Balcer back on ‘Law & Order’ beat

Showrunner returns for 18th season

“Law & Order” vet Rene Balcer is returning to the mother ship, signing on as showrunner for the skein’s 18th season.

Deal comes after NBC’s last-minute renewal of “L&O.” In addition to producer changes, “L&O” mogul Dick Wolf is expected to institute some cast changes at the show as well.

Balcer, who developed “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” dipped his toe back into the “L&O” waters earlier this spring when he agreed to exec produce and run the last few episodes of the season (Daily Variety, March 13).

New deal has him returning full time, taking over showrunner duties from Nick Wooton.

“Rene’s talent has been manifest since the first season of ‘Law & Order,’ ” Wolf said. “Rene’s return to ‘Law & Order’ signals a creative renaissance on the mother ship that should carry us closer to my ultimate goal of beating ‘Gunsmoke’ (as the longest-running drama series in TV history).”

Having joined “L&O” during its first season back in 1990, Balcer became showrunner-head writer in 1996. His four-year mark coincided with the skein’s emergence as a top 10 hit and its first Emmy win for drama.

Balcer teamed with Wolf to develop “Criminal Intent,” which premiered in 2001. He served as “CI” showrunner until last year, when he handed off the gig to Warren Leight (but remained as a consultant).

Balcer said he’s encouraged by the uptick in the ratings for “Law” the last few weeks.

“It shows that ‘Law & Order’ still matters and that the audience is ready to pay attention,” he said.

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