NBC in talks to keep 'Law & Order' on the air

Renewal would make show longest-running drama ever

NBC is engaging in 11th-hour negotiations to keep veteran procedural "Law & Order" on its schedule for a record-setting 21st season.

The network has long intended to bring back the Dick Wolf-produced drama for one final season, allowing the show to top "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running drama in TV history.

But NBC's testy relationship with Wolf came to head Thursday when the producer rejected the network's offer to continue the show at a reduced license fee. Wolf's office told producers and some cast members that the drama had been canceled, triggering online reports that the show was finished.

Not so fast, countered NBC, which had yet to ax the series and wants to continue negotiations.

As of late Thursday afternoon, talks were set to continue, with most NBC executives in transit to New York for the network's upfront presentation on Monday.

If there's a stalemate, "L&O" will end its run after 20 seasons.

There also is the possibility that Wolf will shop the series to cable. TNT tried to pick up rights to "L&O" in 2007, convincing NBC to renew the series and move spinoff "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" to USA.

But if NBC can't afford Wolf's price tag, could a cable network? For TNT, at least, the answer seems to be no, with a network rep saying that Turner is not in talks with Wolf for the show.

If "L&O" departs NBC's schedule, it would not be much of a loss to the network. The pickup was seen as, if anything, a bit of a favor in a year in which NBC is rekindling relationships with top producers. "L&O" ratings have been dismal, and the network is pleased with its new crop of drama series, which include J.J. Abrams' "Undercovers" and conspiracy thriller "The Event."
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