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Did This Law & Order Spin-Off Ruin The Original Show?

NBC's long-lived crime drama "Law & Order" has spawned many spin-offs. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Law & Order: Organized Crime" have both been successful in their own right, creating individual fanbases and loyal audiences which are distinct from their mothership, and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" also ran for 10 healthy and well-attended seasons. "Law & Order" itself is set to return to NBC in 2022 after running for 21 seasons and being canceled in 2011 (per Deadline). That's a lot of prestige and success, which makes it easy to understand why NBC relies so often on Dick Wolf's storied franchise to deliver high ratings.

But not every program to branch off of the series has proven to be successful. One spin-off, in fact, flamed out so quickly that it was canceled 11 weeks into its run (per Entertainment Weekly). Was it bad enough to ruin the legacy of the original show in the eyes of its fans?

Law & Order: Trial By Jury missed with critics and audiences, but fans have come to praise it

It's hard to argue that anything can ruin a show with the longevity and popularity of the original "Law & Order." But "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" took the franchise away from the streets of New York and into its courtrooms and stumbled in the process. Featuring Bebe Neuwirth and including Jerry Orbach's final performance as Lennie Briscoe, the show was not popular critically nor with viewers at the time. Variety called it "oddly conceived" and "nuance- and suspense-free," while Entertainment Weekly declared it a "nuisance suit." Audiences preferred the lighter fare offered by NUMB3RS, which aired directly opposite it on CBS, and the show was ultimately canceled 11 weeks into its run and sent to Court TV to burn off its last two episodes.

However, if you ask fans of the "Law & Order" franchise — such as the folks who hang out at the Law & Order subreddit– they'll tell you that "Trial By Jury" did anything but ruin the franchise. In fact, they characterize the show as highly underrated. 

"I cannot express enough my love for this short-lived spinoff and how much I encourage fans of the franchise to watch it, especially considering most haven't even heard of it!" said u/Nintendo600. Agreed u/YakWish, "honestly, it's my favorite of the series. Bebe Neuwirth was amazing as the lead and there were some really neat legal twists." Said u/some_strange_circus, "Tracey Kibre [Neuwirth's character] puts Jack McCoy [Sam Waterston] to shame and looks damn good doing it."

Did Law & Order: Trial By Jury ruin the franchise?

To be fair to "Trial By Jury," it isn't the only one-season wonder "Law & Order" spin-off. "Law & Order: LA" lasted for only 22 episodes during the 2010-2011 season after being retooled in the middle of its run (per USA Today) and "Law & Order: True Crime," an examination of real-life crimes broken down "Dateline NBC" style, has been on an indefinite hiatus since 2017. Though there's been no word that it's been officially canceled for years, no signs have been given that it will ever return to the airwaves (per The Hollywood Reporter). 

None of those shows, however, were forced to conclude their runs ignominiously off of NBC. Yet many fans of the franchise seem to love "Trial By Jury" fresh spin on the procedural drama, enjoy streaming the program, and wish it had lived longer. With so many people in its corner, it's hard to substantiate the notion that "Trial By Jury" ruined "Law & Order." To wit, the franchise sails on, untainted by its stumbles. With four hits and three so-called failures under its belt, it remains a success.