By Amy Ryan
Updated May 09, 2007 at 07:37 PM EDT

Ask not for whom the cha-chung! tolls; it tolls for thee. We keep hearing that NBC may finally cancel the venerable Law & Order: Original Flava due to its continued ratings slide unless drastic changes are made at the franchise flagship. One move might be to reduce costs by laying off some of the cops and lawyers (Law & Side Order?). Another, more novel idea might be to move the show over to TNT, where they already air four hours of L&O reruns a day. There, the show could continue at a reduced fee, with full 22-episode seasons and a built-in deal for the reruns. Such a deal would probably mark a first for a broadcast-to-cable series.

But I have an even more radical suggestion: let it die. I mean, would anybody miss it? The reruns are ubiquitous, and there are 17 years worth of them (about 400 episodes). The other two L&O shows are still doing fine in first run, and there’s no reason folks like S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterston can’t do guest spots on Criminal Intent or Special Victims Unit. Besides, the show’s just not what it was before it lost Jerry Orbach — the jaded older cop/restless younger cop dynamic doesn’t work when senior partner Jesse L. Martin (pictured) is still a fairly young guy; the new assistant D.A. lady is the most personality-free yet; and Fred Thompson would probably rather be running for president than dispensing Southern-fried bon mots from the D.A.’s chair. Really, the only reason to keep it alive seems to be to satisfy producer Dick Wolf’s desire to break Gunsmoke‘s 20-season record as the longest-lived primetime drama series.

Is that really a good enough reason to keep Law & Order going? Would you still watch first-run episodes if they trimmed the cast or moved the show to basic cable? Do you have another idea for how to save the series, or is it time to just let it go?

addCredit(“Law & Order: Virginia Sherwood”)