'Law & Order': An Orbach Spin-Off?

'Law & Order'  | Mol's Marriage  | 'Frasier' Neglected?  | What's Wrong With Hollywood?

'Law & Order': A Jerry Orbach Spin-Off?

The jury isn't in yet on this decision, but Dick Wolf's "Law & Order" empire is about to expand once again.

My sources tell me that Wolf and NBC are planning a fourth "Law & Order" show, this one concerning juries. My guess is they'll call it "Law & Order: Jury Duty."

These sources say that Wolf will move at least two existing "Law & Order" stars over to the new show, and that one of them will likely be the company's longest running star, Jerry Orbach.

Character actors all over New York are celebrating as they read this. Imagine casting "12 Angry Men — and Women" every week!

A new show would crown Wolf the undisputed champion of prime-time series TV, making him the landlord of four hours of valuable real estate, what with the original "Law & Order," plus the affectionately known "Law & Order: SVU," and the new "Criminal Intent." That doesn't include a separate show, called "Crime & Punishment," which also runs under the "Law & Order" heading.

Here's an idea for Wolf if he's having trouble deciding who to move with Orbach. Tamara Tunie, who moonlights as a medical examiner on "Law & Order," is a breakout star doing time on the CBS soap "As the World Turns." It's time for Tunie, and Wolf is the man who can make it happen.

Gretchen Mol: Wedding Bells

Here's a wedding announcement the way it should be (hello Bennifer!).

Movie actress Gretchen Mol ("The Shape of Things," "Rounders"), whose placement on the cover of Vanity Fair a few years ago almost killed her much-deserved career before it started, is getting hitched. The lucky guy is Tod Williams, director of the excellent indie film "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" and former husband of "X-Men" star Famke Janssen.

I told you a few months ago I ran into this pair at Carnegie Hall during a piano recital by Daniel Barenboim. Well, it turns out they became engaged not long after. The wedding is planned for early in the new year.

If you think Williams is batting 1.000 as far as talented, beautiful women go, you'd be correct. He's also not doing too badly as a director. He's putting the finishing touches on his second film, "Door in the Floor," which is based on the first half of the John Irving novel, "A Widow for One Year." Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges star. Focus Films, where Williams will attempt a remake of "To Have and Have Not," is the distributor.

'Frasier' Neglected by NBC?

The big promotional campaign for "Friends" has begun on NBC, where we're going to be reminded every waking minute that this is the last season for the tepid comedy. What's so interesting about this is that "Friends" has few Emmy Awards and not much to recommend except for the television personalities of its characters.

To paraphrase what respected actor William H. Macy said on Sunday night to Alicia Silverstone: When actors have been on a show for a long time, the writers tend to write the actors' personalities into the characters.

As such, after 10 years, I have no idea what the difference is between Ross, Rachel, and the rest of them except that Courteney Cox's character on "Friends" is anal about cleanliness and Phoebe is odd.

On the other hand, "Frasier," with many Emmy awards and lots of praise, is starting what looks to be an under-promoted final year — if this is indeed the final year. Kelsey Grammer always said he wanted the show to run the same number of seasons as "Cheers" did — that would be 11 — and he's going to get his wish.

Insisting on this meant that sometimes "Frasier" has taken long turns in search of longevity (Niles's poorly thought-out heart surgery) and consequently became vulnerable to critics.

Last night, NBC played two half-hour "Frasier" episodes back-to-back and called it a "special one-hour season premiere." OK, it was a fib, but I was stuck on a JetBlue flight and decided to give in and check season 11 out. The first episode was average in the "Frasier" pantheon, with some good lines and the usual excellent delivery by the more than competent cast.

It was the second episode, though, that showed "Frasier" still has some life in it. Guest star Felicity Huffman — who happens to be the real-life wife of Macy — turned in an Emmy-worthy performance as Frasier's latest lover, a woman who looks like she may be the real thing and turns out to be his worst nightmare.

It's rare to laugh out loud during a network sitcom — I leave that for "Sex and the City" — but this little scenario reminded me of the greatest days of "Frasier."

If the rest of the season runs like episode two, NBC had better either give these people a great new contract or a wonderful send-off come May.

Why We Can't Take Hollywood Seriously

My basic distaste for Los Angeles and the entertainment business does mark me as a New York snob. I admit it heartily. But maybe this will help explain it.

In the California section (page B3) of Monday's Los Angeles Times there was a story about a book fair in West Hollywood accompanied by a picture of perennial Broadway star Carol Channing signing her autobiography. The photo caption: "Carol Channing signs books at the fair. Other writers in attendance were Heidi Fleiss and Gil Garcetti."

Fleiss — the Hollywood madam? Garcetti — the former Los Angeles district attorney who let O.J. Simpson go and had to try the Menendez brothers twice? Writers?

Am I missing something? Do we have any reason to believe that Hollywood can turn out anything other than junk when these people are under this misapprehension?

It's not like there aren't real writers living somewhere in the Los Angeles area, but if they read this I'm sure they're in hiding. Meanwhile, the fall TV season — supplied by the West Coast show maker who blocked HBO from winning awards but courts and rewards an alarming amount of mediocrity — begins in earnest this week.