The Renewal Negotiations Saga: How About Cutting This?

In doing a little news searching I came across the following little gem courtesy of Gothamist:

Full article link at:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/04152007/news/regionalnews/price_of_fame_regionalnews_elizabeth_wolff.htm

PRICE OF FAME
By ELIZABETH WOLFF
April 15, 2007 — A city public school teacher makes a puny starting salary of $45,000.
But actor Matthew Broderick, who played one opposite Reese Witherspoon in the high school romp “Election,” is used to pulling down $9 million.
Rookie NYPD cops can expect $25,100 a year: Kevin Spacey, the spotlight-loving cop in “L.A. Confidential” is raking in $600,000 for a 10-week Broadway gig. It’s The Post’s look at who-makes-what. At least it’s comforting to know that if we elect the richest man in NYC, he’ll work for just a buck. Here, we reveal some of New York’s secret salaries:

Jerry Seinfeld, comedian, $100M
Dick Wolf, exec producer of “Law & Order” series, $70M
David Letterman, “Late Show” host, $40M
Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, $22.5M
Regis Philbin, “Regis and Kelly” host, $21M
Jason Kidd, Nets point guard, $17.5M
Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia founder, $17M
Sean “Diddy” Combs, hip-hop entrepreneur, $16M
Gisele Bundchen, supermodel, $15.2M
Katie Couric, CBS anchor, $15M
Diane Sawyer, “Good Morning America” host, $12M
John Thain, NYSE CEO, $10.15M
James Gandolfini, actor, $10M
Carl Pavano, Yankee pitcher, $9.99M
Bill Clinton, former president, $9M (from private lecture circuit)
Conan O’Brien, “Late Night” host, $9M
Matthew Broderick, actor, $9M
Heidi Klum, supermodel/”Project Runway” host, $8M
Eli Manning, Giants quarterback, $7.5M
Joe Torre, Yankees manager, $7M
Isiah Thomas, Knicks head coach, $6.9M
Rachael Ray, TV host , $6M
Meryl Streep, actress, $5M (for “The Devil Wears Prada”)
Mario Batali, celebrity chef, $5M
Kyra Sedgwick, actress, $4M
Chuck Scarborough, WNBC news anchor, $3M (co-anchor Sue Simmons makes $500K less)
Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief, $2M
Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” host, $1.5M
Kevin Spacey, actor, $600,000 (for 10 weeks on Broadway)
Eliot Spitzer, governor, $179,179
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, $165,200
Ray Kelly, NYPD commissioner, $162,800
Rookie public school teacher, $45,000
Rookie police officer, $25,100
Edward Egan, cardinal, New York Archdiocese, $18,000
Michael Bloomberg, mayor, $1 (in lieu of official mayoral salary of $195,000)
Auxiliary cop, $0

I think I know where Dick Wolf can cut some budgetary fat…his annual salary.

“Cut the salary, save the shows”.

Appropriately snarky music (Oink Oink)

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Stuff To Watch: Which LO:CI Episodes Have Been Adapted For Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (PEC)?

Well thanks to Seb over at lawandorder-fr.com I have figured out which of the LO:CI episodes, the first 6 episodes of PEC will be adapting

Paris Enquêtes Criminelles adapted from LO:CI

#1 PEC Fantôme (Phantom) = LO:CI ‘Phantom’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer & René Balcer)
#2 PEC Requiem pour un assassin (Requiem For An Assassin)= LO:CI ‘The Faithful’ (Stephanie Sengupta)
#3 PEC Le serment (The Oath)= LO:CI ‘One’ (René Balcer)
#4 PEC Addiction (Addiction) = LO:CI ‘Smothered’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer)
#5 PEC L’Homme au scalpel (The Man Of The Scalpel) = LO:CI ‘The Good Doctor’ (Geoffrey Neigher)
#6 PEC L’Ange de la mort (The Angel Of Death)= LO:CI ‘Poison’ (Stephanie Sengupta)

There are also some casting updates to make here
Commander Vincent Revel (Vincent Perez)
Lieutenant Claire Savigny (Sandrine Rigaux)
Police Chief Bonnefoy (Jacques Pater)
Judge Lherbier (Hélène Godec)
Judge Fontana (Laure Killing)

Note that the ADA/prosecutor role is replaced by a Judge in PEC. Apparently there will be two judges who will be at the minimum recurring characters on PEC, both of whom are female! In some episodes you can expect to see both Judges Lherbier and Fontana while in others it is not clear whether both judges will have parts (things are still a bit slow to get out via the French media).

