One of the best things about Law & Order, aside from the fact that each and every episode is neatly self-contained, is that on very rare occasions, the team at the New York DA’s office loses the case. The series has used the occiasional courtroom loss sparingly but effectively over the years and by our calculations, the small degree of uncertainty this brings to any given episode of the show was good for at least five extra seasons Law & Order. We say “was” because earlier today, NBC announced that the current (20th!) season of Law & Order will be the last. Even worse, there won’t be a real series finale since NBC didn’t decide to cancel the show until after the last episode had already been shot.
While it’s sad that one of TV’s most consistently ok-but-not-great shows will be going away, don’t weep for the millions of dollars producer Dick Wolf and star Sam Waterston stand to make off of the endless stream of syndicated Law & Order reruns (yes, we’re looking at you, TNT). Although Wolf won’t have the pleasure of knocking off Gunsmoke as the longest running TV drama, Law & Order will tie the western at 20 seasons on the air. (So close, Dick Wolf. So close!) Of course the TV landscape will hardly be devoid of Law & Order shows, with Law & Order: SVU (aka “The Rape Show” aka “L&O: Disturbing Crimes Unit”) returning to NBC and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (now with even less Vincent D’Onofrio!) still runs on USA. Even better, this fall don’t miss the premiere of Law & Order: Los Angeles on NBC! (Seriously. This is completely real.) Sam Waterston’s not out in the cold either. Even if his TD Ameritrade endorsement deal ends, he’ll always be the face of Old Glory Insurance, at least until the metal ones decide to come for him. And they will.