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How Law And Order's Return For Season 21 Fulfills A Dream For Creator Dick Wolf

law and order season 21 cast
(Image credit: NBC)

The Law & Order lineup on NBC is expanding to include another show, but not another spinoff like Law & Order: Organized Crime just last year. The original series that launched a whole TV universe that will soon include nine shows over two networks is on the way back with a revival for Season 21. With the premiere less than two weeks away, creator and TV producer extraordinaire Dick Wolf has shared why the revival fulfills a dream for him.

Although Law & Order was a major hit over its many years on the air after premiering in 1990, the show was cancelled back in 2010 after 20 seasons. At the time, there were talks of a possible renewal on TNT, but nothing official came of a revival until October of 2021 with the order for Season 21 back on NBC. Creator Dick Wolf shared his thoughts on the dream of the show’s return with members of the press from NBC’s Scripted Press Day in a statement:

In 1990, Brandon Tartikoff had a belief in the viability of ‘Law & Order.’ When Sam Waterston joined the show in 1994, the ratings grew and the show earned the Emmy Award in 1997. For the next 16 years, Sam was the face of the show. As you know, we were abruptly cancelled in 2010 and for 11 years it was my dream that one day the show would return and break the 20-season tie with ‘Gunsmoke.’ The talks with Universal and NBC, which were ongoing for the past seven years, heated up in 2020. My first call was to Sam, who graciously agreed to return, and I called Rick Eid, who has a long history with me and is the ideal showrunner.

Dick Wolf reached all the way back to 1990, when Law & Order premiered, to credit then-NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff for believing in what would go on to become an iconic TV show that would launch a history-making spinoff with SVU. The original came up just shy of beating what was then the 20-season record held by Gunsmoke (a Western drama that is best known today for its long run). With the Season 21 revival, Wolf’s dream of beating Gunsmoke will come true… just not in the way that might have been expected back in 2010. 

Of course, Law & Order: SVU already smashed the Gunsmoke record (as did The Simpsons) at 23 seasons and counting, and the original will have to catch up if it wants to beat its spinoff with the total number of seasons. But Wolf achieved his dream of beating Gunsmoke, and he also credited Sam Waterston for the show’s success. (Waterston spoke as far back as 2015 about his willingness to reprise his role as Jack McCoy.) 

Revival showrunner Rick Eid certainly has worked with Dick Wolf for a long time, going back to 2005. Most recently, Eid served as showrunner on Chicago P.D. as well as FBI over on CBS, but has since stepped away from One Chicago. Wolf went on in his statement to share that the revival is a dream come true even beyond striking a deal after seven years, beating Gunsmoke, and recruiting Sam Waterston and Rick Eid: 

So not only did my dream come true, I have my dream cast: Sam, Anthony, Hugh, Jeffrey, Camryn and Odelya. As always, we will be ripping crimes from the headlines while also reflecting the zeitgeist of present-day America.

Anthony Anderson is the other former Law & Order star who is returning for the revival, fresh off of the final season of his ABC comedy Black-ish. The newcomers in the cast are Burn Notice veteran Jeffrey Donovan, The Practice alum Camryn Manheim (who appeared as three different characters during Law & Order’s original run), Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy, and Odelya Halevi. The mix of familiar faces and newcomers should make Season 21 a good fit for original series fans and newcomers alike. And if Dick Wolf is happy, why shouldn’t viewers be?

Law & Order makes its grand return to NBC in the 2022 TV schedule on Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m. ET to kick off a brand new night of action set within the same universe, with Law & Order: SVU following at 9 p.m., and Law & Order: Organized Crime closing out the night at 10 p.m.  

Laura Hurley
Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.