Onofrio episodes of Criminal Intent, which I can’t stand). How many series can claim to have launched six other series (Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent, Trial By Jury, Conviction, Crime and Punishment, and the new Law & Order: Los Angeles) along with adaptations around the world? None.
So, yes, Law & Order is way past its prime and has indeed changed the face of television, but this all seems eerily familiar. Four seasons ago, talks of the cancellation of Law & Order had surfaced when it was absent from NBC’s fall lineup. Discussions about the significance of the franchise and many eulogies to the series were made then as well. Some fans were upset, but it appeared as if the general consensus was that the series had grown stale and it would live on in reruns anyways.
But then NBC picked up a seventeenth season of Law & Order as its midseason replacement for Sunday Night Football. The series continued, until now, with discussion of possible cancellation year after year. My problem is that the current cast is probably the best in over ten years and it seems like a waste to throw that accumulation of talent away.
The acting on Law & Order is far superior to the phone-it-in performances on Special Victims Unit or the emotionless Jeff Goldblum on Criminal Intent. The characters have heart. They are real people. Law & Order doesn’t have to resort to over-the-top story lines like its spin-offs. The story and the acting make the series fascinating.
And now, perhaps, it is all coming to an end. Maybe it is a good idea to repackage the series as something new in Los Angeles, but if the same format isn’t used it will fail. I believe it will fail anyways, simply because it will receive the same audience that was watching Law & Order before, only in less numbers because viewers will want to try other programs before watching yet another Law & Order spin-off.
Look for Law & Order: Los Angeles to be cancelled after midseason, replaced by the original and the best.
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