‘Law & Order’: Creator Explains Strategy Behind Franchise and Spinoffs

by Josh Lanier

NBC is throwing the checkbook at Law & Order creator Dick Wolf to create more spin-offs of his popular legal and medical procedurals. In fact, he’s taking over two nights of programming for the network.

Deadline is reporting that NBC is banking on Wolf’s brand to help them win the ratings war amongst the big four networks. These include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox.

NBC’s Thursday night line-up will now feature the new Law & Order: For the Defense, Law & Order: SVU, and Law & Order: OC. The latter features Christopher Meloni, Dylan McDermott fighting against organized crime, and was only on the air for a few months when the network ordered a second season. He talked about the future storylines of those shows with The Wrap last month.

“To use the Campbell’s comparison, it’s my hope that viewers are comfortable with the brand, and they know no matter what type of soup they are buying, or show they are watching, they know they are getting a high-quality product,” Wolf told Deadline.

Wolf has been producing Law & Order since 1990. That version of the show ended in 2010. But SVU and OC have shown that the formula still works with the right cast in place.

But Wolf won’t just own NBC’s Thursday night prime-time line-up. He also has is in control of the Chicago universe that takes up the network’s Wednesday block of prime-time shows. Those include Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D.

“It is my fondest hope that the ratings continue to validate their decision to stack the branded shows,” Wolf said. “Research shows that three hours of primetime should really be seen as a three-hour binge, which is what viewers want.”

Dick Wolf Has Done Something No One Else Has

Dick Wolf dominating a network’s night of programming or more isn’t anything new. It’s happened before. Deadline points to Aaron Spelling with ABC in the 1990s.

But beyond his 31-year run with Law & Order and multi-year success with the Chicago shows, Wolf also has a slate of programs on another network.

Not content with controlling six hours of your television schedule each week, Dick Wolf has branched out to CBS as well, taking over that network’s Tuesday night. It will now feature FBI, newcomer FBI: International, and FBI: Most Wanted.

No producer in the history of television has controlled this much of the mainstream dial. So expect to see some crossover in the Wolf-TV Universe.

“There are definitely similarities,” Wolf told Deadline. “In a macro way, everything is related. Tracy [Spiridakos] from Chicago P.D. replaced Missy Peregrym on FBI when Missy was pregnant. It wasn’t a stretch. So there is the possibility of interconnectivity between the brands. … In the fall, characters on any of the shows could appear in the other eight. The potential is algorithmic.”