[L&O Unofficial Companion Book Signing]
[Tom Fontana Chats About Beautiful People And Crossovers]
[TNT Snags L&O (Reprint)]
Drama Books in New York City was the site of a book signing for Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion in late January, 1999. Authors Kevin Courrier and Susan Green were on hand to sign copies of the book, and were joined by Law & Order cast member Jerry Orbach, who also lent his pen to several copies. "Sure," said Orbach, "they asked, and I said no problem." During his stay, Orbach chatted with fans and discussed the upcoming crossover with Homicide: Life On The Streets [see related story below]. "We just finished filming it," he explained. Coming up next, he said, will be a semi-blowout for the big 200th episode, which will begin filming in early spring. Author Green admitted they'd hoped for a larger turnout of show stars, but hadn't put their hopes up too high. John Fiore (ex-Tony Profaci) had said he'd try, but being based in New England, the trip was too long for the short signing. "Jill Hennessey's [twin] sister Jacq showed up at the Toronto signing," said Green, "though not as Jill!" And local Manhattanite Chris Noth had been asked, but apprently wanted to "distance" himself from the show, a strange comment to make, considering how recently Exiled: A Law & Order Movie had aired. Not that it mattered: The signing was a qualified success in the small, theatrical-based bookshop, and was covered by the local NBC station. Fans were able to shake hands with the genial Orbach, and munch on cheese, crackers, and fruit at the same time. Drama Books is located at 723 7th Avenue, Second floor, in Manhattan. The phone number is (212) 944-0595. At press time, they still had several autographed copies for sale at $16.95, and would ship the country.
On February 17 and 19, NBC television will air the third history-making crossover between Law & Order and Homicide: Life On The Streets. No other television dramas have been as successfully intertwined as these two long-running police/lawyer programs, and much of the success can be attributed to the continuing friendship between Executive Producers Dick Wolf (L&O) and Tom Fontana (H:LOTS). "It's about Kenneth Starr!" Fontana recently laughed to apocrypha. "No, really, it is. It's about a special prosecutor, though not in D.C., and abuse of power." He then explained that the crossover might never have happened if the drama in Washington hadn't dragged out as long as it had. "I sat down with Wolf last July to go over this story, and I told him, 'Look, there is no way this is going to be timely by next February! This is going to be over in Washington long before then!'" Nonetheless, they held their breaths and went ahead with the project anyway. "These last few weeks have been so tense," Fontana continued. "Every day, we're wringing our hands, going 'drag it out a little longer, a little longer!'" As for H:LOTS regular programming, Fontana has found himself the subject of a lot of criticism for bringing in "beautiful people" characters recently, most notably Michael Michele (Detective Rene Sheppard), and while he doesn't think the introduction of the characters was a bad idea, the way they were brought in might have contributed to the audience's initial negative reaction. "In the past, we've brought new characters on by having them have attitude, from the minute they walk in the precinct," Fontana explained. "They grate against the old characters, they establish their own personalities, so that by ten episodes in, when the old characters are picking back at them, the audience can sort of say, 'Hey, we like these new people. Leave 'em alone!' This time, however, we decided to let the new characters come in passively, ready to take on anything. And that never gave them a chance to create their own personalities." The fan hostility to Michele's entry to the show mirrors some initial hesitation many Law & Order fans had when Dick Wolf cast former Baywatch Nights vixen Angie Harmon in the role of Assistant D.A. Abbie Carmichael. Fontana explains of his decision to hire Michele, "We weren't even looking to cast anyone new, but we said we'd look at people," Fontana explained. "And when Michael showed up, I realized there was something we could do with her. Underneath all of that beauty, I felt that with a little scraping, we could uncover a whole lot of shit." Which may have led to the recent show decision to have a perpetrator beat up on Detective Sheppard. We took the most beautiful woman on the show - although I've always felt our other women have all been very beautiful - and beat the crap out of her! We disfigured her, and there it was: a whole lot of anger." Of course, Fontana's only reasonable up to a point. We're well into the season now, and Michele - and the beautiful people - aren't going anywhere. As he tells fans who still can't get adjusted to the new order of things, "If they don't like it, they can go fuck themselves!"
In a deal potentially worth more than $150 million, TNT has bought the exclusive, off-network cable rights to Law & Order, one of the hottest shows on cable. In its current off-network incarnation Law & Order screens up to four times a day on A&E where its ratings have gradually grown. Industry observers said the cop/courthouse drama was the first show in memory to gain so much momentum during its first cable rerun cycle that its price escalated for its second off-network sale. TNT will pay producer Studios USA about $250,000 per episode, or a bit less than double what A&E paid, for the first 181 episodes of Law and Order, said sources. The second batch of episodes will cost TNT roughly $700,000 each. The deal represents the most expensive off-network series sale ever to be sold to cable. Neither Turner or Studios USA officials would comment on the deal's price. A&E, which bought the initial off-network rights to Law & Order for $155,000 per episode, will run the drama through the 2001-2002 television season. Its 11 p.m. Law & Order averaged a 1.8 cable universe rating in calendar 1998 and strengthened throughout the year. It averaged a 1.4 in the first quarter, rising to a 1.6, a 1.8 and a 2.2 in successive quarters. Law & Order should continue its network run on NBC for several more years. The 1997 winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series is now in its ninth season and usually wins its Wednesday 10 p.m.-11 p.m. timeslot. TNT has the rights to premiere Law & Order episodes beginning with the current 1998-1998 season in September 2001. That means it's likely TNT will run its second, new package of Law & Order in 2001-2002 while A&E will continue to schedule episodes from the series' first package. TNT will gain rights to the 181 episodes from the 1990-91 to 1997-98 seasons beginning in September 2002, and will have exclusive rights to the seriesfor 10 years once the windows begin.