'Law & Order': Does it deserve its record-tying renewal?

Lawandorder_lNBC’s granting Law & Order creator Dick Wolf’s longtime wish: His series will, in fact, tie Gunsmoke‘s 20-season record, thanks to a renewal for next year that the net will announce today. Wolf totally deserves this televisual equivalent of a gold watch for 20 good years of service (and I will briefly pause while we all contemplate what L&O being on for two decades now says about how quickly our lives are slipping away and our own mortality is creeping up on us). Wolf has been with the network from the good times (the Seinfeldian ’90s) to the bad, plugging schedule leaks and stabilizing nights like few could. He perfected an age-old TV trope: Why not make episodes that always wrap up by the 60th minute and stand alone so they can repeat anytime, anyplace? Why not put plot before character so no actor is indispensable? You may not be a fan of the procedural — I’m not, because I dig the kind of character-driven, serialized stuff that, frankly, doesn’t always get big numbers. (RIP, Everwood and Veronica Mars.) But TV is for making money, and Wolf figured out how to work the business end of television artfully. So congrats, Mr. Wolf. (And we won’t think too hard about the fact that this order is apparently for 16 episodes, while Gunsmoke was churning out 24-a-season until the end.)

Whether the show itself truly deserves a pick-up is a tougher call. It’s not the ratings force it used to be, and it even has that whiff of is-that-still-on to those who don’t tune in regularly. But it can still hold down any timeslot, even as a repeat, better than a lot of untested new shows. And, well, it has Jeremy Sisto, who should always be on television so I can find him any time I want. What do you think, PopWatchers? Is more Law & Order in order? Does it deserve to tie — or, next year, break — the Gunsmoke record?   

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  • Stephanie T.

    Do you want the truth?
    Though I miss “The Robinette Years” of “L & O”, I admit that the show gets better every season. It is like a fine wine. However, the question is how long can it continue? I mean lets face it, the show is not “The Simpsons.”

  • Marie

    This orginial Law & Order has always been my favorite and I watch it every week. I watch it on TNT, I watch it when they have marathons of the show. My second favorite is Law and Order CI. My least favorite is SVU, I am pretty much done with this one. Congratulation Law and Order!

  • Miao

    Jennifer, have you actually ever seen a Gunsmoke episode? I’ve seen a few and whew, they’re nothing to write home about. So does that mean Gunsmoke was better? That they were able to last 20 years with much lower quality? Or are we thankful to live in a time when the show that’s lasted 20 years has actually been fantastic?

  • Chris

    Still a fan of this show after 20 years. I even watch reruns on cable. I, for one, am happy it is being renewed.

  • Marie

    Stephanie,
    I have only watched the Simpsons once or twice and I truly can not stand the stupidy of the show, so it is not even worth comparing to Law and Order. I would like to see the orginal go at least to 21 years.

  • Jorge

    So glad it got a renewal, Law & Order is quality TV period.

  • swthompson

    As someone who is actually old enough to comment, Gunsmoke was one of the better western series and at one time churned out 39 episodes a year back in the 50s (it was a half hour show back then.)
    Does this mean Law and Order was just as good? No. You can’t compare apples and oranges. A western is timeless in its appeal– modern shows often feel dated twenty years down the line.

  • mrgnexus

    I’m not a L&O watcher, and tend to dismiss it when one of my friends starts discussing each “Ripped from the Headlines!” episode.
    This said, TV was different back in the day — Gunsmoke ran for 20 seasons, yes; but it also consisted of 635 episodes.
    L&O will barely break 450, with the 20th season being little more than an NBC concession to Dick Wolf’s ego.
    Now 450 episodes is a hell of an accomplishment, but while great procedurals like Homicide and The Wire will be regarded as classic television, L&O will be remembered fondly only by its (dwindling) fan base.

  • Stephanie T.

    What I meant was that “The Simpsons” are in a timeslot in which you can’t really show anything else except family cartoon fodder. I mean, Fox once tried to fill that spot with shows like “Hermans Head”, and look how that turned out.
    “Law and Order” is one of those intelligent shows in which every now and then, you can pick out legal mistakes. It is a timeless classic, but what if there is a chance at another classic (not Southland)?

  • EMB

    Love L&O still. Especially with the new cast. Glad it will stick around.

  • Adam

    I was so happy last night when I hear it was coming back. Then I hear they put it on FRIDAYS! Seriously NBC, is that the respect this show deserves?
    This network will fall so far down next season, it’s gonna be fun to watch. Stupid decision after stupid decision.

    http://tvdonewright.com/2009-2010-season-preview/

  • Lynne

    I am very happy that Law & Order is coming back. I LOVE the show and have watched it from the beginning. Great entertainment, always a tidy story that wraps up nicely, and I love the ‘ripped from the headlines’ gimmick. Friday at 8? Doesn’t bother me, I record it whenever it’s on and watch it whenever I like, so who cares?

  • Michael H.

    YES! Law & Order still does a fantastic job with storytelling – and as much as I love Jeremy Sisto, the other regular cast members – Anthony Anderson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza, and Sam Waterston – also deserve the love!

  • Lorie

    More Jeremy Sisto! Great news!

  • Luke

    This season has been excellent. I might have agreed it was time to go a season or two ago, but the current cast is great!

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