Law & Order: Criminal Intent is an American police procedural television drama series set in New York City, where it is also primarily produced. Created and produced by Dick Wolf and airs on NBC, the series premiered on September 30, 2001 as the second spin-off of Wolf's successful crime drama Law & Order. The series aired on NBC for the first six seasons but was moved to the NBC Universal-owned USA Network starting with the seventh season due to low ratings. As of the eighth season, which concluded on August 9, 2009, the series produced 171 episodes.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent focuses on the investigations of the Major Case Squad in a fictionalized version of the New York City Police Department set in New York City's One Police Plaza. In the style of the original Law & Order, episodes are often "ripped from the headlines" or loosely based on a real crime that received media attention.
Criminal Intent follows a distinct division of the New York City Police Department: the "Major Case Squad". The Major Case Squad investigates high-profile cases (in most cases murder, just like the regular Law & Order in this sense), such as those involving VIPs, local government officials and employees, the financial industry, and the art world; though sometimes the cases are similar to the cases from the original Law & Order show as well. Unlike the other shows in the Law & Order franchise, as of Season 5 Criminal Intent episodes typically alternate between two teams of detectives: Team A episodes chronicle the cases of Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames, while team B episodes follow the exploits of Zach Nichols and Megan Wheeler. Originally, team B followed Mike Logan and his partners, Carolyn Barek, Megan Wheeler, and Nola Falacci.
The series also gives significant attention to the actions and motives of the criminals, rather than focusing exclusively on the police and prosecution, and the information they have, as in the other Law & Order series. A feature of each Criminal Intent episode is that the cold open always involves a series of cut-scenes that show events from the suspects' and victims' lives, leading up to the crime. Clues to the crime's eventual solution can often be found in this teaser sequence. Criminal Intent episodes do not usually contain trials. Unlike other Law & Order series, most Criminal Intent episodes end in confessions rather than plea bargains or verdicts.
For the first five seasons, Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver (played by Courtney B. Vance) worked with the detectives on their cases. After Vance's departure, Theresa Randle took over as Patricia Kent, but only appeared in two episodes at the beginning of season six. ADAs have not played a regular role in the show since.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent was created by René Balcer and Dick Wolf in 2001. Balcer served as the show's executive producer, showrunner, and head writer for its first five seasons. The show dominated its original time slot on Sundays at 9:00 pm for its first three seasons (routinely beating its competition Alias and The Sopranos in households and in the 18–49 demos), and was often the highest rated show of the night, with an average audience of 15.5 million viewers.
Beginning in its fourth season, it faced stiff new competition from ABC's night-time soap opera Desperate Housewives, a show that soon became the number one drama on television. Ratings for Criminal Intent further eroded in the fifth season when Chris Noth joined the cast in alternating episodes as Det. Logan. Noth's episodes routinely scored much lower ratings than D'Onofrio's. Despite stiff competition and Detective Goren's reduced presence, the series maintained respectable ratings through the fifth season, enough to get it renewed for a sixth season on NBC.
Balcer left the show at the end of the fifth season, and the show was handed off to Warren Leight, a longtime Criminal Intent staffer. Under Leight's leadership, the show acquired a new, more melodramatic tone. The mystery aspect of the show was simplified in favor of more personal stories involving the detectives. For example, notably Goren endured his mother's long agony from cancer, culminating with her death in the last episode (for Goren and Eames) of the sixth season, "Endgame" ("Renewal" is the season finale). The show's look and editing style also changed in an effort to attract more viewers than the newer CSI franchise.
Since NBC had acquired the rights to Sunday Night Football for the 2006–2007 season, Law & Order: Criminal Intent was moved to new time slot on Tuesdays at 9:00 pm, to serve as a lead-in to SVU. For its first six airings, it faced CBS's The Unit and baseball on Fox. The show held its own against such competition. In late October, Fox's smash hit House moved opposite Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It was hoped that the show could maintain second position, beating the then-marginal The Unit but that didn't occur. The show's ratings suffered a steep drop and regularly finished fourth in its time slot. By the end of the sixth season, Law & Order: Criminal Intent saw its lowest ratings ever.
In May 2007, NBC faced a choice of renewing either Criminal Intent or the original Law & Order, which had seen a ratings increase in the last few outings of its seventeenth season. Ultimately, because of weak ratings, NBC passed on Criminal Intent and picked up Law & Order. Because new episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent were still a profit center for the NBC Universal-owned studio that produces the series, Criminal Intent was moved to the NBC Universal owned USA Network after six seasons on NBC, because on USA Network it attracted a much larger audience. The remaining episodes from the seventh season began screening on June 8. The show was stopped in December 2007 due to the writers' strike. In Canada Law & Order: Criminal Intent airs new original episodes on CTV at 10 PM Sundays.
For its move to the USA Network, the "heavier" sounding version of the Law & Order: CI theme used for the show's opening credits was replaced by the version used on the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury.
It was announced on May 22, 2008 that USA Network had renewed Criminal Intent for an eighth season. The seventh season was the top-rated television series on basic cable, having more than quadrupled the audience for the 10 PM Thursday slot on USA Network when compared to the ratings from the previous year. Nielsen Ratings for the week of July 13, 2008 showed that Criminal Intent was ranked sixth overall on top 20 cable ratings, with a viewer base of 4.899 million viewers. The network ordered 16 episodes which were originally going to begin screening in November 2008, but the network moved the premiere -- first to February 5, 2009, then with an expected date of spring–summer 2009, and finally announcing the start date as April 19. The only change in cast members from the seventh season was  Chris Noth exiting, and replaced by Jeff Goldblum. At the end of the seventh season, Leight, who left to focus on In Treatment, was replaced by new executive producers Walon Green and Robert Nathan. In December 2008, Nathan left the show after completing two Goldblum episodes. Law & Order co-executive producer and writer Ed Zuckerman then picked up Nathan's assignment while continuing his duties for the original L&O's 19th season. Michael Chernuchin co-executive produces Green's episodes, and Tim Lea co-executive produces Zuckerman's episodes. Other executive producers on the series are Norberto Barba, Peter Jankowski, Diana Son, Julie Martin, and Arthur W. Forney. Charlie Rubin is the supervising producer, and Balcer, Eric Overmyer, and Siobhan Byrne O'Connor are consulting producers. In April 2009, NBC began airing Law & Order: Criminal Intent season 8 encores a few days after they premiered on USA.
Hollywood Reporter reported that the USA Network is currently finalizing a deal for the ninth season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Later, it was reported that D'Onofrio, Erbe and Bogosian would be leaving the series. Some sources have speculated that USA Network prefers Goldblum's lighter Monk-style contribution as it fits better with their slate of other series.
In response to news of the impending cast changes, on September 27, 2009, dedicated fans of the series united and launched a grassroots campaign to save departing cast members D'Onofrio, Erbe and Bogosian. Among the more traditional methods of letters, postcards, email and phone calls, the fans included sending jars of marshmallow fluff by the case to express their displeasure at the proposed change of tone for the series.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Narrated by Steven Zirnkilton
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 171 (List of episodes)
Location(s) NBC Studios New York City
in and around New York City
Running time approx. 43 minutes (per episode)
Original channel NBC (2001–2007)
USA Network (2007–present)
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
Original run September 30, 2001 – present