|Dick Wolf was at it again. |
The creator and executive producer of TV's most successful franchise -- Law & Order -- was living up to his reputation as the human quote machine earlier this month in Pasadena during the network press tour.
Wolf was venting that his new series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, was being ignored by critics. This despite the fact that all three L&Os win their time slots, "which is kind of unheard of," Wolf points out. He also mentions that all three shows have cracked the U.S. Top-20 (they're just as popular here on CTV, where L&O airs tonight at 10).
"I don't snipe at other shows," says Wolf, but why, he asks, is everyone raving about Alias when it's getting creamed in the ratings opposite Criminal Intent? "One is a cartoon and one is really, really good television," he says. "Sorry."
It's hard to argue against Wolf, especially when he comes prepared with statistics. The former advertising executive says that the three L&O shows draw 48 million viewers a week on NBC. That The West Wing and Law & Order have the highest median income, over $70,000 per household, than any other network shows. "It means that there are a lot of smart people watching the show, which really, really helps," says Wolf.
He went on to say that if you combined all of the viewers who watch L&O reruns on USA, TNT and A&E each week, the number tops a staggering 80 million viewers.
And there may be more L&O shows in the works. Wolf says he has other ideas, but wasn't about to spill the beans. "Actually, it's Law & Order: CSI," he quips, in a sly reference to CBS's plans to spin off their No. 1 drama with a second CSI show set outside Las Vegas next season.
Wolf can afford to joke. L&O has already been renewed through the 2004-2005 season. After 12 years, that's an astonishing commitment.
It sure works for Jerry Orbach, who for a decade has been the one consistent element of an ever-changing cast. The 66-year-old actor joined Law & Order in 1992 as streetwise Detective Leonard "Lennie" Briscoe, taking over from Paul Sorvino, who in turn had replaced George Dzundza as the show's senior cop.
Orbach says he long ago lost count of how many episodes he's filmed. "Some cases touched me a little more than others," he told critics, citing the one where Jill Hennessy's character was killed off --forcing every other character to examine their own lives -- as a personal favourite.
Even though the unusual shows stick out for him, he says that's not what the audience expects from Law & Order. "They want to see a case from beginning to end, like a ritual, like a high mass," he said.
Orbach had a long and distinguished stage career before L&O. He originated several Broadway roles, including El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Billy Flynn in Chicago and Julian Marsh in 42nd Street.
He was asked if, just like his character, he was beginning to feel as if he's "seen it all" in terms of plots and storylines. "Every case is different," he insists, adding that the huge talent pool of guest actors helps keep things fresh.
Besides, why would he leave? "The idea that I can stay home in New York as an actor and I don't have to be on the road and away from my wife and travelling to (Orbach shudders) CANADA ..."
Hey, Dick Wolf. Cancel those plans for Law & Order: Cross-Border Criminal Intent.