NBC cancels long-running crime show "Law & Order"

Fri May 14, 2010 4:29pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The verdict is in. TV network NBC announced on Friday it is canceling crime drama "Law & Order" after 20 seasons.

With its revolving regular cast and its guest celebrities, New York-based "Law & Order" drew its inspiration from real crimes and events, giving it a "ripped from the headlines" appeal.

As well as winning the 1997 Emmy for best drama series, "Law & Order" has generated spinoff series, video games, and international versions of the show that tracks a crime investigation, the arrest of a suspect and a prosecution.

The spinoffs will continue but audiences for the series have slipped this year to an average 7.3 million viewers per episode from more than 18 million in 2002.

The last episode, with guest star Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, will air on May 24.

"Law & Order" currently ties with 1960s western "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running U.S. prime time drama, both boasting a 20-season run. Fox comedy "The Simpsons" is the longest-running TV series in prime time, now in its 21st season.

Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said the franchise created by Dick Wolf had added to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios over the past two decades.

"The legacy of his original 'Law & Order' series will continue to make an impact like no other series before," Gaspin said in a statement.   Continued...