LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- NBC Universal Television's first act shouldn't come as a big surprise: a massive multi-year renewal of its "Law & Order" franchise on NBC.
The pact not only keeps patriarch Dick Wolf intact through June 2008, but also renews NBC's current "Law & Order" trio through the 2005-06 season and confirms the launch of "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" sometime during the 2004-05 season.
The news was announced via press release this morning:
NBC AND NBC UNIVERSAL TELEVISION SIGN NEW LONG-TERM DEAL WITH DICK WOLF THAT BUILDS AND EXTENDS VAUNTED 'LAW & ORDER' BRAND
Agreement Inks Wolf Through June 2008 Renews Three Current 'Law & Order' Dramas Through 2006 Adds Fourth Series, 'Law & Order: Trial by Jury'
NBC and NBC Universal Television have completed a multi-tiered agreement with Wolf Films and executive producer Dick Wolf to extend Wolf's overall deal until the end of June 2008 and give multi-year pickups to Wolf's three NBC shows, "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
In addition, the agreement adds a fourth "Law & Order"-branded drama - "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" -- for the 2004-05 season.
The announcement was made today by Jeff Zucker, President, NBC Universal Television Group.
The specifics of the deal include two-year pick-ups, through the 2005-06 seasons, for all three of the current dramas.
"This is a hugely important deal that assures NBC and viewers of many more years of the most successful drama franchise on TV and offers the promise of a fourth new series," said Zucker. "We're looking forward to continuing our long relationship with Dick Wolf and his entire team for many years to come."
Said Wolf: "I've been on the air at NBC continuously for the past 20 years and this new deal means that I could be as lucky for the next 20. Synergy has become an overused word, but the concept of a true partnership never goes out of style. I couldn't possibly have a better team than Bob, Jeff, Randy and Kevin to help me maximize the potential of the brand."
With this pickup, the venerable "Law & Order" (Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) -- now in its 14th season -- is assured of a remarkable 15th and 16th season. Likewise, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m. ET), which is now in its fifth season, is assured of sixth and seventh seasons. The third member of the franchise, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (Sundays, 10-11 p.m. ET), is currently in its third season and has been picked up for a fourth and fifth season.
All three "Law & Order" dramas continue to dominate their respective time periods this season. On Wednesdays, the original "Law & Order" is one of television's top-four dramas among adults 18-49 for the fourth-consecutive season and is winning its hour by a commanding 35 percent margin. On Tuesdays, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has improved the time period by 26 percent versus last season in 18-49 and has won the hour with each of its last 24 telecasts. On Sundays, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is undefeated against regular competition this season in 18-49 and is the only NBC regular series to win this time slot in the last eight seasons.
"Law & Order" is averaging a 5.4 rating, 15 share among adults 18-49 and 15.9 million viewers overall. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is scoring a 4.9/13 in 18-49 and 12.5 million viewers overall and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is generating a 4.6/11 in 18-49 and 13.3 million viewers overall.
The fourth and newest crime drama from Wolf will be "Law & Order: Trial by Jury." The latest spin on the increasingly complex and controversial American legal system is a richly textured drama set entirely in the arena of the courthouse. "Law & Order" executive producer Dick Wolf extends the popular series brand to the next level.
Walon Green ("Dragnet," "ER") is expected to executive produce along with Wolf.
"Law & Order: Trial by Jury" is produced by NBC Universal Television.
The original drama -- "Law & Order" -- is now set to become the longest-running police series and second longest-running drama series in the history of television. Filmed entirely on location in New York City, this realistic program looks at crime and justice from a dual perspective. Sam Waterston, Jesse L. Martin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Elisabeth Rohm and Fred Thompson star. Jerry Orbach, who portrayed Detective Lennie Briscoe for 12 seasons, will depart the series in this month's season finale.
"Law & Order" is a Wolf Films production in association with NBC Universal Television. Dick Wolf is creator and executive producer, Matthew Penn, Eric Overmyer, Peter Jankowski and Roz Weinman are executive producers.
The hard-hitting "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (also filmed in New York) chronicles the life and crimes of the elite Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department.
The drama follows Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), a seasoned veteran of the unit and his partner, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), also a longtime detective in the unit. Dann Florek, Richard Belzer, Ice-T, B.D. Wong and Diane Neal also star.
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is a Wolf Films production in association with NBC Universal Television. Dick Wolf is creator and executive producer, Ted Kotcheff ("Fun with Dick and Jane," "Weekend at Bernie's"), Neal Baer (NBC's "ER," "China Beach") and Peter Jankowski are executive producers.
On "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," Vincent D'Onofrio stars as Detective Robert Goren, a modern day Sherlock Holmes who pairs with his fellow Major Case Squad partner, Detective Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe), to unravel high-profile yet seemingly unsolvable crimes. Jamey Sheridan and Courtney B. Vance also star.
"Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is a production of Wolf Films in association with NBC Universal Television. Dick Wolf, Rene Balcer, Fred Berner and Peter Jankowski are executive producers.
Wolf is represented by Cliff Gilbert-Lurie of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fisher, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman and Cook, and Peter Benedek of United Talent Agency.