TV will quite possibly never see another show quite like Law & Order, the seminal crime drama that ended its historic 20-season run in 2010, and before today was the flagship for six produced spinoffs and the postponed Hate Crimes offshoot. Now, mere months after franchise creator Dick Wolf finally brought Christopher Meloni back into Mariska Hargitay's orbit with Law & Order: Organized Crime, NBC has cut the brake lines and directly put in a straight-to-series order for a new L&O entry that won't hinge on Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson's on-screen chemistry for some strange reason.
That's right, NBC announced that the next chapter in this expansive and fan-favorite franchise will be titled Law & Order: For the Defense, and not Law & Order: Benson And Stabler Sitting In A Tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G or anything of that sort. Rather than focusing on the authoritative aggressors in the courtroom and on the streets, as it's gone in the past, the new series will shine a justice-serving spotlight on a group of lawyers working at a criminal defense firm, and the show aims to "take an unbiased look" at what goes on. Considering the kinds of high-profile court cases that have made headlines in recent months and years, things could get uncomfortable muddy, assuming viewers won't be witnessing a long line of completely innocent characters on trial week in and week out.
Wisely, Dick Wolf has tapped arguably one of the best possible creatives possible to steer the ship for Law & Order: For the Defense. The new spinoff's showrunner, and one of its executive producers, will be Carol Mendelsohn, who was the big boss on CBS' megahit crime procedural CSI for 14 seasons. Mendelsohn also knows quite a bit about expanding TV universes, as she served as EP and creator/co-creator for each of the Crime Scene Investigation follow-ups, including CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and CSI: Cyber.
While you might think that Dick Wolf has seen it all at this point and doesn't get all that excited by much, the prolific TV producer is quite enthused about this project, both for its subject matter and for its creative force. Here's how he put it:
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.
At this time, no further details were revealed about specific plotlines, potential cast members or any kind of a timeline for when Law & Order: For the Defense will go into production. That said, because it's a Dick Wolf show, and because we've seen what a well-oiled crossover machine the One Chicago franchise has turned into, we can probably expect to hear about shared universe characters soon after casting kicks off. Oddly enough, the new spinoff will almost definitely hit the small screen well after Paramount+'s upcoming CSI revival debuts.
While waiting for casting news for Law & Order: For the Defense, be sure to catch up with Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime before their current seasons return to NBC from hiatus on Thursday, May 13.