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TODAY news services
updated 5/14/2010 1:27:25 PM ET 2010-05-14T17:27:25

NBC has canceled long-running procedural "Law & Order," the network announced on Friday.

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“The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his ‘Law & Order’ franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated,” Jeff Gaspin, chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said in a statement. “The legacy of his original ‘Law & Order’ series will continue to make an impact like no other series before.”

NBC cushioned the blow of the cancelation by announcing that it had renewed “Law & Order: SVU” and that it had picked up a new drama “Law & Order: Los Angeles.”

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Video: NBC canceling "Law & Order"?

“Law & Order's” series finale airs May 24, with no official closure. It will mark the departure of S. Epatha Merkerson, a cast member since 1993, but her leave-taking is unrelated to the show's future.

The series' other current stars include Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza and Sam Waterston.

Despite sagging ratings, "Law & Order" had been considered likely for renewal next season, when it would have surpassed "Gunsmoke" as TV's longest-running drama. That achievement has been an enduring dream of the series' powerful creator, Dick Wolf, who not only furnished NBC with this so-called "mother ship" but expanded it into two still-running "Law & Order" spinoffs.

Last September, a dozen past and present "Law & Order" stars gathered in the show's courtroom set to celebrate the start of the 20th year.

At the time, Wolf said he looked forward to the show continuing another year and beyond. Then he added, "I hope we'll see you here in 2013."

During its 20 seasons, the show became a familiar presence in New York as it filmed on location.

"Over the last 20 years, 'Law & Order' became a New York City institution," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement. Noting that "it began filming in the city at a time when few series did," he expressed gratitude to Wolf for "helping showcase the city's depth and versatility as a setting and all of the advantages of filming here."

The Associated Press and TheWrap.com contributed to this report.

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