There will be 2 more episodes of PEC for its first season…I will update later when TF1 puts out more information on them.

Stuff To Watch/Choses de Regarder: Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (Paris Criminal Investigations)

Whoo-hoo! / Zut alors!

Even if LO:CI doesn’t get renewed, CI fans can get their fix (that is if they don’t mind learning a little français)

May I present the website for Paris Enquêtes Criminelles courtesy of the French TV channel TF1? From now on here is a new abbreviation to get used to so that I don’t have to flail around on my keyboard searching for non-existant French characters like the circonflex “^” e that belongs in ‘Paris Enquêtes Criminelles’ : PEC. Learn it well, because I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot.

Regardez bien/ Take a look at Commander Vincent Revel (played by Vincent Perez) and Lieutenant Claire Savigny (played by Sandrine Rigaux)

TF1’s PEC site is a bit less developed than NBC’s CI site is now, but it reminds me of how the NBC CI site was back in 2001…it’s a little more polished though than NBCs (which back in the day had very little video to it)

I particularly love this tiny snippet of an interview from Vincent Perez on what Perez thought the differences between Goren and Ravel are (I translated this partly with help from an online translator and then used my own modest knowledge of French to Americanize it):

“I watched very little of the original version so as not to be influenced by it, but I have the impression that Goren is very cerebral. Revel is more instinctive and perhaps more vulnerable. At times, it is necessary that Revel has doubts, that he is a little lost. These two characters however have much in common. We had already begun filming [PEC] when we left for New York to meet the American team. When Vincent D’ Onofrio spoke to me about his own experience, I really had the impression that we had passed by the same stages. What he said evoked my memories, of my personal interrogations of the character of Revel. It was amusing.”

Here’s how Sandrine Rigaux answered the question: “Did you seek your American counterpart Kathryn Erbe’s advice?”

“Not really, but naturally we spoke about the difficulty of coexisting with our partners. The Americans also advised us to develop the female character more quickly than they had done it. Building a character alongside Revel’s is inevitably delicate. This partnership of cops functions like that formed by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I was to find my moments, without falling into the trap of imitating my partner at the risk of destroying the balance of our team. Vincent Perez really helped me.”

Unlike the American CI which began with ‘One’, the pilot of PEC is an adaptation of the CI Season 1 episode ‘Phantom’ or ‘Fantôme’ as the French call it. The clip on TF1’s site (click on the ‘Extraits’ tab to watch it) shows Revel and Savigny questioning Nadine Delcourt (played by Hélène Degy) about the death of Malek Kelkal (played by Mustapha Ben Stiti). The quick thinking American CI fan will recognize that Nadine Delcourt is an adaptation of the character Charlotte Fielding aka Cookie Caspari! You will also note that the writers preserved one of my favorite detective exchanges ever:

Goren: One thing this job teaches us is that guys will do anything for love.
Eames: Or money.

Paraphrasing and translating
Revel …les hommes feront n’importe quoi pour l’amour.
Savigny Oui. Mais aussi pour l’argent.

The second episode of PEC will be an adaptation of the first season CI episode ‘The Faithful’ called ‘Requiem pour un assassin’ or ‘Requiem For An Assassin’ If you watch the promotional spot for PEC (click on the Bande Annonce tab to watch it) you will see Ravel doing his version of the infamous ‘Goren show’ investigation of a mentally ill homeless man from ‘The Faithful’.

From what else I can glean of the show by watching its promo spot, PEC’s Captain Deakins/Ross equivalent, Police Chief Bonnefoy, is male (and played by Jacques Pater) and the ADA/prosecutor role we would have associated with ADA Ron Carver (played by Courtney Vance) is a female called Judge Lherbier (played by Hélène Godec)!

