The July 26 TV Column said that the cable network TNT is owned by NBC Universal. It is owned by Time Warner. Also, in some editions, a photo caption with the column said that Mariska Hargitay was with NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." She appears in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." (Published 7/30/05)
"Law & Order" franchise creator Dick Wolf is angry, angry, angry that critics devoted more attention to "Alias" than to "L&O: Criminal Intent" when the shows debuted back in 2001. It cost "CI" star Vincent D'Onofrio some acting trophies, he claimed.
"The first season all the heat was on 'Alias,' and we had to fight to get anything in the press, and [D'Onofrio] was doing a job that, if you'd been paying attention, I firmly [believe] would have gotten him an Emmy and a Golden Globe," Wolf told critics Monday during NBC's second day onstage at Summer TV Press Tour 2005.
Besides which, "Criminal Intent" has proved to be more lucrative in syndication, he said.
" 'Alias' sold [in syndication] for $175,000 an episode; 'Criminal Intent' sold for 1,100 percent more. Do the math," snapped a steamed Wolf, who apparently did not get the NBC memo to staff re: colonic (everyone gets one; everyone loses sense of entitlement) that NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly had spoken of so glowingly the day before.
(FYI: According to trade reports, cable network TNT bought weekday syndication rights to "Alias" for about $200,000 per episode, and distributor Buena Vista sold weekend syndication rights to broadcast stations in a barter-only deal, which means BV gets to sell ads in the show on those stations. The trades reported that cable nets USA and Bravo anted up an estimated $2 million per episode to split syndication rights to "Criminal Intent." And here's probably a good place to say that NBC, TNT, USA and Bravo are all owned by NBC Universal, which also houses Wolf's production company, Wolf Films.)
"The three ['Law & Order'] shows have turned TNT into the number one network on cable and USA the number two network on cable," Wolf fumed.
What really had his knickers in a knot were articles written last fall about how "Law & Order" series were dinged in the ratings opposite launches of "Desperate Housewives" and "CSI: NY."
"There is no bad news here," he said. " 'Criminal Intent' is the only show that could possibly have held up against 'Desperate Housewives.' Sure it was down, but it was not out, and all you have to do is look at the repeat numbers this summer.
"You guys don't report the financial aspects of how successful the brand is," he lectured critics, one of whom noted afterward that "Alias" was probably more lucrative than, say, "Macbeth." ("News flash: Dick Wolf hates us," another critic cracked in the press room.)
"This brand exists, at the moment, alone in the cosmology of long-term profitability," Wolf proclaimed during his morning Q&A session.
But wait, there's more.
Critics don't "fuss" enough about "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," even though it's generally described as a "mature" show, Wolf complained.
"You read about who's hot, who's not -- these shows are never mentioned," he said, turning right around to say, "We're not looking to be the hot show; that's not what the 'Law & Order' brand is about. It's about longevity and about repeatability and about staying on the air and being a profit center for NBC for years to come."
One critic noted that Wolf was onstage "with three very well-reviewed actors" from his shows, that "your shows regularly get good reviews," and that he has the only series on TV "where cast changes are reported generally with gusto, but you always seem to be angry at us and . . . I'm seriously wondering, what would you consider fair treatment?"
"What makes me angry is the lack of sophisticated business reportage," Wolf shot back. "I understand there are business sections and television sections, but, come on, guys, there are no good-news newspapers."
The success of "Desperate Housewives" at "Law & Order's" expense is "a legitimate story, but . . . there is no recognition . . . that, yeah, we may get knocked around a little bit, but this is still the most profitable brand in the history of the medium . . . these shows generated $1 billion in advertising revenue last year."
(Variety reported on Monday that the "Law & Order" franchise runs an average of 45 times a week on NBC, TNT and USA, and the trade paper quoted an NBC Universal rep saying the brand generated more than $1 billion in ad revenue across those platforms last year.)
Wolf acknowledged that he had seen such references about the shows in "business articles" but not in "the popular press."
Wolf had opened his Q&A session with a little speech assuring critics he was "incredibly upset, disappointed, dismayed and any other adjectives that you could care to add" about NBC yanking "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" off the air last season. But, he noted, his relationship with NBC Universal is more like "a long-term marriage with no possibility of divorce" than a standard business relationship, and promised critics that the brand "is the most important piece of business to both of us."
Easing the pain somewhat, Wolf is now at work on a new series about New York assistant district attorneys that will use the "Trial by Jury" set -- did you know that the average age of an assistant DA in Manhattan is 28 years? Wolf says so.
And Wolf wanted critics to know he "couldn't be more thrilled" that his dream of selling the "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" format to an international network has come to fruition.
In one of those strange coincidences that make you think that maybe there is a higher power and maybe Jennifer Love Hewitt really can talk to dead people, on the very same morning that Wolf took the stage to reprimand critics, Variety broke the news that Wolf had struck a deal with French TV network TF1 to format "CI" for French audiences. Wolf told the trade paper that it was "an enormous accomplishment" and "by creating a localized French version, the potential to grow that audience becomes limitless."
At some point during his rant, Wolf insisted, "I'm not [ticked] off. I'm a very happy guy."
Mr. Wolf: I have served with happy guys. I knew happy guys. Happy guys are friends of mine. Mr. Wolf, you're no happy guy.