No Reprieve for Law & Order: CI: 'It Was a Good Series Finale,' Says USA Network Boss

Though franchise founder Dick Wolf had been angling for Law & Order: Criminal Intent to earn a reprieve by delivering a solid 10th and final season, a resurrection simply won’t be happening, USA Network’s top brass tell TVLine.

Asked if there was any chance for a semi-miraculous save and Season 11 order, given the warm welcome that returning regulars Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe received, USA co-president Jeff Wachtel answered, “No — and this is said with respect for the show, respect for Dick [Wolf], and most significantly with respect to the audience.”

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At the time that Season 10 was greenlit, with D’Onofrio’s Goren and Erbe’s Eames back on duty, Wachtel says, “We had a conversation internally, and [NBC Universal chair] Bonnie [Hammer] was phenomenally supportive of [the idea that] you’ve got to honor your contract with the audience. We as a cable network don’t want to pull the plug and leave people being upset — ‘Wait, what happened to my show?’ — so we very carefully and wonderfully staged a final season.”

Despite premiering strongly (with 5.6 million total viewers) and averaging some 1.6 mil in the coveted 18-49 demo throughout the season, Criminal Intent was not profitable for USA — a liability that was foreseen well ahead of time. “Given the ratings we could anticipate, and given the expense of the show, we knew it was a money-losing venture for us,” Wachtel notes.

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Though some viewers feel the episode that closed the decade-old procedural didn’t scream “series finale,” Wachtel contends that all signs were there if you looked for them. “The fact that we introduced a psychiatrist (played by Julia Ormond) into the mix, and that a significant part of the season was about the healing of Bobby Goren and taking him out of an awful journey and into a place of relative emotional health…. For a Dick Wolf show that was much more character-based than you ever see.”

As the final hour wrapped, Goren emerged from his final mandatory shrink session and headed off to a new crime scene with Eames. “We felt that was a great place to leave things,” says Wachtel. “It was a good series finale.”

The silver lining to Criminal Intent‘s definitively final run? As part of its legacy, it leaves its lead-out, In Plain Sight, a healthier series. “That was a great opportunity, to pair [them] on Sunday nights, where both had a lot of strength,” explains USA co-president Chris McCumber. “This past Sunday, when [In Plain Sight] didn’t have the Criminal Intent lead-in, it actually grew [in three target demo measures]. The tandem ended up making In Plain Sight an even stronger show.”