The Renewal Negotiations Saga: So When Will We Know Already?

Well it’s the first day of May and not only are the blossoms of spring blooming, it’s sweeps time again. Tonight (at 9pm Eastern) is the first of 4 LO:CI episodes specially tailored to pander to the non fannish general public and hopefully to spiff the ratings of CI. My allergies are of course going crazy right now but I assume that is not only because of tree and grass pollen but because I am usually allergic to stunt episodes full of BS, which I expect ‘Rocketman’, a riff on the Nowak astronaut love triangle attempted kidnapping case featuring D’Onofrio as Goren to be.

Anyway TV Critic Dusty Saunders has this little piece in today’s Rocky Mountain News:

Original article at

Saunders: Law & Order Deserves A Reprieve

May 1, 2007
“‘L&O Deserves A Reprieve’
Dusty Saunders

Reports out of Hollywood indicate that Law & Order, on NBC for 17 seasons, might not return in the fall. The network is grappling with two problems, falling ratings and rising costs, never a good combination for any series, even one with L&O’s pedigree.

The move to Friday night has not been successful. Nielsen audience ratings have fallen 19 percent and the series regularly finishes second behind Numb3rs, CBS’ FBI drama.

Rising costs? Difficult to solve, considering the hour’s many characters and on-location New York filming. A decision by Fred Dalton Thompson to run for president might decrease expenses a bit, since a lesser-known actor with a smaller salary could assume that role.

Law & Order creator-producer Dick Wolf does not have the typical network relationship with NBC. The series brand has earned billions for NBC Universal, through reruns and spinoffs, including SVU (1999), Criminal Intent (2001) and the short-lived Trial by Jury (2005).

My advice to NBC: Forget all these financial webs and keep L&O on the air. After regularly seeing the network’s current prime-time offerings, L&O has to be a keeper.

I’m aware that reruns of L&O and its spinoffs are all over cable. You can’t turn on TNT or USA without hearing “chung-chung.” But I want fresh episodes so I can continue my armchair visits to New York. That’s part of the series’ appeal – displaying the Big Apple’s glamour and warts.

I’ve never joined the CSI: New York fan club mainly because I’m weary of looking at cut-up cadavers and all too obvious story lines. But I’m also turned off by the series’ fake depiction of New York, brief on-location shots and overdone air views of the city. CSI: New York is really CSI: Back Lot Hollywood.
I’m not alone in my support for Law & Order. Numerous New York actors mix their stage work with L&O appearances. Wolf once boasted the L&O and its spinoffs have produced nearly 10,000 speaking parts since 1990.

An exaggeration? Perhaps not.

Denis O’Hare, currently featured in Broadway’s Inherit the Wind, told the New York Post that working on the programs, mainly L&O, provides more than a needed paycheck, often between stage work.

“It’s a badge of honor for actors,” said O’Hare, whose numerous appearances have ranged from a priest to a schizophrenic.

New York actors, combined with the on-the-street realism in all kinds of weather, provide a you-are-there look that a Hollywood back lot can’t re-create. And when the L&O cops question a street vendor or a warehouse foreman, it’s almost like watching the real thing.

Many other network angles are at play regarding L&O’s return for an 18th season. The network also is weighing the future of Criminal Intent or eliminating either Vince[nt] D’Onofrio or Chris Noth from starring roles.

All decisions will be made within the next two weeks.”

The only thing I can glean from this article is that Dusty’s also heard the increasingly credible rumors that if CI comes back it will only have one detective team and that NBC is going to see how ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Bombshell’ an adaptation of the Anna Nicole Smith legal morass featuring Chris Noth’s Logan do Nielsen-ratings wise before they end the cliffhanger that this renewal negotiations saga has become.

Other than adult diaper-wearing astronauts and large breasted women, neither of which interest me, I fail to see the broader appeal of the premise of either episode. Frankly I think that Mr and Ms General Public are bored with both real world cases and would just assume skip any retreads of either. And the really meaty episodes for fans, ‘Endgame’ (a VDO/Goren episode) and ‘Renewal (a Noth/Logan episode), are airing too late to have their ratings count towards the decision…the upfronts and next season’s schedule presentation occur one day before ‘Endgame’ airs. But darned if those titles aren’t not so subtle code for which actor will stay (I predict Noth) and which actor will go (I predict VDO is already gone).

So mark Wednesday May 9th, 2007 as the earliest possible date for a decision on the fate of CI. And my fingers are crossed that not only is VDO free of the CI Season 6 mediocrity albatross, but that Noth’s salary demands are acceptable to GE/NBC and Wolf and that we get a new detective pairing: Logan and Eames. I can get behind that pairing and I think CI could indeed be renewed by a little personnel shuffling on the squad.

Of course L&O’s dismal 5.1/9 overnights for their first sweep episode last Friday aren’t helping the mothership’s fate. But stranger things have happened in TV before…it could very well be renewed if everything lines up just right.