PEC’s first two episodes will initially air back to back on Thursday May 3, 2007 beginning at 8:50pm (that’s Paris time). I am hoping that these episodes will be available online somehow, or that someone in France can hook me up with DVDs once the show gets going. The French are skeptical of this remake of an ‘American’ show…many of them think why redo CI, when what the Americans have done is so good. I say give PEC a shot…it might translate well to French culture and get better ratings there than CI ever did here in the USA.

The Negotiations Get Even Weirder: Everybody’s Beginning To Put Their Two Cents In

Okay things here are getting interesting, controversial and frankly a little faster paced than I thought they would (sweeps don’t start until April 26th). So on with today’s news:

First I learned from Newsday.com that while SVU’s been pulling 12.2 million viewers for its new episodes, CI and the mothership are pulling just a little over 9 million viewers each. This means that if you’re a CI (or a mothership) fan and want to make a difference in how the renewal fight is going, you need to get everyone you know to watch for the next couple of weeks…and you might consider getting people you don’t know to watch too. Apparently 3 million viewers makes the difference between a surefire renewal on NBC and a cliffhanging show with an uncertain future. I don’t know what the magic number will be that makes NBC think it’s worth it…right now I don’t have time to do some mathematical analysis and make guesstimates on where I think NBC will draw the line…maybe I can get to that in another post.

From the ‘other parties heard from departments’, we have the following 2 Fox News stories/gossip items:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267803,00.html#2

“‘Law & Order’ Chaos
It’s chaos in the world of Dick Wolf and “Law & Order.”

Last year at this time, we told you NBC was going to cancel the series after 17 seasons and countless, ceaseless reruns in syndication. But our story did the trick, and the network relented.

Now NBC is sharpening its ax again, looking at both classic “L&O” and spin-off “Criminal Intent” as prime shows to cross off its schedule for next year.

Last week, Variety and other outlets noted this situation, but there was plenty they missed and some things they could not know. The latter included the newest dilemma at NBC about Alec Baldwin and “30 Rock.”

Will the peacock’s feathers withstand one of its stars calling his 11-year-old daughter a “rude, thoughtless pig”?

Meanwhile, NBC is still dealing with the quiet demise of “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip.” That hour must be filled next season.

And then there’s all the weird stuff going on in the Wolf’s den to keep the two shows on the air. “Law & Order: SVU” has already been renewed; it’s a bona-fide hit.

Already told she’s out at “Law & Order” is producer Jamie Crowell Blank. She was a controversial presence anyway based on a still unsettled sexual harassment brought by a former staffer.

Wolf is also telling insiders that if “Law & Order” is renewed, he’s dumping Jesse L. Martin and Milena Govich, who play the cops on the show.

Wolf is coming up with a plan to cut the show’s weekly budget in half, and replacing those actors with less expensive ones would be a way to do that, sources say.

But there’s another problem on “Law & Order”: S. Epatha Merkerson, the much-admired actress who has been with the show from the start, is unhappy.

Merkerson, who plays a desk-bound cop, has been complaining for years of not having enough airtime. Lately scripts have had her out on investigations, but Merkerson’s recent raft of awards and nominations for HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues” has emboldened her to make demands and to consider leaving the show altogether.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,268020,00.html#2

“I told you yesterday about the turmoil at Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” shows on NBC. Here’s a little more.

Wolf, sources say, is in a huge-cost cutting move at the moment to keep classic “L&O” and “Criminal Intent” on the air.

For the former show, he has already fired a producer and is thinking of axing the actors who play the cops. He would replace them with younger, cheaper people.

For “Criminal Intent,” it’s a different story. There is talk that Wolf has suggested eliminating long time “L&O” player Chris Noth from “CI.” Noth came on in 2006 to alternate episodes with Vincent D’Onofrio. The latter actor had become very difficult and the company required a soothing change.

But D’Onofrio, they say, has calmed down. He is also less expensive than Noth, who is such a bona-fide star that he could easily carry his own show.

