NBC will not renew the original "Law & Order" at the upcoming conclusion of its 20th season, leaving it tied with "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running scripted show in television history.
The cancellation was confirmed Thursday to TheWrap by a person close to the show's production. Its final episode will air Monday, May 24th.
NBC prime-time entertainment boss Angela Bromstad had earlier indicated her desire to see the venerable crime procedural break the longevity record, but the business dynamics of keeping the program on the air perhaps became too cumbersome.
Averaging between a 1.5-1.7 rating in the adults 18-49 demo was respectable for Friday night, but was way down from the Dick Wolf-produced series' hayday. And those numbers probably didn't justify the expense of keeping an older, more expensive hourlong around.
Further pushing "Law & Order" into extinction was TNT's expiring off-network syndication commitment for the show. The cable network had only committed to 20 seasons. And though it has built its "We Know Drama" brand on the "L&O" franchise, it has plenty of its own originally-produced hourlongs to fill its schedule now.
"Law & Order" will exit the air with over 400 episodes in the can ... and as a pioneer of the procedural model that continues to dominate prime-time schedules.
New York Magazine's Vulture blog reported that NBC, which owns the "Law & Order" franchise, had offered producer Dick Wolf a 21st season, but with a reduced budget and limited episodes. The New York Times, citing two sources it did not identify, said Wolf and NBC were still in talks.
It all suggests that this isn't over -- Wolf and the network have done this dance before. But the person who confirmed the news, first reported by Deadline TV, told TheWrap unequivocally that the show had finished its run.