NBC no longer developing Law & Order: For the Defense spin-off

Law & Order For the Defense
Law & Order: For the Defense canceled. Pic credit: NBC

There’s one less Law & Order show for fans to plan to watch.

NBC has just released its schedule for the fall 2021-22 season. The most notable part is that the planned Law & Order Thursday block will not include the Law & Order: For the Defense spin-off.

According to sources, the series has been dropped at the last minute, although it appears Dick Wolf is still intent on creating another Law & Order series for the network.

The sudden cancellation of Law & Order: For the Defense

It’s rare for a network to order a series only to cancel it at the last moment, but it has happened in the past. 

Law & Order themselves are prone to it. In September of 2018, NBC picked up Hate Crimes, a planned spin-off focusing on an NYPD unit handling such crimes. 

That series fell out of favor with NBC executives. However, Law & Order: SVU showrunner Warren Leight told the Hollywood Reporter in 2020 that the show was still in development for the Peacock streaming service. 

For the Defense was ordered by NBC in May of 2021. It promised to focus more on the courtroom portions of cases, showing a criminal firm defending both the innocent and guilty. 

This is familiar ground for the franchise as it had much the same plot as the short-lived Trial By Jury spin-off, which only lasted 13 episodes in 2005. 

Why was Law & Order: For the Defense canceled?

The sudden axing of the series comes as a surprise as production was expected to begin soon. There had been no castings announced which, in retrospect, should have been a warning sign that there were issues. 

So far, there is no official word on the reasons for the cancellation. Deadline speculates that NBC felt the show’s direction focusing on a defense firm might not have worked for viewers.

Fans of the franchise tend to enjoy it more when the cops can bring the perps to justice. Watching a Law & Order show about defense attorneys trying to skirt justice may not have gone over as well. 

Notably, the one failure of NBC’s One Chicago franchise was Chicago Justice, which likewise focused on the legal world but only lasted one short season. NBC perhaps believes viewers may not take to a show only about the lawyers and not the cops. 

This comes as various police shows have fallen under a microscope of viewer scrutiny after the nationwide protests of 2020. The lack of any recognizable Law & Order names might also have prevented viewers from tuning in. 

The franchise got a huge boost with the return of Christopher Meloni as Eliott Stabler in the thrilling Law & Order: Organized Crime spin-off. 

Wolf remains on good terms with NBC as he develops Law & Order, One Chicago, and CBS’ FBI franchises.

Law & Order SVU Season 23 and Law & Order Organized Crime Season 2 premiere Thursday, September 23rd on NBC. 

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