April 16, 2024


The Legal System

Dick Wolf speaks on the Law & Order franchise’s past and future


Law & Order
Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan), Benson (Mariska Hargitay), and Bernard (Anthony Anderson) talk a case on Law & Order. Pic credit: NBC

Dick Wolf is opening up on the potential for his television empire.

As part of a larger interview on his current TV productions, Wolf spoke about his feelings on the cancellation of Law & Order in 2010 and how it sparked the present empire of nine shows across two networks that thrills fans. 

Wolf on Law & Order’s cancellation

In 2010, the Law & Order franchise was going strong as the mothership Law & Order was completing its 20th season with the expectations it would crack the record for the longest-running prime-time network show. 

Instead, shockingly, NBC canceled the series for the short-lived Law & Order: LA spin-off that only lasted one troubled season.

As part of a major story in Variety on his TV empire, Wolf opened up on how he felt about the cancellation and bluntly said it should never have happened. 

“It was a political cancellation. It shouldn’t have gone off the air when it did.”

Law & Order: Criminal Intent would end in 2011, leaving Law & Order: Special Victims Unit the only part of the franchise. That would crack the 21-season mark in 2019, but Wolf had bigger plans in mind. 

In 2012, he began Chicago Fire, which would soon gain three spin-offs, all interconnected. FBI debuted in 2018 and would soon spawn its own pair of spin-offs, FBI: Most Wanted and FBI: International. 

In 2021, NBC added Law & Order: Organized Crime. After plans for a new show (titled For the Defense) fell through, the decision was made to revive the original Law & Order for a 21st season

That allowed Law & Order to dominate on Thursday nights, just as the FBI franchise does on Tuesdays and One Chicago on Wednesdays. 

“The biggest miracle was getting nine broadcast series scheduled,” Wolf told Variety. “The bigger miracle will be getting all nine of them renewed.”

As it happened, all three Law & Order shows were renewed for new seasons in 2022-23, along with the successful One Chicago and FBI franchises. 

While his name is on the brand, Wolf is quick to praise the extensive network of showrunners and producers who help each series.

“You don’t do it alone,” Wolf says. “That’s why the consistency is there. It’s not accidental.”

That consistency will be used more as the shows continue.

Will there be more crossovers?

Chicago PD/SVu
Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) works with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) on a Chicago PD/Law & Order: Special Victims Unit crossover. Pic credit: NBC

One of the most intriguing parts of the Wolf Entertainment shows is how connected they are. It’s been established that Law & Order and One Chicago exist in the same universe, with several crossovers between the series.

Also, a 2020 crossover revealed that FBI and Chicago P.D. exist in the same world. As Wolf says, this has the potential for more crossovers, even if none are currently planned. 

“It’s a constant exploration of possibilities. There are 56 actors under contract. The concept is there are nine shows, and anybody who’s in any of the nine shows can appear in the other eight, even on different networks. It’s pretty cool.”

Wolf is more than happy his shows dominate three different nights on two networks, establishing his success in the business. 

“It’s very comforting to know absolutely what the legacy will be into the future,” Wolf added. “This company has produced and has clear ownership [stakes] in the longest-running dramas in the history of television. I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna catch us. And it ain’t over.”

While the series enter their summer hiatuses, Wolf is preparing for changes (both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime recently saw showrunner departures) but is confident that his legacy in television is assured. 

“I’ve got five kids. The thing that I have most strenuously tried to push into their skulls is what I live by — don’t ever, ever, ever give up. And ‘Law & Order’ is the perfect example…I don’t have the feeling that I’m building something that is just going to disappear.”

With all nine of his shows, especially Law & Order, dominating TV, it appears Dick Wolf’s presence in the business isn’t going to fade anytime soon.

Law & Order Season 21, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Seasons 1-23, and Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 are all available on Hulu.


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