Chung chung! NBC and producer Dick Wolf have hashed out a deal to keep Law & Order on the air for the next four years. Variety reports (subscription only) that as part of the deal, Law & Order: Criminal Intent will be moving to USA. Yes, USA (which NBC owns) will now have the first run episodes of Detective Robert Goren's histrionics, and then NBC will air repeats of L&O:CI. Interesting!

NBC Universal head Jeff Zucker said, "Putting 'Criminal Intent' originals on USA was the centerpiece of this whole thing. The fact that originals will air on USA serves to make USA an even stronger and more dominant channel. It propels USA into a new stratosphere above where they already were, and into the big leagues with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. It starts to make USA the fifth major network." In other words, he wants advertisers on USA to pay more money.

The original Law & Order has struggled in the ratings in this CSI-crazy world (and since being pushed to Friday nights), prompting speculation that NBC would try to put the longest running drama on TV today on the ice. But now the show, in its 17th season, will have a shot at overtaking Gunsmoke as the longest running drama. Variety says Wolf negotiated a lower licensing fee for L&O, and he said:

My stated objective when this whole thing started was to find a way to bring all three shows back. Now all three are back with full season orders. Everyone stays employed...

...We're operating what was an extremely efficient operation"Now it's being ratcheted up to extremely efficient operation. No one could run the 17th season of a show for what we've been making them. We're just now going from three sodas to water now.

It's unclear what night of the week L&O:CI will be on USA. And this isn't NBC's first foray into repurposing shows from its cable brethren: One summer, it showed episodes of Queer Eye of the Straight Guy. We're surprised it hasn't tried to put Project Runway on prime time.

Law & Order will film its 400th (!) episode next season. We were watching part of TNT's L&O marathon yesterday and now believe that in order for L&O to remain relevant, the show needs to revisit the heights of its late 1990s/early 2000s writing. For instance, that three-episode arc that involved the death of a studio exec (with guest star Lauren Graham as another executive interested in Benjamin Bratt and Janeane Garofalo as an assistant) was riveting, especially with DA Adam Schiff pissed off to no end.

Photograph of a trailer for "Dr. Olivet," aka Carolyn McCormack, by Triborough on Flickr