‘Law & Order’: Why Was ‘For the Defense’ Spinoff Canceled?

by Amy Myers

A crime occurred on television, and we’re still trying to solve it. The perpetrators were NBC. The deed was canceling Law and Order: For the Defense.

Like many of the franchise’s fans, we were excited to hear that the spinoff would debut this year. Meant to focus more on “order” than the “law,” the new series would have focused on criminal defense attorneys, who are otherwise painted as the villains in most crime shows. However, even before a single episode aired, the network decided that it was already a failure. Though we can’t say for sure why NBC pulled For the Defense from the lineup, there are some theories within the fandom that have developed.

Here’s a breakdown of the discussion.

‘Law & Order: For the Defense’ Didn’t Have Any Major Franchise Stars

To pull a series even before fans can react to the first episode is pretty severe. So, for NBC to get rid of one of the great Dick Wolf’s works, there would have to be a good reason. PopCulture proposed that the reason for the show’s early demise could be the casting. Without any major franchise characters starring in the storyline, Law & Order: For the Defense lacked a certain luster.

Previously, Wolf and his crew proved that a Law & Order star was mandatory for spinoffs. In Organized Crime, former SVU actor, Christopher Meloni, stars in the series as his previously established character, Elliott Stabler. Although, instead of solving devastatingly gruesome crimes, he now hunts down members of crime organizations as a part of a personal vendetta. Fans were thrilled to see Stabler return to the NYPD after abruptly leaving SVU in Season 13.

However, now that the franchise began the series with the former character, it forced itself into a trend that it may not have been able to continue. According to Pop Culture, the best contender to head Law & Order: For the Defense was another SVU character, ADA Rafael Barba (Raul Esparza). Earlier this year, SVU established in an episode that Barba switched council teams to become a criminal defense attorney. His storyline and his recurring appearances in the series made him the most suitable role for the new spinoff.

Unlike Stabler, though, Barba is more of a background character and doesn’t hold a very special place in fans’ hearts. So, although the franchise is following its rule of including Law & Order series characters, Barba may not be significant enough for his own story.

‘For the Defense’ Is Not the First Spinoff of Its Kind

Before Law & Order: For the Defense there was Trial by Jury. Like the new spinoff, the predecessor focused on the preparation of criminal cases and the council members, not unlike the CBS series, Bull, but minus the super-genius on human intuition.

Trial by Jury, too, ended early in 2006, and the network didn’t even air all of its episodes. Of course, Dick Wolf never expressly shared why the series failed, but with the pattern we’re seeing, we can guess that the premise wasn’t interesting enough to Law & Order fans.

While we would have loved to see how the new series depicted the other side of the courtroom, it might have been for the best that it was canceled. Although, we do hope Wolf continues to create more spinoffs for the franchise.