NBC Sends “Law & Order” to Gallows

Law & Order” is a dead man walking, so to speak. NBC has handed in its decision about the show’s fate, announcing on Friday that “Law & Order” will be put to sleep after the show’s season finale on May 24. The cancellation comes amid declining viewership, which has fallen to 7.3 million per episode this year, a far cry from the 16 million at the height of the show’s popularity. More than that, however, the NBC announcement comes as “Law & Order” was on the brink of setting the record for the longest drama series on television. The show will bow out tied with “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running drama series with 20 seasons.

“Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf, who has been vocal about his desire to have the record, did not comment on the cancellation, saying only through a statement, “never complain, never explain.” NBC Universal Television chairman Jeff Gaspin said “Law & Order” will “continue to make an impact like no other series before.” The cancellation might come as a surprise to some of the cast members, including S. Epatha Merkenson, who had announced earlier this year that she would be leaving the show. Earlier this week, Merkenson said that she was confident that the “Law & Order” would be extended at least another season.

Tributes have begun trickling in for the show, with no-less than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling it an “institution.” He said that “Law & Order” helped “showcase the city’s depth and versatility as a setting” by becoming one of the first shows to film in New York. “Law & Order” has produced to spin offs, “Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Wolf is also set to helm yet another spin off, “Law & Order: Los Angeles.”