Of course, the branding doesn’t hurt. For Law & Order
’s part, it’s a franchise that has existed since 1990. “First of all, I’m obviously a huge fan of branding,” Wolf, a former advertising copywriter-turned-screenwriter, says when it comes to the creation of each new series under the umbrella of its respective franchise, whether it’s Chicago Justice
or Law & Order: True Crime
. “It tells people that you’re working at a specific level. If it says Law & Order
, you’re not going to be disappointed.”
“It’s why ‘Chicago’ is the first word in all the Chicago
shows. If you like one, you’re probably not going to hate the others,” he says matter-of-factly.
“We use what we know are comfort zones for the audience,” Wolf says, pointing to the now-iconic “ching chings” -- or “chung chungs” or “dun duns,” depending on who you ask to recreate Law & Order
’s signature sound -- that will be part of True Crime
, the first nonfiction scripted series of the Law & Order
franchise. “Anywhere in the world you go at this point, you can go, ‘Dun dun,’ and people know exactly what you’re talking about,” Anika Noni Rose, a one-time guest star on SVU
, says in a separate conversation about the franchise, further cementing Wolf’s point.
When it comes to True Crime
, an eight-episode anthology series focused on Lyle and Erik Menendez, brothers convicted in 1996 of killing their parents, Wolf says other familiar parts will be there. Steven Zirnkilton, the voice of the franchise who provides the opening narration, will do the same for this series,
and Mike Post will compose a variation on the familiar theme music. The major difference that sets True Crime
apart is the last line of narration, which will read: “Everything you see is true.”
MORE: Past and Current Producers Look Back on Favorite Episodes of 'Law & Order: SVU'
Wolf says adding a true-crime series to his fictional-yet-ripped-from-the-headlines franchise will make sense to the audience. “It’s not a documentary, so you’re going to have actors saying the lines,” he says, adding that this series will feature higher-profile talent, including Emmy winner Edie Falco
, who NBC just announced will portray defense attorney Leslie Abramson. In a statement, Wolf said, “[She] will knock the role out of the park.”
Admittedly, expectations for True Crime
are high, especially with the genre reaching peak frenzy
thanks to the Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer
and FX’s American Crime Story
. But Wolf has the utmost confidence in writer and executive producer Rene Balcer, who developed Law & Order: Criminal Intent
and worked on several of the spinoffs. “Rene is, utmost unquestionably, the best pure procedural crime writer in the last 20 years,” Wolf says. Coincidentally, Balcer’s first Law & Order
writing credit was the 1991 ripped-from-the-headlines episode “The Serpent's Tooth,” inspired by the Menendez case.
While Wolf now largely serves as the man behind the curtain of his ever-growing TV empire, he does still enjoying writing from time to time, often working with different showrunners to develop story ideas. “I like doing them and turning them over,” he says, adding with a chuckle: “If I can actually get my ideas made, it’s fabulous.”