The Negotiations Saga: The Sequel: They’re Back…All *Three* Of Them…

Music with a coded message: ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ by The Police

Bonus message/track: ‘Your Latest Trick’ by Dire Straits

…you can color me a little surprised but these days I guess any paycheck is better than no paycheck, and (maybe?) mediocre scripts are better than no scripts even (especially?) in an industry as arbitrary as the entertainment industry

Here’s hoping they clean house on the show runner/writing/ creative side of things at LO:CI to *improve* the downward spiral that was Season 6

I seriously doubt that will happen (because chances are to do that *properly* also costs money) but one can always hope and dream, can’t one?

Hollywood Reporter Article Link:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i74b211e4087bceb965f9b4ed0eddf42c

“‘CI’ stars returning without raises
By Nellie Andreeva

June 9, 2007

Good intentions have prevailed in the salary dispute between the stars and producers on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

Sources said Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe all agreed Friday to return to the series next season without a raise. Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio had set a Friday 5 p.m. deadline for them to accept the offer. (HR 6/8)

The actors are said to be disappointed because leads on returning series get at least 5% salary increase every year. In the end, it came down to wanting to come back to the show and understanding the financial strain posed by the series’ move from NBC to USA Network next season, sources said. (Repeats of the show will air on NBC.)

It’s belt-tightening time on the “Law & Order” franchise. Sources indicated that below-the-line crews members are taking 5% to 10% pay cuts next season.

Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment Friday.”

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The Negotiations Saga: The Sequel: I Don’t Want To Say ‘I Told You So’ But…

Music ‘Synchronicity’ by The Police

…The Hollywood Reporter just confirms what I’ve been saying for weeks:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3if6219759863b5ce9634699d61592700c

The Vine: No raise offer irks ‘CI’ stars
By Nellie Andreeva

June 8, 2007

“Law & Order: Criminal Intent” producers’ intent to bring back the cast of the series with no raises next season is not sitting well with the show’s stars, sources said. It is understood that Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio have set a deadline of 5 p.m. today for stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe to accept the offer. Series cast members normally receive a 5% salary bump every year, which could be higher for stars on established shows. Studios have been pushing to make that standard raise tied to the show’s license fee increase, which generally is lower. In the case of “CI,” producers face new economic realities of producing a high-production-value drama with marquee stars on a cable budget because the series has been moved from NBC — where it aired for six seasons — to USA Network, with a second window on NBC. (The repeats on NBC should alleviate some of the financial strain.) Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment on any actor negotiations.”

The Negotiations Renewal Saga: The NBC Schedule Is Revealed

I am working on a blog post that goes into a lot of depth on what exactly the ‘renewals’ of the mothership (which is staying on NBC) and CI (which will be first airing on USA and later airing in repurposed or ‘bounce’ repeats on NBC) really mean…first to post is not always best and frankly there is a lot still unanswered (especially since the actual upfronts have not occurred yet).

But here is the hotter news…NBC’s schedule courtesy of Variety with minimal commenting

Appropriate music ‘Prime Time’ by The Alan Parsons Project’

Variety Article on NBC’s 2007-2008 Line Up

“NBC announces schedule, shows
‘Heroes’ gets second series
By MICHAEL SCHNEIDER

While the focus this spring centered on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”spin-off, NBC was quietly developing one of their own – and announced this morning that “Heroes” has spawned a second series of its own.

“Heroes: Origins” will air in “Heroes'” Monday night time slot when that smash hit takes a hiatus. The net has ordered six segs of “Origins,” which, combined with “Heroes,” makes for 30 hours altogether.

“Heroes: Origins” will center on characters not yet seen on the original show. Peacock has also added an interactive element to the show: Viewers will be asked to pick their favorite character from “Origins,” who will then join the cast of the full-blown “Heroes” skein the following year.

The initiative to keep the “Heroes” franchise in originals for as long as possible harkens back to the golden age of TV, when series aired 39 weeks worth of originals, then took a break.

