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Wolf on the Loose

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 26, 2005

Well, I guess it's now officially a press tour. Dick Wolf has picked a fight.

Before we get to that, the blog took a hiatus for a bit, mainly because I was tired, and because I spent part of Sunday evening doing laundry. (Yes, this hotel does laundry. I went to a coin-operated laundromat and washed and dried two loads for about what it costs to get a shirt done here.)

The most interesting thing about Sunday was the session for ''My Name Is Earl,'' a very promising new comedy. It stars Jason Lee, and I have a story about him in Tuesday's Beacon Journal (and on, of course). And Marc Buckland, one of the executive producers is from the Cleveland area. But one thing I didn't put in the Beacon Journal story is an indication of how little TV Lee has done.

At the end of a press conference, cast and producers usually stay onstage for a few minutes so reporters can come up for followup questions, local angles or just to make contact before talking another time. It can be scary for a first-timer to see the writers converging (although I told one nervous actress that it would be scarier if no one came up to talk). But Lee was so unaware of the process, he wandered offstage as soon as the press conference was done -- and had to be brought back.

Now let's look at Monday at Dick Wolf.

Wolf is the producer behind ''Law & Order'' and its spin-offs, and therefore hugely successful and vital to the interests of NBC Universal, as he will tell you -- and, to be fair, NBC Universal will tell you the same thing, too.

He did a press conference with three stars from ''L&O'' shows: Annie Parisse from the mothership, Mariska Hargitay from "SVU'' and Vincent D'Onofrion from ''Criminal Intent.'' There was plenty to talk about with the actors: D'Onofrio's reducing his workload, Parisse's relatively recent joining of the show, Hargitay's possible changes on ''SVU.''

There were also things to ask Wolf, since he had an ''L&O'' flop with ''Trial by Jury'' (although from its ashes may rise a show about assistant district attorneys), and the format of ''Criminal Intent'' has been sold to a French production company for a Gallic version, and he is the biggest, hugest, most incredibly, fabulously successful guy NBC Universal has ever seen. Or maybe the known world.

But Wolf likes to set the agenda for his press conferences, and at the first opportunity he began a screed about the inadequacy of coverage of "L&O'' since critics, in his view, don't write enough about it being the biggest, hugest, most fabulously successful brand NBC Universal has. Or maybe the entire known world.

He admitted that his shows get a lot of good press but longed for ''sophisticated business reportage .. (that) this is the most profitable brand in the history of the medium.''

(Wolf prefers to call ''Law & Order'' a brand, not a franchise. He has a whole other rant about not being a franchise.)

So the press conference rambled on, and by the end I had the feeling -- not for the first time -- that Wolf had for his own amusement turned the press conference on its ear.

But I can't argue with his doing that. After all, I can barely aspire to ''sophisticated business reportage'' and he's the biggest, hugest, most fabulously successful guy NBC Universal has. Or maybe... well, you know the rest.

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