EXCLUSIVE: After months of negotiations, USA Network has closed a deal to bring Law & Order: Criminal Intent back for an 8-episode 10th season with the series’ original star Vincent D’Onofrio, who will return as Detective Robert Goren, a role he played for the first eight seasons. Discussions are under way with Kathryn Erbe and other CI alums sans Jeff Goldblum, who recently announced his exit, to come back for the show’s farewell season. Throughout the entire dealmaking process, USA’s intention was to bring Law & Order CI back only if D’Onofrio agreed to return.
Additionally, USA plans to extend its relationship with Law & Order chief Wolf beyond Criminal Intent. The network’s production arm, Universal Cable Prods., which produces the series with Wolf Films, has handed him a pilot commitment for a new project.
Law & Order: CI will return with new episodes next year. “We have been the fortunate caretakers of this legendary series, and we plan to give it the world-class farewell it so richly deserves,” said Jeff Wachtel, USA’s president of original programming and UCP’s co-head of original content.
He listed several factors that were key in the network’s decision to push through with the deal. “First, it was to bring devoted audience for the finale and create an event,” he said, noting that the series finale of USA’s Monk still ranks as the highest-scripted cable telecast of all time. “Secondly, you have an opportunity to create a new launch pad,” Wachtel said as the network plans to use the final season of Criminal Intent to launch a new series or help an excisting series grow much like the final season of Monk was used to launch White Collar.
Given Law & Order: CI‘s big pricetag as an nine-year-old high-end procedural, especially as it started off on broadcast TV, making the deal was not easy, Wachtel said, praising NBC Universal’s cable maven Bonnie Hammer for her help in making it happen. “Everybody had to make concessions, but it is the hallmark of a good deal when everyone has to suffer equally: the network had to absorb some of the cost as did the studio, and Dick and the above-the-line talent were gracious in addressing a very specific set of circumstances.”
Wolf thanked Hammer and Wachtel for bringing Criminal Intent back for a tenth season, adding, “Only time will tell if this is a fond farewell or a renaissance for Detective Robert Goren but everyone both here and in New York is ecstatic about going back to work on a show that’s a passion for all of us. Signed, Brett Favre.”
The news of Law & Order: CI getting a proper closure is in stark contrast with the abrupt cancelation of the mothership series by NBC in May. It is being replaced by the newest Law & Order addition, Law & Order: Los Angeles, which launches on Sept. 29.
While this is envisioned as the end of Criminal Intent, Wachtel left the door opened just a bit. “The plan is for this to be the series finale, but with a Dick Wolf franchise, one really never knows until it’s over,” he said.