With repeats dipping to record lows on all five nets, those reruns are fast becoming a thing of the past. Besides the 30-seg “Heroes” and “Heroes: Origins” stretch, Peacock is also picking up 30 eps of “The Office” – including five hour-longs (Daily Variety, May 14) – and 25 segs of “My Name is Earl.”

NBC is also waiting until January to launch the 18th season of “Law & Order,” as well as the return of “Medium” – both of which will bow on Sunday nights after “Sunday Night Football” completes its run (allowing the two skeins to remain in originals for the full stretch).

Meanwhile, the net announced that it has also pacted with Peacock alum Jerry Seinfeld and DreamWorks to air 20 “minisodes” featuring the comedian recounting his experience voicing the upcoming ani feature “Bee Movie.” The shorts will air as interstitials on the network.

Peacock’s new 2007-08 season so far includes five new dramas, one new laffer, a new game show and one new reality competish.

“Last year we promised a return to the NBC legacy of quality, and in terms of awards, buzz and critical acclaim, that’s just what we delivered,” NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said. “We’ve got the class and next season we’re ready to add some mass, with new shows that build on the creative accomplishments of last season and are as broad as they are good. Combine the energy of these new programs with the bulked-up strength of our existing NBC hits and you’ve got a lineup that’s poised to take us to the next level.”

Despite speculation that “Heroes” and Thursday staple “ER” might move, net opted for stability and kept those shows in their regular homes. Also, as anticipated, critical fave (and narrowly renewed) drama “Friday Night Lights” will move to high school football night – and Peacock marketers can breathe a sigh of relief (“‘Friday Night Lights,’ finally on Friday,” the blurbmeisters are probably already prepping).

Also, as expected, “The Office” will move into the key Thursday 9 p.m. tentpole slot, with “30 Rock” behind “My Name is Earl” and “Scrubs” behind “The Office.” Because “The Office” will expand to an hour on five ocassions, the Peacock had only ordered 18 segs of “Scrubs.”

Meanwhile, net stayed true to its word, and stuck with mostly reality and unscripted in the 8 p.m. slot, other than Thursday.

Toughest night for the Peacock? Wednesday, where the net will attempt two new shows “Bionic Woman” and “Life.” NBC clearly believes there’s an opening on the night, now that ABC has said that “Lost” won’t return until January.

On Fridays, the net is promoting a “Game Night” at 8 p.m., with “1 vs. 100” airing for six weeks, followed by new gamer “The Singing Bee.”

New shows include the dramas “Journeyman,” “Chuck,” “Bionic Woman” and “Life,” with “Lipstick Jungle” prepped for midseason. Comedy “The IT Crowd” is also on the bench for midseason. New unscripted entires include “The Spelling Bee” and is “World Moves.” Talent competish comes from “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson and follows dance teams competing for a touring contract.”

The surprises here (besides a Heroes spinoff) are

1) The mothership gets the very early 8pm Sunday night time slot (and in the past Wolf always lobbied for 10pm time slots for all 3 L&Os) and

2) CI *specifically* is not listed on the schedule, instead is a 2 hour block from 9-10pm on Saturday scheduled for “drama repeats”. Hopefully, when it is aired by NBC, CI will get the preferred later 10pm slot but I doubt that.

So Dick Wolf gave up some stuff here to get the mothership renewed…interesting. And if you don’t get cable, you can bank on your ‘new episode’ CI fix getting a lot trickier

The Negotiations Renewal Saga: Will Some Other Channel Intervene on Behalf Of CI?

Well yesterday the net became chock full of stories saying essentially that TNT, home of current reruns of the original Law & Order series may intervene to save the mothership

The latest in this saga comes from Variety

“TNT howling at Wolf’s door
Cable network offers to take ‘L&O’ into custody
By JOHN DEMPSEY, MICHAEL SCHNEIDER

TNT has offered NBC Universal TV to take over the original “Law & Order” franchise and keep it in production if NBC decides not to renew the series this month.

