Could NBC soon be Law-less? The future of Law & Order: SVU, the last remaining Law & Order spinoff, is up in the air as NBC and Wolf Productions continue negotiations about the fate of the series.
According to Deadline, financial issues are the holdup in the return of the long-running show. Deadline reports Dick Wolf was asked to take a pay cut, but he's unwilling to do so.
Series executive producer and showrunner Warren Leight took to Twitter to respond to the Deadline story.
"As these negotiations string us all out, remember that people with agendas leak misinformation through the press. For the record, we are NBC's 3rd highest rated drama(not 4th, Deadline), and last week, NBC's top rated scripted show," he tweeted. "Also, our budget is down considerably from season 11, even as costs have risen."
Leight took over as SVU showrunner in season 13. This season, its 15th, ratings (and critical acclaim) have been up for the police drama, particularly Mariska Hargitay's performance. Still, the future of SVU is up in the air.
"The cast, the writers and the crew—we've done everything we can. I think the fans have shown up. I get very baseball statistic-y here. We're up 5 percent on the year. Modern Family is down and Criminal Minds is down, they're still in the Top 10. But it's a tough slot, up against two Top 10 shows, but we're up and they're down," Leight told E! News in April. "We're up for the first time since 2005 and the critics are responding. You would like to think that counts, but then you get into the arcane—the complicated relationship Dick has had with the network. It's like a very strange marriage that just goes on and on and on and sometimes nobody pays attention to the kids in the fight. That's about where it is now. You have to prepare for both possibilities. Last year I prepared by being a jerk and ending the season with a gun to her head, I don't think I can do that two seasons in a row…this year I have to be more grownup, I guess."
The SVU cast and crew has been rallying fans on Twitter with the term #RenewSVU. When asked on Twitter whether the ratings are "good enough for renewal," Leight said, "Yes, in a sane world."
SVU is currently the longest-running drama on TV. Hargitay is the only remaining original cast member as both Richard Belzer and Dann Florek departed the show in season 15. Could Hargitay follow suit? In January, the Emmy winner told E! News the exits of her cast members were making her think about her future.
"I don't know what's going to happen. I know that right now I am so creatively fulfilled and I feel like I'm very happy at work," she said.
But Leight told E! News in March that everybody seems to be staying put. "Usually when you get that kind of contract turmoil it's because people aren't happy to begin with than whether or not you're signed on. If you want to be back, usually there's a way to work it out. If you're done, the negotiation becomes an excuse to leave. I don't want to mention any names," Leight said with a laugh. "Creatively everyone is very engaged this year and our sense is we're having a nice run and I think the actors are—I'm sure some of them will want a couple of more days off here and there—but in general, I think we'll be ready if and when a network exec makes an announcement."
"I'm not really worried about it because of the ratings Law & Order has gotten, but I'm very, very excited how the fans have rallied and gone into mode about #RenewSVU…it's good to know that y'all want us around," Ice-T said. "I feel thanks to the fans, and it's only the fans, the show will be back for a few more seasons…the cast is hungry, we want to keep going."
Request for comment from NBC was not immediately returned.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)