'Law & Order': Does it deserve its record-tying renewal?
NBC’s granting Law & Order creator Dick Wolf’s longtime wish: His series will, in fact, tie Gunsmoke‘s 20-season record, thanks to a renewal for next year that the net will announce today. Wolf totally deserves this televisual equivalent of a gold watch for 20 good years of service (and I will briefly pause while we all contemplate what L&O being on for two decades now says about how quickly our lives are slipping away and our own mortality is creeping up on us). Wolf has been with the network from the good times (the Seinfeldian ’90s) to the bad, plugging schedule leaks and stabilizing nights like few could. He perfected an age-old TV trope: Why not make episodes that always wrap up by the 60th minute and stand alone so they can repeat anytime, anyplace? Why not put plot before character so no actor is indispensable? You may not be a fan of the procedural — I’m not, because I dig the kind of character-driven, serialized stuff that, frankly, doesn’t always get big numbers. (RIP, Everwood and Veronica Mars.) But TV is for making money, and Wolf figured out how to work the business end of television artfully. So congrats, Mr. Wolf. (And we won’t think too hard about the fact that this order is apparently for 16 episodes, while Gunsmoke was churning out 24-a-season until the end.)
Whether the show itself truly deserves a pick-up is a tougher call. It’s not the ratings force it used to be, and it even has that whiff of is-that-still-on to those who don’t tune in regularly. But it can still hold down any timeslot, even as a repeat, better than a lot of untested new shows. And, well, it has Jeremy Sisto, who should always be on television so I can find him any time I want. What do you think, PopWatchers? Is more Law & Order in order? Does it deserve to tie — or, next year, break — the Gunsmoke record?