It’s considered a longshot. Dick Wolf would have to dramatically reduce the costs and license fee on “L&O” to make it fiscally viable for TNT, which would likely pick up 13 episodes (rather than the standard broadcast 22).

Nonetheless, a TNT play for “L&O” isn’t out of the question. NBC is said to be interested in renewing just one of the two “L&O” shows (the mothership and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) , with most of the buzz surrounding the return of the younger “CI” edition (Daily Variety, April 19).

What’s more, Wolf has already been aggressively looking at cuts on the show to make a pickup more economically possible. Broadcasting & Cable first broke word of the TNT offer Tuesday morning.

“Negotiations are ongoing regarding ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ and, as always, we do not comment on negotiations,” Wolf said, through a spokeswoman.

It’s not the first time TNT has made a serious play for a “Law & Order” original. Late in 2005, TNT made an offer to NBC U to uproot the third “L&O” spinoff “Trial by Jury,” which was not pulling enough viewers on the Peacock in its rookie season, and transfer it to TNT.

TNT hoped a second season of “Trial by Jury” would complement the “L&O” reruns that had helped to propel TNT to No. 1 among all cable networks from 2003 through 2005.

But NBC finally nixed handing “Trial by Jury” off to TNT, unwilling to entrust the firstrun production of a Dick Wolf franchise to a competitor.

Fast-forward to May 2007: The ratings of reruns of “Law & Order” have softened in their last 18 months on TNT, which has lost its No. 1 spot in the Nielsens to USA and would love to revitalize those off-net “L&O” runs with highly promotable new episodes.

A rival cable exec said TNT’s attempts to score “Law & Order” make sense for the channel, particularly as it looks to expand its roster of originals beyond its hit “The Closer.” ”

While this may or may not be good news for the mothership, there is not one single story save this one that implies that NBC is really all that excited about saving CI. In fact I see a lot of signs that say the opposite.

From the article above we have seen that NBC killed off TNT’s ability to keep ‘Trial By Jury’ alive last year. So if NBC’s contracts with Wolf for CI and the mothership are similiarly structured, they could easily nix any other network’s willingness to keep CI and/or the mothership alive and in production.

I also note that both shows are already expensive to produce…while I don’t think CI costs quite as much to produce per episode as the mothership does, I’m going to have to revise my figures to reflect that CI may cost more like $3 million plus per episode to produce rather than the $2-3 I had guesstimated before. Sources like this New York Times article underscore just how costly the mothership is (and what a great deal Wolf has with NBC…for now).

Also I learned from this L.A. Times article that CI’s ratings are down 18% and the mothership’s 20%

“‘Law & Order’ may move to cable
The long-running cops-and-laywers show may appear on TNT in the fall.
By Matea Gold, Times Staff Writer
May 9, 2007

NEW YORK — “Law & Order,” the crime procedural that has been a fixture of NBC’s schedule for 17 seasons, may move to cable next fall in an effort to stretch out the run of the ratings-poor but profitable show.

TNT, which already airs repeats of the drama, is in negotiations with NBC Universal Television Studio to broadcast new episodes of “Law & Order” if NBC decides not to renew it for another season, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The cable network and studio declined to comment, as did Dick Wolf, the show’s creator and executive producer.

The move would help extend the life of Wolf’s iconic program, which spawned several spin-offs and is close to matching “Gunsmoke’s” 20-year record as the longest-running drama in prime time. Sales of “Law & Order” reruns to TNT and foreign markets generate about $40 million in profit a year for NBC Universal.

But the program has faltered since its shift from Wednesday to Friday nights this season, shedding about one-fifth of its audience to an average of 9 million viewers.

In the last few months, NBC executives have been contemplating whether to renew “Law & Order” and its “Criminal Intent” spin-off, which is down 18% compared with last season. (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the most popular of the three, has been guaranteed a place on next season’s schedule.)

