On Monday, NBC added an eighth installment in their sprawling Law & Order universe with spin-off Law & Order: For the Defense ordered straight-to-series at the network. Entertainment Weekly provided the official description of Law & Order’s latest spin-off about a criminal defense law firm: “the series will put the lawyers under the microscope, along with the criminal justice system with every week delivering the promise of a contemporary morality tale.”
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Variety describes the Law & Order franchise, spearheaded by television producer Dick Wolf (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Chicago P.D.), as a “cornerstone” of NBC’s programming line-up. The original series premiered in 1990 and spawned now-ended spin-offs Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Law & Order: Los Angeles and Law & Order: True Crime. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been the law enforcement series’ most successful off-shoot, recently breaking records as the longest running live-action series in primetime and receiving a renewal for season twenty-four. Law & Order’s most recent addition, Law & Order: Organized Crime, has seen success in its freshmen season for delivering a decade-awaited return of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit partners Stabler and Benson, making a season two renewal likely.
It’s unknown whether Law & Order: For the Defense will also feature crossovers with the other two Law & Order series or if the latest installment will even be ready by the 2021-2022 network television season but both appear to be plausible, via The Hollywood Reporter. Focusing on lawyers will put Law & Order: For the Defense on a different side of law enforcement than its processors, which excites Wolf. “This new show is exciting for me personally,” the prolific producer mused in a statement shared by Entertainment Weekly “we spent the last 30 years on shows that played offense […] now it will be great to play defense.”
In that same statement, Wolf expressed his excitement about Law & Order: For the Defense naming Carol Mendelsohn (CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, CSI: Miami) as showrunner. Wolf referred to developing the series with Mendelsohn as “an honor and an opportunity for both of us to do television that hasn’t been done before” (Entertainment Weekly). Arthur Forney (Law & Order, Chicago P.D.), Julie Weitz (Game of Silence) and Peter Jankowski (Law & Order, Chicago P.D.) will join Wolf and Mendelsohn as producers on Law & Order: For the Defense.
Though not much is known about the series so far, in terms of cast, setting and production timeline, NBCUniversal’s President of Scripted Programming Lisa Katz shared that “we’re excited about Dick Wolf’s perpetually thought-provoking approach as well his collaboration with Carol Mendelsohn, who we have been eager to do a series with for a long time” (The Hollywood Reporter). Law & Order: For the Defense is not the only addition to the Law & Order universe currently in development in NBC, as Law & Order: Hate Crimes was greenlit at the network in 2018. The latter spin-off has garnered less universal excitement from the network, as they have been struggling to find Law & Order: Hate Crimes a home. The Hollywood Reporter predicts that Law & Order: Hate Crimes will eventually land on NBC’s streaming service Peacock.
Unlike Law & Order: Hate Crimes, newly announced spin-off Law & Order: For the Defense appears to be a priority at NBC, meaning it could see a premiere date within the 2021-2022 network season. The new series also has crossover potential with existing series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime, as it could bring characters from either series into the courtroom.