It’s Dick Wolf‘s world, and we’re all just living in it. The super-producer behind the hit Law & Order franchise is extending TV’s most successful brand with Law & Order: For the Defense, which as you might imagine, will follow a group of defense attorneys.
NBC has given the show a straight-to-series order, and Carol Mendelsohn (CSI) will serve as showrunner. She’ll also executive produce alongside Arthur Forney, Julie Weitz, Peter Jankowski and Wolf, whose company Wolf Entertainment will produce with Universal Television.
Law & Order: For the Defense will take an unbiased look inside a criminal defense firm. The series will put the lawyers under the microscope, along with the criminal justice system, and each episode will explore a different contemporary morality tale.
“This new show is exciting for me personally. We spent the last 30 years on shows that played offense. Now it will be great to play defense, and being able to do it with Carol is an honor and an opportunity for both of us to do television that hasn’t been done before,” Wolf said in a statement.
The Law & Order brand has been a hallmark of NBC dating back to the original flagship series, which debuted in 1990 and has been a staple of the network ever since. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is currently in the midst of its 22nd season, making it the longest-running live-action series in TV history.
Last year, Wolf found himself facing two key creative issues with the Law & Order franchise. The first was how to bring back Christopher Meloni‘s Elliot Stabler, who was a fan favorite on SVU. Wolf answered the call by giving Meloni his own show, Law & Order: Organized Crime, which premiered April 1 and per NBC, was the top series debut from any network in two-and-a-half years, excluding shows that had the benefit of an NFL lead-in. Outside of the ratings, I can say as a longtime L&O fan that the Stabler spinoff has been a creative success, and I really like how the show is serialized rather than episodic in nature. It makes the stakes that much higher.
The other major issue Wolf faced was how to address America’s frustration with the police in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Change is clearly long overdue, both within law enforcement and Hollywood’s depictions of law enforcement, and it would be naive for any TV producer to just forge ahead with the status quo. By creating a show set inside a criminal defense firm, Wolf spares us one more series about how all cops are heroes because we know that’s not entirely true. And while I have no doubt that these defense attorneys will be working on behalf of some very guilty criminals, I imagine that many of the firm’s clients will be falsely accused or wrongly convicted — which also happens far too often in this country.
I don’t watch any of Wolf‘s Chicago or FBI shows, but I am a loyal Law & Order fan, and it’ll be nice to see the franchise adapt to the times and change up the formula a bit. Casting goes a long way when it comes to these shows, so here’s hoping they find some older actors with real gravitas, rather than a bunch of attractive unknowns. I doubt Richard Gere would ever do a network series, but I sure did enjoy his turn in Primal Fear, and would love to see him back in a courtroom one day, be it on NBC or the big screen. Then again, what the hell else is Gere doing these days? Give him a call, Dick!