On top of that, Noth has already gone through one co-star, Annabella Sciorra. Now I’m told that Julianne Nicholson, who replaced Sciorra, is already not coming back, thanks to her pregnancy.

Here’s an interesting theory about why “CI” might survive while classic “L&O” might not. Apparently, “CI” is a hit in France, where the scripts are refilmed with French actors. The French production company pays a high fee for this.

“They don’t like the original ‘Law & Order’ because their judicial system doesn’t allow for the way the show is divided between the cops and lawyers,” an observer said. “‘CI’ is much easier for them to replicate.”
Stay tuned. …”

So Kitt and Kor of apocrypha, who are both long time L&O series fans and two people who are connected to their inner workings thanks to their zine apocrypha have done a little armchair analysis for me and ferreted out a little scoop of their own (one of these two also writes from time to time for an unnamed entertainment news source so I take this more seriously than the Fox News/gossip dude)

Apocrypha’s excellent analysis and some new information

“Putting the rumor mill into high gear
For those who might have missed some recent comments by VDOVault, an excellent commenter on these boards, here’s some more links about what’s going on behind the scenes at Law & Order/Criminal Intent:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,268020,00.html#2
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267803,00.html#2

In summary (or, word/aka Fox’s Roger Friedman) has it:

1) Should L&O survive being axed, the lead cops will be replaced with less-expensive ones.
2) Chris Noth is likely to be axed from “Criminal Intent.”
3) His partner, Julianne Nicholson is pregnant and already out.
4) One producer (Jamie Crowell Blank) at L&O is out.
5) S. Epatha Merkerson is unhappy with a lack of camera time and has made noise about it.

***********

Bear in mind, as we’ve said before, that this is a Fox gossip columnist (he’s very in, but he’s not always accurate — Merkerson hasn’t been with the show “from the start,” as he says) and he’s talking about an NBC show.

Sources close to apocrypha spoke with Merkerson recently and she indicated that people are concerned behind the scenes about what happens next, but didn’t voice anything about trying to grab more land for herself. Other sources indicated that Noth’s salary is the issue; perception at NBC is that he might be able to carry a show on his own.

And that’s what we know, at this point.”

Then thanks to the Aussies at The Age (who threw the fangurls into a tizzy with their ‘Vincent D’Onofrio’s leaving at the end of Season 6’ article back in March) comes this little gem:

The Age’s Interview with CI Showrunner Warren Leight and Speculation on CI’s Fate

Is it out of Order?
Andrew Murfett
April 26, 2007
Andrew Murfett reports on the decline of a US TV icon.

CALL it the end of an era. After a gradual ratings descent, Dick Wolf’s once indomitable television franchise Law & Order may be cancelled.

Of the three titles in the L&O stable, only SVU has been guaranteed survival. After 17 years on air, the venerable original and the six-season-old Criminal Intent both face cancellation.

In the US this year, CI has slid a troubling 14 per cent in the ratings. In Australia, it’s posting solid figures (949,000 viewers nationally on Thursday nights).

With his show facing the axe, CI producer and head writer Warren Leight put on a brave face in New York last week.

“We’re trying to wait it out,” he said. “It’s part of the television business; your fate is not usually in your own hands. It’s a question of money.”

With CI in its sixth season, the costs are much higher than a new series that has not absorbed six years of pay rises for cast and crew. CI’s fiscal predicaments stem from its high production costs, even though L&O remains a huge source of income for NBC. According to Variety, all three series have revenue of more than $1 billion. L&O re-runs play up to 20 times daily on four US cable networks. (They screen here daily on Foxtel).

CI began in 2001, based around the travails of the Major Case Squad and the brilliant but eccentric Detective Bobby Goren (played histrionically by Vincent D’Onofrio). After D’Onofrio suffered a mini-breakdown in the fourth season, Chris Noth joined the cast, recycling his old L&O character Logan. The two split episode duties to lighten D’Onofrio’s workload.

“It was off balance at times,” Leight says of the show’s propensity to overplay Goren. “It could be argued that we overused him and neglected the other actors.”

