NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. television show "Law & Order" may be revived after it was due to be canceled, offering hope to fans, actors and a city on the verge of losing a lucrative drama showcasing New York's quirks and characters.
NBC last week said it had canceled the crime series after 20 seasons, but "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf hinted the show might be resuscitated.
"The patient is not dead," Wolf said in a statement on Tuesday. "It is in a medically induced coma, and we are hoping for a cure."
Wolf told The New York Times he was seeking other offers for the show; a two-hour "Law & Order" TV movie was possible.
Nationwide, an appeal to save the show has drawn more than 17,000 people to the Facebook group "Save Law & Order!"
New York City says the series generated $79 million in business a season, or about $1.5 billion over the life of the show, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised for shooting on location and promoting New York's "depth and versatility."
"I can't believe they want to cancel it," Olympic skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn wrote on Facebook. "Maybe if we all get together and support the show they will keep it on air."
With its revolving regular cast and more than 10,000 guest actors, "Law & Order" drew inspiration from real crimes and events, giving it a "ripped from the headlines" appeal.
Launched at the peak of New York's crime wave, when there were 2,245 homicides in 1990, "Law & Order" brought back on-location shooting for TV dramas in the city.
"Law & Order" was almost shot in Canada, but New York's push to eliminate bureaucracy for TV and film productions persuaded "Law & Order" producers to shoot locally, said Mike Hodge, head of the Screen Actors Guild in New York.
More than 150 television shows are produced in New York, the mayor's office said, generating $5 billion in business.
The show provided a wealth of opportunities for actors playing a colorful array of victims, criminals and witnesses.
"Law & Order" produced two New York spinoffs still in production, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." They offer about 20 guest roles per episode versus more than 30 -- and one time 48 -- for the flagship, said Lynn Kressler, the show's casting director since it began.
"When I first heard the show was closing down, it was like a close friend had just died," said Hodge, who acted as a chef, an attorney and a judge on the show.
The show gave many actors their first screen exposure.
Jennifer Garner, Clare Danes, Felicity Huffman, Amanda Peet, Mira Sorvino, William H. Macy and Samuel L. Jackson had among their earliest on-camera appearances on it, Kressler said.
Non-white actors would also feel the cancellation's sting.
"It was very good at casting many minority actors," said agent Ken Park.
"They were one of the few shows who regularly cast Asian-American actors," said Tisa Chang, director of the Pan Asian Repertory Theater. "They would focus not only on Chinatown (but also) ... South Asians, Indian-Americans, Indians as well as Southeast Asians."
No other show has been shot on so many New York locations, the mayor's office said.
"The idea was to reflect the canvas that is New York, I think we succeeded in doing that," Kressler said.
The show has been aired by NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric. Comcast Corp is in the process of buying a majority stake in NBC Universal.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu.