Home Television Law & Order: Epatha May Stay, Meloni In, Erbe Back?

It’s spring, and a young man’s fancy turns to the soap operas at the various “Law & Order” shows.

I can tell you that sources say S. Epatha Merkerson may not be leaving “Law & Order” so fast. Even though Merkerson announced that she was exiting her role after 20 seasons, I am told that this is just a negotiating ploy. “L&O” grand poobah Dick Wolf is notoriously tough on money. But Merkerson is the show’s only tie to its past. She started there in 1993. Next season, if it’s renewed, “L&O” would become the longest running series ever. It doesn’t seem possible that NBC and Wolf won’t make that p.r. hook happen. And they can’t do it without Merkerson. So hold on. Lt. Anita van Buren may yet play out a final record breaking season.

And there’s more: Chris Meloni is now saying he’s staying with “Law & Order: SVU.” In February, he gave some quote that he was out. But “SVU” can’t function without Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, who’ve become savvy negotiators themselves. Merkerson probably took a page from their book. See how this works?

And finally: the word from the set of “Criminal Intent” is that Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows are not getting along, that Burrows may not be working out, and the stage could be set for Kathryn Erbe–whom I reported exclusively months ago was purged along with Vincent D’Onofrio and Eric Bogosian–might be brought back around Episode 5.

Hold on, because it’s all volatile, and anything could happen. One thing’s for sure: fans continue to write this column saying they are agree that D’Onofrio and Erbe are gone, and that they won’t watch a Goldblum-only show.

As far as the original “L&O”: Wolf should make sure Merkerson is there, and bring back as many of the living alumni as possible next season for an all-star send off. Fans want to see Paul Sorvino, Michael Moriarty, Richard Brooks, Jill Hennessy, Angie Harmon, etc. It could be a bonanza!

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