This year Leight initiated further changes to CI’s structure, cast and visual style. Originals Jamey Sheridan (Captain Deakins) and Courtney Vance (ADA Carver) left along with Annabella Sciorra (Detective Barek). Sheridan was frustrated that his character was not more engaged in the story. Vance’s exit was more pragmatic: budget pressures.

Sciorra was replaced by Julianne Nicholson, playing Detective Logan’s (Chris Noth) umpteenth partner, Wheeler.

“Noth was unhappy to have another new partner,” Leight says. “I told him we’d write to that; that he’d underestimate her, she’d grow on him, and eventually he’d realise she’s the best partner he’d had since Lenny. It worked out beautifully.”

There was also a desire to explore more of the personal lives of the detectives. Leight was receiving feedback suggesting viewers thought of Goren as “the man who knew too much”. With D’Onofrio having completed 110 episodes as Goren, Leight fleshed out his family’s story to help keep him engaged in the role.

After several years of alluding to her, Goren’s schizophrenic mother appeared. The scenes with his mother (also undergoing chemotherapy) were poignant and helped explain where Goren comes from. Goren also has a drug-addled brother and little else. This explains his obsessiveness for closure in cases; his own life always lacked closure.

Leight says the quirks that Goren is renowned for – stuttering and stammering, leaning over during interrogation, and demonstrating odd and obscure knowledge – evolved partly from D’Onofrio himself. “Vince engages psychologically with the script the same way Goren engages psychologically with the suspects,” Leight says.

The difference in Goren’s and Logan’s episodes are conspicuous. Goren episodes typically conclude with a last scene that runs up to 10 minutes and ends with the internal motivation of the killer unveiled through a Goren confrontation. “Chris Noth doesn’t care for that manner,” Leight laughs.

Instead, Noth’s Logan is experienced and intuitive and he works as more of a traditional, street-smart cop: who, what, when, where. Logan’s not interested in why they did it; he just wants to find out who did it.

Leight and his team have also attempted to visually reinforce the narrative this season. They began making more of the fact that all L&Os are shot on location in New York (unlike shows such as CSI:NY, which purports to be set in New York but is filmed on LA sound stages).

“We really wanted to get out and show the city,” Leight says. “There’s a real look to the city we should take advantage of.”

Meantime, CI faces cancellation after enjoying arguably its strongest season. This week, a cluster of agents, lawyers and producers are crunching numbers to decide the show’s fate.

Leight is defiantly proud of the work of his team. Still, if it returns next year, expect subtle changes. For example, the medical examiner, Rogers, an L&O tyro, will get an expanded role.

For his part, the Goren character has endured a harrowing year. How can he continue? “We’ll ask what does a man who has never gotten to live his life do when he gets the chance,” Leight says. “Nothing about Goren suggests he’s a quitter.”

Okay…my turn

First of all, there is a common theme here: Money. M-O-N-E-Y.

Newsday mentions ratings which equal income

Second Fox News and this reads like a Joe Bob Briggs (the drive in movie critic) body count
The Mothership
1 fired producer
2 probably fired cops
1 possibly fired cop who wants more airtime and has an Emmy
50% budget slashing fu

CI
1 actress leaving due to pregnancy (Julianne Nicholson)
1 actor with a gossip/mainstream press fanbase and an already big salary– and boy oh boy are the fangurls *upset* that Chris Noth is making more money than VDO (I’ll come back to this in a bit) — and some issues over losing yet another acting partner which could be leveraged into a bigger salary demand
1 actor who has sent out so many coded messages about being so outta there that the topic deserves its own post not to mention presumably the gossip/mainstream press doesn’t like him (which is why we often get stories about unhappy cast and crew from them) (Vincent D’Onofrio)
No more room for really big budget slashes unless it’s all about going from hamburger to tainted pet food artistically speaking (last season’s loss of Rene Balcer and his creative team was like going from fillet mignon to hamburger)

Finally from The Age [with my analysis in blunt Tony Soprano speak in brackets]

