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Law & Order: LA, Here's Some Advice From Failed Dick Wolf Dramas

In news that comes as bitter irony for the cast of Southland, which was cancelled by NBC last year, the network has greenlit a new L.A.-based police drama series: Law & Order: Los Angeles. Yes, the L&O franchise will have four shows on the air again, with both SVU and Original Recipe returning this fall, and Criminal Intent hanging in there on USA. But what's to keep this new show from going the way of so many other Law & Order spin-offs over the years, as well as Dick Wolf's other law-enforcement dramas? They've already made a smart move by keeping the "L&O" prefix, but here are some other things they can learn from previous Wolf failures.

Check everyone's medical history. (Law & Order: Trial by Jury, 2005)
All of the current L&O shows focus on the cops at least as much as the lawyers, but to do a show that's all lawyers, especially one that's not a comedy where people have sex a lot, is a tricky business. Luckily, Trial By Jury had veteran L&O star Jerry Orbach playing his character Lennie Briscoe, which would bring in a lot of the die-hards. But Orbach was fighting cancer, and sadly succumbed after only two episodes. He was replaced by Scott Cohen, but the show would never recover. Hell, the franchise would never recover.

Wait a bit before casting Eric Balfour. (Conviction, 2006)
Balfour is what we call a "showkiller." He's tolerable when added to existing shows, like Six Feet Under or 24, but if you lead off with him too early, things go south fast. Wolf's courtroom drama Conviction, despite following SVU's ADA Stephanie Cabot, also starred Balfour, and it only lasted 13 episodes. Other Balfour shows Sex, Love & Secrets and Veritas: The Quest never made it to episode five, and a guest role in the premiere of The Ex-List ensured it was cancelled the following episode.

Stick to the successful L&O formula. (Dragnet, 2003)
When Wolf updated classic '50s and '60s cop show Dragnet, he initially stuck to the show's original format, with Ed O'Neill and Ethan Embry as partners. However, after 12 episodes, he promoted O'Neill, fired Embry, changed the title to L.A. Dragnet and added a cast of young, multi-ethnic detectives (including one played by Eva Longoria). Basically, he was trying to make it into Law & Order: Los Angeles. But by then it was too late, and the show was cancelled by episode 22. If only he'd done that originally, we might have grown to love Longoria as a detective, rather than a desperate housewife.

Do not make one of them a robot. (Mann & Machine, 1992)
Some people like robots, some don't. But on network TV, they're often a recipe for disaster. When Wolf created Mann & Machine, a series about a lady robot cop and her human partner in the future, it was cancelled after four episodes. Apparently, it reminded people of an odd 1970s robot-cop comedy, Holmes & Yoyo, which was cancelled after 13 episodes. All we can say is, it's a good thing Vicki from Small Wonder wasn't a cop.

Do not use a Janet Jackson song as your opening theme. (Nasty Boys, 1990)
I think that speaks for itself.

Will you watch another Law & Order? You have the right to remain ambivalent. In the meantime, check out our guide to Dramas That Were Axed Too Soon.

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