|HE'S big and burly, the proverbial fat cat of TV moguls, yet when you chat with Law & Order creator Dick Wolf you are quickly mesmerised by his sense of fun.|
"What do you think about Tom Cruise?" he enthusiastically asks.
He hilariously quotes Mimi Rogers from a magazine interview regarding her ex-husband's lack of willingness in the bedroom, and discusses how Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's coupling wildly improved Mr and Mrs Smith's box office takings.
Wolf, 59, a former advertising executive, publicist and brander, knows more than anyone how sex sells.
Yet his long-running crime series adheres to the tenet of not delving into a character's personal life, and presents stories propelled by older men such Sam Waterston and for many years, the late Jerry Orbach.
Yet the original show is now being challenged in the ratings by its spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU), and Wolf livens up when talking about its success.
"Originally I wanted to call it Sex Crimes, because all the New York cops and prosecutors refer to it as the Sex Crimes Unit. But that made the network a little nervous. I think the ratings would have been even higher," he says, chuckling in his raspy New York manner.
"Somebody said they did a title test at NBC and people were offended and I said, 'Yep, but they would have watched, I guarantee it.'
"There would have been all those outraged comments in the press regarding the lowering of standards and how can they do this? But everybody would have watched."
That a sexy woman cop features most prominently in the show greatly pleases him of course, and he is the first to admit that Mariska Hargitay is a true force of nature.
"Somebody once asked me, 'Is that her real body underneath that dress?' It's unbelievable.
"And I said, 'Wait a minute, her mother was Jayne Mansfield and her father (Mickey Hargitay) was Mr Universe - if she doesn't get a good body, who gets a good body?' " Wolf says.
Wolf's second highly successful spin-off, Law & Order: Criminal Intent was split in two, as Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays Detective Robert Goren, was under too much pressure. Wolf, as always, calls a spade a spade.
"No, he didn't become exhausted just because of the show," he says.
"When Criminal Intent wrapped, he went off and made his own short (film), which he wrote, produced and directed. It wasn't the best use of his time, when he was that exhausted after nine months straight, and he did literally collapse . . . three different times. It's interesting, with him trading off episodes with Chris Noth."
Noth, an original Law & Order cast member, was dumped after Wolf decided there wasn't enough conflict between him and Orbach.
He was replaced by Benjamin Bratt. At the time Noth said he would find a way of landing on his feet and indeed he did, as Mr Big on Sex and the City. Now there is seemingly no bad blood between Noth and Wolf.
So which of the shows is Wolf's favourite?
"It's like my children. I like them all for different reasons," he says. "They were designed to do different things. Law & Order was the first show that dealt with both cops and prosecutors.
"Until then all the lawyer shows were about defence attorneys, not the prosecutors. Shows like Perry Mason and The Defenders were always about lawyers getting people off and I was more interested in the lawyers who sent people to prison when they killed other people.
"Special Victims Unit was just a unique area of the law - sex crimes - and then Criminal Intent is really Sherlock Holmes with Kate (Kathryn Erbe) as a kind of Dr Watson."
Then there was the less successful Trial By Jury series. Was he disappointed by its failure?
"Disappointed? I was furious. It shouldn't have been cancelled. It was skewing too old, the people watching it were older than the network (NBC) wanted."
It did not help that Orbach died quite suddenly, as its premise had his Detective Lennie Brisco retiring from the NYPD to work as an investigator with the DA's office.