Shifting the drama to TNT would be a natural fit, as the basic cable channel already offers a steady stream of “Law & Order” repeats, sometimes as many as eight a day. But the move could require Wolf to dramatically scale back production costs to meet a cable budget.”

That’s a lot of money and effort to put forth for another network to get shows whose ratings are slipping not skyrocketing.

As it is, NBC still believes in dramas, but it’s looking for newer cheaper shows and some value for its money According to this Hollywood Reporter article there are 4-7 candidates that look good to NBC in terms of getting decent ratings for not so much money as all the old Wolf series. And NBC already has a new Wolf series in the wings (which I’m sure because of its newness is cheaper)

The truly interesting thing to note for CI fans is that there may not be an angel network that will swoop in to pick up production because the show has already been sold into syndication for next year to 97% of the Fox affiliates and will air 5 days a week on your local Fox station. The only likely buyers for CI would be USA and Bravo who already air CI reruns and they’re all subsidiaries of the GE/NBC Universal company so that doesn’t make much sense for one division of a company to buy out the other division’s expensive product, especially not when you would be competing with yet other outlets for the same product.

So it looks like Wolf might possibly have found a way to keep the quest for the Gunsmoke record alive, but I wouldn’t bet on NBC blessing a move to TNT without TNT and/or Wolf ponying up a lot of money for the privilege…my prediction is that the same thing that happened with ‘Trial By Jury’ will happen again and Wolf will have to sacrifice all kinds of stuff to keep the mothership alive (including possibly sacrificing CI)

I’ll do a separate ratings post for last night’s episode in a few minutes…there was enough show publicity on it that it merits separate coverage.

The Negotiations Renewal Saga: The Overnight Ratings For CI Part 1

Well the overnight ratings for last night’s CI episode “Rocketman’ with VDO are in and frankly they’re an embarassment to NBC and Dick Wolf.

NBC came in fourth, dead last, behind Fox, ABC and the CW. Ouch!

According to Variety ‘Idol,’ ‘House’ roll again

CI pulled a 2.2/5 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall.

At least SVU pulled a 4.0/11 in 18-49, 11.3 million viewers overall

Still those numbers are pathetic and while they will be finalized in a few days, usually ratings go down not up with revision.

So if you all want CI back, I guess it’s up to Noth’s fans and VDO’s fans to watch CI on May 8th…they had better pull better numbers than what VDO’s fans did last night.

Oh and yes I watched last night and as I predicted the ‘Rocketman’ episode did not outdo my low expectations.

PEC here I come….less than 48 hours to its debut.

Appropriate music ‘Murder By Numbers’ by The Police

The Renewal Negotiations Saga: Here Come The TV Critics

Yesterday in checking into the French fan forum at lawandorder-fr.com, I was treated to a discussion thread reminding me that the French celebrate May 1st as a holiday. One of the male members of the forum left all of the women a photo of lillies of the valley — my all time favorite flower — as a sort of virtual present. I appreciated the inherent class and thoughtfulness of the gesture and the discussion thread reminded me that the lillies of the valley in my back yard ought to be in bloom, so this morning I went out and gathered a bunch of them. They are beautiful to look at, they smell fantastic, and they are deserving of the Victorian symbolism assigned to them: the ‘return of happiness’.

While how I think GE/NBC and Wolf are using the media in their negotiations posturing stinks to high heaven, a little searching for the latest news brought this pretty little bouquet of an editorial by David Blum of the NY Sun that indeed makes a little happiness return to my thoughts.

Ripped From the Airwaves Commentary

“Ripped From the Airwaves
Commentary
By DAVID BLUM
May 2, 2007

“Creative people come up with creative solutions,” Dick Wolf recently told the New York Times in a story about the dwindling prospects for keeping “Law & Order” on television next year. Who am I to quibble with the genius who devised “Law & Order” back in 1990 and got millions of us hooked on its endlessly adaptable formula? But now Mr. Wolf needs an equally creative inspiration if he wants to save his show and its spin-offs from cancellation later this month. Yelling at NBC executives isn’t it.

