'Law & Order' Canceled After 20 Seasons

In the criminal justice system (in TV land!), there's hardly been a more beloved ensemble of cops and prosecutors

Let the grieving begin. It's a very sad verdict for Law & Order fans. After an insider close to Dick Wolf's beloved crime procedural series leaked the news that it was canceled, NBC has officially confirmed that this will be the last season of the omnipresent cops-and-lawyers show. The series finale episode will air May 24.

One clue fans clung to, in hopes the network would have a motive to keep the show alive: An upcoming 21st season would have set a TV record, as Law & Order would've surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running TV drama series in history. (And who doesn't love to break a major record?) Still another hopeful sign: In January, NBC's primetime entertainment chief Angela Bromstad made this comment to Business Week regarding the show's future: "I'm a Law & Order junkie....I wouldn't want to be responsible for not having Law & Order break the record."

Sadly, the network closed the case on the series with this statement from NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin: "The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his Law & Order franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated...The legacy of his original Law & Order series will continue to make an impact like no other series before."

The series premiered in September 1990, when it originally starred George Dzundza and (a pre-Sex and the City) Chris Noth. As scene-stealing D.A. Jack McCoy, Sam Waterston joined the cast in 1994 and gave countless episodes some of the series' most memorable moments, along with the late Jerry Orbach (who played wisecracking Det. Lenny Briscoe from 1992-2004). S. Epatha Merkerson announced her departure from the series (after 16 seasons of playing Lieut. Anita Van Buren) last month.

The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama in 1997. There have been five spinoff shows from the drama, including the upcoming Law & Order: Los Angeles, of which NBC has reportedly ordered 13 episodes for this fall.

- S. Epatha Merkerson Leaving Law & Order
- Sharon Stone Arrives on Law & Order: SVU
Chris Meloni Not Leaving L&O: SVU

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