Still More Negotiations Coverage: Hollywood Reporter Says Renewal Talks Stalled

I owe a hat tip to Kitt & Kor at apocrypha for this one…they’re blogging this Hollywood Reporter article.

The things that stand out to me are:
1) The decision may not come until May (right before the upfronts when the schedule has to be finalized to sell next season’s advertising packages)…I think that means that NBC would like to see how May sweeps ratings (the sweeps begin on April 26th this year) for both CI and the mothership look before figuring out what they’re going to do next. I don’t predict that the sweeps episodes for CI are going to get a lot of interest even if some of the cases, the shows will deal with situations similar to those faced in the cases of Brittney Spears (that one is being tackled by the mothership), Anna Nichole Smith and the astronaut love-triangle conspiracy (those are upcoming CI episodes). Frankly I think those are cheesy sweeps choices (and sweeps episodes are usually by definition in lesser shows, episodes that pander to the lowest common denominator audiences) and won’t help either show’s ratings but we’ll know soon enough.

2) CI to me did not have a major face-lift that ‘really worked’. I think the show was evicerated when Rene Balcer and the rest of the creative team got sacrificed, but that’s Dick Wolf happy-talk for you…anything to get that ‘Gunsmoke’ record. And that new series Dick is going to do based on the book ‘ The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops who Murdered for the Mafia’ could easily replace CI in his mind…they’re all ‘cop shows’ after all, right?

3) NBC had the worst ratings ever over the last two weeks with 18-49 year olds. I plead no contest to this charge.

4) Putting CI back on Sundays at 9pm may or may not help…it all depends on what CI will be airing opposite on the other channels…if it’s a show like ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘House’, CI’s ratings will not improve…those shows have similar target audiences.

5) Defamer.com’s humorous take on this is simply: “Rumors are circulating that NBC might not renew the original Law & Order unless creator Dick Wolf figures out a way to fire his entire cast and produce each episode on a budget of $100 or less.”
This is the first time I’ve seen something marginally funny and having the color of truth about it on a gossip blog. I guess it’ll be ten years or so before that happens again.

Original article link: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/television/news/e3i24b21916578451e571c3524290fe1156

No decision on 2 ‘L&O’ series
By Nellie Andreeva
April 19, 2007

After more than a month of negotiations, the future of Dick Wolf’s crime dramas for NBC, “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” is still uncertain.

This week began with a flurry of rumors Monday about the cancellation of the mothership series. After an in-person meeting between reps for Wolf and NBC later that day, the fate of the show was moved back into the “undecided” column. Talks between the two sides are expected to stretch into early May before a final decision on the two series is made. (The franchise’s third series, “L&O: SVU,” was picked up for next season in January.)

“Talks have been taking place and continue to take place about the future of both ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent,’ ” Wolf said Wednesday. “I think the discussions have reached a productive stage, and it’s my finest hope that we will find a way to have both shows picked up. I feel that creatively they are remarkably strong.

” ‘Criminal Intent’ went through a major face-lift this fall, and I think it really worked. I also think that ‘Law & Order’ is still doing a great job of telling stories that very few other shows can tackle,” Wolf said.

He declined further comment on the negotiations.

“We’re in discussions with Dick to explore ways to bring back one or both shows, but no final decision has been made,” an NBC spokeswoman said.

From the very beginning, it was made clear by both sides that a renewal for the shows would be a business decision; both “L&O,” in its 17th season, and “L&O: CI,” in its sixth, are expensive to produce, with ensemble casts and New York-based shoots, while their ratings have held steady but not near the levels from several years ago (HR 3/13).

But as negotiations have been going on, NBC’s fortunes changed. With freshman hit “Heroes” still on the bench, the network posted its lowest weekly ratings among adults 18-49 for the past two weeks, with a number of series softening, including once-red-hot game show “Deal or No Deal.”

It is understood that, from a financial standpoint, even with significant cost cuts, “Law & Order” won’t be able continue in its current slot on the low-traffic, low-ad-revenue Friday night. Things look brighter if “Law & Order” moves to another night, with the Wednesday 10 p.m. period — where the veteran drama spent 15 years — as a potential candidate. All of the drama series NBC has put in the time slot since sending “L&O” to Fridays have fared worse than that long-running crime drama.

It is understood that the “L&O” camp also is hoping for a return of its other series on the bubble, “L&O: CI,” to its old Sunday 9 p.m. period after football.

There has been speculation for months about potential casting changes on “L&O,” including Fred Thompson and Milena Govich leaving, but sources stressed that no decisions on cast changes and/or reductions will be made until there is a license fee agreement.

While its future on the network is still in doubt, the “L&O” franchise is going strong for producers NBC Universal TV Studio and Wolf Films with international format sales and domestic syndication sales. Russian versions of “L&O: SVU” and “L&O: CI” already are on the air, and France is about to launch a local version of “L&O: CI,” and “L&O: SVU” recently was sold in weekend syndication for the fall in the U.S.

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