It's the end of an era at NBC, but the network is taking great pains to make it look like the start of a new era.
 
On Friday (May 14) morning, NBC officially announced that "Law & Order," the Dick Wolf franchise mothership, will not be back for the 2010-2011, ending its epic and Emmy-winning run at 20 seasons. As a result, "Law & Order" will end its run tied with "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running drama in primetime television history.
 
Repeats will continue to air on cable at frequent intervals. The franchise is survived by "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on USA, to say nothing of a British incarnation. [Nobody's spending much time discussing "Law & Order: Trial by Jury."]
 
The series finale for "Law & Order," 1997 Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series, will air on Monday, May 24. 
 
But don't cry for Wolf or the "Law & Order" brand, since NBC wisely chose to bury news of the cancellation within a press release touting the continuation and even expansion of the brand.
 
To nobody's surprise, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has been picked up for a 12th season. The first (and most successful) of the "Law & Order" spinoffs stars Emmy winner Mariska Hargitay and Emmy nominee Christopher Meloni and has averaged 9.3 million viewers and a 2.9 rating in the 18-49 demo this season.
 
NBC also formally announced that "Law & Order: Los Angeles" has been picked up for the 2010-11 season. The procedural, which takes the brand's familiar storytelling structure and transfers it to the West Coast, will be created by Wolf and Blake Masters. Already affectionally dubbed "LOLA," the new series is still in preproduction and casting has yet to be announced.
 
"The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his 'Law & Order' franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated," says NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin in a statement. "The legacy of his original 'Law & Order' series will continue to make an impact like no other series before."     
 
Adds NBC Primetime Entertainment President Angela Bromstad,  "'Law & Order'has been one of the most successful franchises in the history of television, which is why it is so critical that we continue this important brand and our relationship with Dick Wolf and his team with 'LOLA' and 'Law & Order: SVU.'"
 
NBC's full primetime schedule, including additional pickups, will be unveiled on Sunday (May 16) ahead of the network's Monday upfront presentation.