The Law & Order machine keeps grinding on. NBC announced Tuesday that it has ordered Law & Order: Hate Crimes, a new 13-episode series in the long-running Dick Wolf franchise, based on New York’s actual Hate Crimes Task Force, which works under the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit.
Wolf co-created the series with former SVU showrunner Warren Leight, part of the producer’s impressive slate at NBC, which currently includes SVU and the Chicago franchise, an entire crossover universe of hit procedurals unto itself.
As with its real-life counterpart, Hate Crimes will spin off from SVU, making its introduction in one of the latter episodes of the show’s forthcoming 20th season.
“As with all of my crime shows, I want to depict what’s really going on in our cities and shine a light on the wide-ranging victims and show that justice can prevail,” said Wolf in a statement. “Twenty years ago when ‘SVU’ began, very few people felt comfortable coming forward and reporting these crimes, but when you bring the stories into people’s living rooms—with characters as empathetic as Olivia Benson—a real dialogue can begin. That’s what I hope we can do with this new show in a world where hate crimes have reached an egregious level.”
The forthcoming 20th season of SVU, currently the only series in the franchise on air, will tie Gunsmoke and the original Law and Order as the longest-running scripted series in U.S. television history. With Hate Crimes, the franchise keeps changing with the times.
“As Law & Order: SVU enters its remarkable 20th season, it is exciting to get back into business with Dick Wolf on a new Law & Order incarnation that feels extremely timely,” said Lisa Katz, co-president of scripted programming at NBC Entertainment. “Considering that last year there was a double-digit rise in hate crimes in our 10 largest cities—the highest total in over a decade—it seemed like this topic is begging to be explored.”
The procedural franchise has managed to survive all these years not only thanks to endless reruns in syndication, but also its “ripped from the headlines” appeal and a savvy approach to current trends. In 2016, the series’ last spinoff, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, hopped onto the ‘true crime’ and limited series trends in television and podcasting with a 13-episode run.
There’s something perhaps a bit unsettling and opportunistic about a long-running police procedural jumping on the “timely” issue of rising hate crime rates, but one thing’s certain: So long as we never run out of new crimes to mine, we’ll always have Law & Order in our lives.