" Law & Order" The glory days: The long-running NBC legal drama is old enough to vote -- it just started its 19th season. At its height, around the 12th season or so, it was a Top 10 Nielsen hit, racked up an impressive list of awards -- including an Emmy for best drama series in 1997 -- and seems to be playing in reruns somewhere in the world at any given time of day. Troubled times: The onetime ratings juggernaut has fallen on hard times. Last season it was 38th in the ratings; the season before that it was 73rd (a change of time slots helped it bounce back). But a series of spinoffs -- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and the swiftly canceled "Law & Order: Trial By Jury" and "Conviction" -- spread the franchise and format a bit thin. "Law & Order" alum Fred Thompson, right, launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States presidency in 2008. Bailout plan: The interchangeablilty of the titles and the casts has become a burden for the franchise. Either combine the casts into a single sprawling intricately plotted drama -- think "The Wire" -- or start drastically changing the formats. If you can't immediately tell which "Law & Order" you're watching, within a minute, then they're too similar. "CSI" solved this problem by changing the locales: New York, Miami and Las Vegas.
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