“It’s part of the television business; your fate is not usually in your own hands. It’s a question of money.” — Warren Leight [At GE/NBC, it *really* is all about the Benjamins. F*ck the fans, f*ck the creative stuff, just f*cking pay us already, so to speak]

“Noth was unhappy to have another new partner,” Leight says. “I told him we’d write to that; that he’d underestimate her, she’d grow on him, and eventually he’d realise she’s the best partner he’d had since Lenny. It worked out beautifully.” [F*cking constant cast changes do not make for happy actors, good scripts do though]

Leight was receiving feedback suggesting viewers thought of Goren as “the man who knew too much”. With D’Onofrio having completed 110 episodes as Goren, Leight fleshed out his family’s story to help keep him engaged in the role. [*I*never said that Goren was too smart or that I needed to know everything about his personal life but then I’m a fan of that character from Day 1…the ordinary casual viewers said that and NBC just had to have bigger ratings and not a loyal viewership. So welcome to f*ck the fanbase who were willing to use their imaginations and their brains in favor of people would watch pretty much any old thing their TV clicker lands on.]

“Vince engages psychologically with the script the same way Goren engages psychologically with the suspects” [Welcome to smart people TV: take a smart script, give it to a smart actor and get the hell out of the way. Of course brain engaged TV does not equal ratings: think of ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’ or ‘100 Centre Street’. But it makes smart people (many of who have discretionary money to spend with advertisers) happy watching TV.]

“We’ll ask what does a man who has never gotten to live his life do when he gets the chance,” Leight says. “Nothing about Goren suggests he’s a quitter.” [Uh sorry but just because Goren the character is not a quitter does not equal ‘VDO will be back for a seventh season’. This is happy talk designed to keep rabid fangurls watching the show even though signs and portents abound to the contrary. In fact calling Goren ‘a man who has never gotten to live his life’ suggests a character that might not be back for a weekly TV series. Perhaps taking a page out of the Chris Noth book we’ll see CI TV movies with Goren in them. So technically Leight is covered no matter what happens, just like D’Onofrio is covered by the opposing The Age – TV Guide stories of March 2007. Misdirect and hedge all you want but if I hear VDO is gone next season I will have been neither fooled nor upset for the deception…you may have some ticked off fans and fangurls though, be warned.]

Speaking of the fangurls who are upset over VDO getting paid less than Chris Noth, well Noth played a business opportunity beautifully back in 2005. He got steady employment in a role he’s good in, Wolf and NBC got someone who could bring a fan base, VDO got some breathing space, VDO’s fans and fangurls got to continue getting their fix while Noth’s fans and fangurls got to renew their addiction all around. That was a smart move for everybody

But now most of the choices to keep CI on the air are zero-sum gain choices. For everybody who wins someone is going to lose. I say let CI go already while it’s quality is passable.

As for the French, nothing is preventing Wolf from brokering a deal for unaired CI scripts by either US or French writers, with Wolf taking a cut for the use of the CI brand…talk about an easy deal for Wolf!

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.

Stuff To Read: Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman On ‘Zombie [Mainstream] Media’ and VDO

While I’m not a big fan of VDO’s one Troma flick, I do think it’s funny as all get out that the media are scrambling to talk to Lloyd Kaufman about ‘Grindhouse’ and low-budget filmmaking. Lloyd exaggerates a little when he says he discovered VDO (he gave VDO his first (low) paying gig in a film, but frankly it was Stanley Kubrick that launched VDO in a big way). But Kevin Costner was the star of Troma epic ‘Sizzle Beach’ U.S.A.’ and Samuel L. Jackson was in ‘Def By Temptation’ (and Chris Noth was in ‘Waitress!’). So Lloyd’s not totally wrong when he says he employed these guys.

