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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

"It's not algorithms, it's arithmetic": Dick Wolf on why he still prefers broadcast networks to Netflix

Illustration for article titled Its not algorithms, its arithmetic: Dick Wolf on why he still prefers broadcast networks to Netflix
Photo: Daniel Boczarski (Getty Images)

Last month at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, Dick Wolf said his “appetite for expansion is not diminished.” This statement was made at the panel for his new procedural FBI—for which he strayed from his longtime network home, NBC—and just weeks before announcing a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spin-off, so although many journalists laughed, it was more a chuckle of wry acknowledgment. For despite hitting a few bumps in the road, Wolf’s prolificacy has just picked up the pace since he set up shop in Chicago—in the six years since Chicago Fire debuted, he’s already added two spin-offs to the franchise, including Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med. Starting this fall, his Chicago empire will dominate NBC’s Wednesday night lineup, with episodes from the three procedurals airing back to back to back.


You’d think Wolf’s desire to rule over us one urban drama at a time would have led him to collaborate with Netflix or some other streamer by now, but Wolf told TCA members back in August that while he has “nothing against streaming, the math is a little daunting.” Today at the One Chicago Day press event, where Wolf joined all three Chicago show casts to promote the new schedule, The A.V. Club asked the veteran TV producer to expand on his comments. Here’s what he told us:

Television has changed more in the last 36 months than the last 72 years. I don’t know what the business is going to look like. I mean, if broadcast goes down to a reduced number of episodes, I’d be much more willing to look at streaming. But it’s not even algorithms, it’s arithmetic. You do five years on Netflix, first of all, there’s no back-end. And you’ve got 40 episodes. I do five years on a broadcast network, I’ve got 110 episodes. [It’s] just arithmetic.


Wolf also reflected on his failed spin-offs, including Chicago Justice and Law & Order: Los Angeles. Regarding the latter, the series creator noted that filming in Los Angeles actually hurt the show, because “if you’re doing urban dramas, you want it to look like a city.” Apparently, Los Angeles doesn’t—but “New York and Chicago look to me like cities.... In New York, all you have to do is tilt the camera and it’s always a great shot because you’ve got buildings going up into the ionosphere and it’s the same here [in Chicago]. This city, to me, is the most beautiful in the country, because of the architecture.”

It was at this point that we mentioned that The A.V. Club is based in Chicago.

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