It would seem that the future of both Law and Order and its spinoff Law and Order: Criminal Intent are both seriously in doubt. Monday producer and creator of both series, Dick Wolf, met with NBC. That day NBC determined that they would not yet decide if the two series would be renewed for next season. Talks between the two sides are expected to last into mid-May.
The difficulty for both Law and Order and Law and Order: Criminal Intent is twofold. Both series have had lower ratings this season than they have in previous seasons. And both series are very expensive to produce. Ultimately, whether the two series survive comes down to whether NBC thinks their costs justify the ratings they have been getting.
Law and Order debuted in 1990. Having been on for 17 years it is the longest running drama currently on television and the second longest running drama of all time (only Gunsmoke was on longer). Its ratings rose gradually through the years until it became one of the most successful shows on television. It has inspired four spinoffs: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, the short lived Law and Order: Trial by Jury, and the reality series Crime and Punishment (a summer replacement series, it focused on real trials). Law and Order: Criminal Intent debuted in 2001 and has run six seasons. While it has never done as well in the ratings as Law and Order or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, it has done well enough to be renewed each season. As to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, that series was renewed in January. All three series are successful in syndication and are reran on various cable channels.
It might seem curious that the ratings of two, well established series would fall, but, quite honestly, I think it was primarily due to the time slots NBC placed them in. Law and Order was moved from its traditional Wednesday night time slot to Friday night, a night which is generally among the lowest rated nights of the week. Many series have found it hard to survive on Friday night, to the point that a time slot on that night is considered the kiss of death. As to Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC moved it from Sunday night to Tuesday night, before Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. This might seem like an ideal time slot, except that it places Law and Order: Criminal Intent in direct competition with the younger and higher rated House and sometimes even American Idol. It should not be surprising that both series should see their ratings fall this season.
Regardless, I think both series still have life left in them and they could possibly be saved, provided NBC moves them to different time slots. Law and Order definitely needs to be moved from Friday night and Law and Order: Criminal Intent needs to be moved away from House. Regardless, both series will be on the air for a long time to come, even if it is only in syndicated reruns.