Exerpts:

Question “Has Troma gotten more mainstream attention since the promotion of Grindhouse?”
Lloyd Kaufman “I’ve had major media calling me up all week, and you’ll see that this stuff is coming out in The New York Times and on television. The major media had no interest in Lloyd Kaufman when Troma had its 30th anniversary, a milestone in the history of cinema. The Times and the NY media have totally ignored the fact that we own a building in NY, that we’ve got a payroll in NY of people who’d be on welfare, for sure, if they weren’t working for Troma. They’ve ignored that we discovered Samuel Jackson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kevin Costner, Toxic Avenger. The only thing the media might cover is if I blew my brains out in the middle of 9th Avenue. Now, as an excuse to do a piece on Grindhouse, the media comes to contact me, and therefore I will now be part of the Kool-Aid that brings the zombies into the theater. And, in this case, I want to make it clear that, in this particular case, because of Tarantino and the other guy, I’m happy to do it. And I’m certain that it’s going to be good. And the other good thing is thanks to Grindhouse, Troma and Poultrygeist are getting some attention! But what a pity that that’s the only way that we can get attention!”

Full article at:
http://www.nypress.com/20/15/news&columns/feature2.cfm

Thanks to Lloyd for going after the “giant, devil-worshipping international conglomerates” that own most of our entertainment outlets. And for the record I don’t like Tarantino (his movies either put me to sleep or motivate me to do mindless stuff I don’t enjoy doing like laundry and housekeeping) and have only seen Rodriguez’s ‘El Mariachi’. But I do love George Romero (another Carnegie Mellon alumni) and hadn’t thought about Romero’s ‘social relevance’ beyond going to Monroeville Mall while I was a college kid and wondering what the zombies would have thought of it in the 1980s and giggling a bit at brain-dead consumer culture (I didn’t buy a single thing ever from the ‘Mall Of The Dead’ http://www.mallofthedead.net/).

The Negotiations Continue Further: Wolf Speaks More Candidly To The NY Times Than To The Trade Variety

This is from my “I told you so” department…I find it interesting that NBC is being really candid with Variety *and* the New York Times while Wolf is reserving his juicy stuff for the Times only. Thanks to a heads up from my best friend, I can now add this article to the weird ‘negotiation posturing in the press’ file for your perusal. Given that Wolf has the green light for a new series based on the book “The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia,” by Guy Lawson and William Oldham, a cops and mafia story that will run on NBC next season and may or may not be shoved into the Law & Order brand (the full story is at http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117963289.html?categoryid=14&cs=1) to me things look just that much bleaker for CI.

Oh and I think my friend has called it beautifully when he says of Wolf in the email alerting me to the Times article that Wolf’s a “whiny egotistical sod”.

Here’s the NY Times article in question (original link at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/19/arts/television/19law.html?_r=2&ref=television&oref=slogin&oref=slogin Be sure to accept all the idiotic cookies the NY Times makes you take to read their stuff)

Crime Shows’ Last Verdict? These Are Their Stories
By BILL CARTER
Published: April 19, 2007

The future of “Law & Order,” one the most enduringly popular shows in television history, will be decided over the next few weeks as its network, NBC, and its creator, Dick Wolf, mull a wrenching decision:

Is it finally time to shut down production of a series that has churned out almost 400 episodes, fueled ratings for several cable channels with its voluminous repeats and spawned two successful spinoffs, all the while generating enormous profits for both NBC and Mr. Wolf?

The answer will come in the negotiations now going on between Mr. Wolf and NBC Universal, the corporate entity that includes the studio that produces the series. The talks involve not just the 17-year-old “Law & Order” but also its most recent offspring, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” now in its sixth season.

At least according to NBC executives, it’s possible that either or both “Law & Order” and “Criminal Intent” will be canceled.

Cancellation of the venerable original would mean the end of a dream that Mr. Wolf has pursued openly for several years: that his series would top the pre-cable “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running entertainment series in prime-time history.

That CBS western ran for 20 seasons; “Law & Order” is now three years short of that mark. At one time it seemed possible that the crime series would finally gun down Marshal Matt Dillon. Now with even one more season in doubt, the dream may be fading.

Not to Mr. Wolf, however, whose success as a producer has always been matched only by his fierce loyalty to his shows. “Of course I want ‘L&O’ to reach 21 years,” Mr. Wolf said in a telephone interview. “How could you get this close and not want that to happen?”