The creator of “Law & Order” and its progeny faces the distinct possibility that at least two “Law & Order” shows will be cancelled at the end of this season. As always, he’s furious. NBC argues that the shows’ ratings have plummeted — at least those of “Law & Order,” the flagship, and its latest surviving spinoff, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” — and has hinted broadly that both face the ax when the 2007–08 fall schedules are announced this month. To Mr. Wolf, it’s outrageous that NBC’s attention to its bottom-line interferes with his plan to outlast “Gunsmoke” on the air. Only three more seasons and he would achieve that distinction in the record books, as though that’s reason enough to keep it around.

Bad time slots! No promotion! Don’t worry, I’ll re-cast! Those rank among Mr. Wolf’s most dependable rants in response to low ratings, and he has spilled them to the press in recent weeks, hoping, in vain, for loyal viewers to take to the streets in protest over the prospect of cancellation. Mr. Wolf would rather wrangle with executives than spend time contemplating the creative failures that have left his once-addictive show without a loyal audience. Only one of his spin-offs, “Law & Order: SVU,” has found ratings success in recent years, and that’s because it traffics in the sort of sex-abuse cases that resemble ratings hits like “CSI.”

Anyone who once loved the dramatic tension of a great “Law & Order” episode from the 1990s has acknowledged the show’s failure to sustain its premise for 17 seasons. Stories once twisted and turned with the cleverness of Hitchcock and Highsmith; true fans can remember classic episodes like the one in which the comedian Larry Miller murdered his wife and got away with it — only to be caught seasons later when he killed wife no. 2. Intricate story lines and great New York actors doing memorable star turns (among them Philip Bosco, Bruce Altman, and Edie Falco) enhanced the show’s cast of regulars, a gifted ensemble that included Steven Hill, Carey Lowell, and Sam Waterston.

But in recent seasons, the show has fallen back on the tired “ripped from the headlines” motif that has all too often made it feel predictable and lame. “Law & Order” never quite recovered from the death of Jerry Orbach or the departure of Benjamin Bratt, the best one-two detective punch it ever offered. Its latest lineup of cops and prosecutors (mostly cast from the Wolf playbook of brunette hotties) look like they’re reading off cue cards. When you start longing for the days when Angie Harmon was an assistant district attorney, you know the show has reached a tragic state of disrepair.

The desperation for a new audience has crept into the scripts; this season, all three “Law & Order” series have violated a stated vow to avoid character backstory. Last Friday’s “Law & Order” episode ended with the surprise appearance of Mr. Waterston’s character’s daughter, and a two-part “SVU” with Mariska Hargitay investigating whether her mother was raped. We’ve also recently spent time with Vincent D’Onofrio’s mother and brother on “Criminal Intent,” and we’re none the wiser for it.

Whatever happened to pure, simple crime-solving? I’ve even started to miss the crazy jigsawpuzzle openings of “Criminal Intent” from its early years, the ones that made no sense until you went back afterward to re-watch. Maybe they gave you a headache, but two extra-strength Tylenols seemed a small price to pay for a decent hour of television.

It’s not about quality anymore for Mr. Wolf, or even his antagonists at NBC. It’s about money, and how to squeeze profits from the diminishing revenue streams of network television. “I don’t know where the money is,” Mr. Wolf admitted to the Times in April. His only prospect is having sold the “format rights” to foreign countries, where local actors perform episodes of “SVU” and “Criminal Intent.” Isn’t that basically like selling the rights to “Our Town” to community theaters? Even Mr. Wolf admits that it amounts to nothing more than a “trickle” of revenue. He has no other answers, and no other ideas. It’s time to stop blaming the messenger for the deserved death of his firstborn, and let “Law & Order” drift peacefully into the endless afterlife of syndication.”

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.