During the renewal/cancellation season of 2010, one thing that seemed like a done deal was a renewal for long-standing NBC series, Law & Order, since a 21st season pick-up would have put the Dick Wolf show in the record books as television’s longest running drama, surpassing Gunsmoke… but the series was cancelled with little explanation.
Since revivals seem to be all the rage lately thanks to 24, Heroes Reborn and The X-Files all seeing new life, NBC is now mulling over the possibility of a revival for its most successful (and most profitable) series ever.
According to Deadline, NBC is considering the possibility of reviving Law & Order for its record setting 21st season in the form of a limited event-style miniseries. However, at this time there is no active development taking place – though the report does state that actors have been approached. The goal would be to reunite some of the show’s early cast members for various appearances… but that’s where the news unfortunately ends.
Unlike 24 and Heroes, it's difficult to imagine a viable “event series” that would work under the Law & Order's traditional format. There’s nothing too exciting about just having 13 new episodes of regular old Law & Order but the franchise has been experimenting for the last few years with serialized storytelling on the still active Special Victims Unit, so it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that a 13-episode limited engagement could feature the precinct working one extended case over the course of a summer – with the possibility of still working a few one-offs here and there.
Law & Order fell victim to a time when NBC was dealing with a variety of crises under the leadership of Jeff Zucker – a list that includes the Conan/Leno debacle – and because of that, fans of the long-running show never got the ending they rightfully deserved. Instead, all they got was an adequate episode that was never meant to serve as the final chapter for Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) and the rest of the Law & Order crew. So, to hear NBC is considering bringing the show back in order to wrap it up the right way, there’s a high likelihood that many would be interested in such an event.
A bigger question we should start asking ourselves is whether or not this is the future of TV. Thanks to digital outlets like Netflix and Amazon, networks have been less inclined to cancel series without properly wrapping them up because a series without a conclusion is less optimal for SVOD services based on binge viewing where viewers like to watch a story go from A to Z. Will this be the norm now for summer runs? Event series that give old shows past their prime the ending they deserved years back? It's hard to say, but it's certainly where the road seems to be leading for the moment.
Stay tuned for more on the Law & Order revival as it develops.