Both sides easily concede the central issue in the negotiations: money. With ratings for both “Law & Order” and “Criminal Intent” having faded (the third of the franchise, “Special Victims Unit,” remains a hit and has already been renewed for another season), NBC argues that the shows are not financially viable anymore, at least at their present costs.

NBC concedes that “Law & Order” still generates more than $40 million in profits every year from sales of its episodes to the cable channel TNT and to international networks, but it argues that those profits are wiped out by the costs of the show.

Mr. Wolf was able to negotiate one of television’s richest producer deals ever in 2004, when NBC completed his contract just before it closed its deal to acquire the Universal studio that produced his shows.

Mr. Wolf does not dispute that the shows are costly. He said he was considering ways to lower costs, especially on the original “Law & Order,” perhaps by replacing some current cast members. “Creative people come up with creative solutions,” he said.

But NBC doesn’t believe any change in weekly production costs alone will resolve the financial dilemma.

Mr. Wolf said the the possible cancellations are both unfair and short-sighted. He said it was unfair because NBC moved the original “Law & Order” out of its longtime home on Wednesday nights at 10 and exiled it to a desert location Fridays at 10. He said he noticed that the shows NBC tried to replace “Law & Order” with on Wednesdays — “Heist” and “Kidnapped” — collapsed quickly.

The cancellation talk is short-sighted, he argued, because the television business is in economic upheaval, with no one understanding how the switch to running shows on multiple platforms on the Internet, instead of saving the reruns for future use — so-called back-end profits — will pay off.

Of the move toward Web-based replays of shows, Mr. Wolf said: “There is absolutely no back end. I don’t know where the money is.” He added, “There are very few ways to open new revenue streams.”

But he pointed to a new revenue stream he himself has opened recently. Mr. Wolf has begun selling the format rights to both “SVU” and “Criminal Intent” to international production companies. In Russia, for example, “SVU” and “Criminal Intent” have become top-rated series, using almost word for word translations of the scripts of the American version. A French version of “Criminal Intent” is about to start in that country.

“The revenue is a trickle right now, but it could become a steady revenue stream,” Mr. Wolf said. He also questioned how NBC was going to get by without his shows given the problems the network has on many of its nights of prime time, not to mention the heavy dependence that NBC Universal continues to have on repeats of Mr. Wolf’s shows. These fill hours of time on both the USA and Bravo cable networks, both owned by NBC Universal, as well as almost every Saturday night on NBC.

But NBC’s concerns about the ratings performance of the shows seem to trump all those considerations. For one thing, the network’s research department notes that “Law & Order” has been losing about the same number of viewers every year over the last four, a drop-off that has not been especially exacerbated by the shift to Fridays.

Marc Graboff, president of NBC’s West Coast division, said that while NBC Universal still uses repeats of the shows widely, there is no reason it needs new episodes to continue to do so. “There are enough episodes in the bank” to fulfill the needs of the USA and Bravo channels, he said.

The bottom line for NBC Universal is that it owns the “Law & Order” shows, not Mr. Wolf, and the ultimate decision of what to do with the series rests with the company, not the producer. That does not take into account the long and fruitful relationship between NBC and Mr. Wolf, however, and that will surely come into play.

It already has, with Mr. Wolf saying he continues to talk on friendly terms with the top NBC Universal executives, Mr. Graboff and the company president, Jeff Zucker.

“Jeff and I speak all the time,” Mr. Wolf said. “Marc and I speak all the time. It’s a long-term Catholic marriage. There’s some stuff being thrown around in the kitchen, but everybody’s being rational.”

What Mr. Wolf most wants is a deal that will bring back all three of his series. “Jeff knows my aim is to keep the brand as healthy as it can possibly be,” Mr. Wolf said of Mr. Zucker. “To me the health of the brand is extended when all three shows are on the network.”

How likely is that to happen? Mr. Graboff seemed to indicate that the continuation of the threesome is a long shot, with either “Law & Order” or “Criminal Intent” seemingly headed for closure between now and early next month, before NBC announces its new fall lineup.

With “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” already on that lineup, Mr. Graboff said of the others, “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to make a deal to bring one of the two shows back on the air. ”