Media Legend Dick Wolf’s Career Highlights and Achievements

Dick Wolf is a legend within the television industry, but that didn’t come without decades of passion.

Divorce Documents Reveal Dick Wolf's Ridiculous Monthly Income Generated By  Sprawling Television Empire | Celebrity Net Worth

Dick Wolf is a man of many achievements — among which is that he’s completely transformed the world of procedural dramas.

The primetime titan is responsible for writing, producing, and creating dozens of binge-worthy series, from the Law & Order and One Chicago franchises to the many other projects produced through his company, Wolf Entertainment. Wolf’s original programming has been rocking the radio waves since the early 1990s, with his nail-biting crime dramas becoming beloved NBC mainstays with avid fanbases that have become engrossed in Wolf’s serialized universe.

RELATED: How Many Law & Order: SVU Episodes Has Mariska Hargitay Directed?

“I’ve said for years that this is not a franchise,” Wolf told TV Guide of Law & Order in 2009. “It’s a brand.”

In 2021, producer Greg Berlanti commended Wolf’s prolific impact on television, noting the cultural zeitgeist he’s created within police dramas.

“Wherever I go in the country, wherever I go in the world, people reference Dick Wolf shows,” Berlanti told Variety. “The priority is telling stories that move an audience. The real value of any show is ultimately its relationship with an audience. Dick Wolf makes shows that people love and love to talk about.”

Wolf’s resume is a testament to his passion for connecting with his audience.

With his Law & Order and One Chicago shows set to return for new seasons in January, look back some of Wolf’s career highlights to see how one man changed the game for true crime and crime drama lovers everywhere.

Dick Wolf’s advertising career before television


Dick Wolf presenting on stage during Ice-T's Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony.

Dick Wolf presenting at the star ceremony where Ice-T is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 17, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images

Before he ventured into show business, Wolf was an ad man in New York, working for Crest toothpaste. He was even responsible for penning one of the brand’s most iconic slogans.

“When I started in advertising, there was Crest — one toothpaste — but then mint-flavored came in, and gel,” Wolf explained in a 2007 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Now, there are probably six or seven generations of Crest, yet the tagline I wrote still holds: ‘You can’t beat Crest for fighting cavities.'”

So what triggered Wolf’s decision to shift to television? “I didn’t want to sell toothpaste anymore,” the wordsmith revealed.

Dick Wolf’s Early Filmography: Skateboard to School Ties

David Green, Charlie Dillon, Jack Connors, Van Kelt, McGivern, McGoo, Reece, and Chesty appear on set during School Ties in 1992.

David Green (Brendan Fraser), Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon), Jack Connors (Cole Hauser), Van Kelt (Randall Batinkoff), McGivern (Andrew Lowery), McGoo (Anthony Rapp), Reece (Chris O’Donnell), and Chesty (Ben Affleck) appear on set during School Ties in 1992. Photo: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The Law & Order icon got his start in the entertainment industry as a screenwriter and, while he would one day dominate primetime, he initially earned a living selling film scripts. Wolf’s first sold script was for the 1978 film Skateboard, co-written by George Gage.

No Man’s Land (1987)

One of the first films to put Wolf on the map as a screenwriter was the 1987 crime thriller No Man’s Land, starring Charlie Sheen, D. B. Sweeney, and Randy Quaid. The film follows a new cop assigned to go undercover to investigate a car theft ring. Fun fact: No Man’s Land also marked the film debut of Brad Pitt, who played an extra in the film. (Pitt nearly lost the gig after attempting to ad-lib a line.)

Masquerade (1988)

Masquerade is another script of Wolf’s, co-written with Larry Brody. The film features Meg Tilly and Parks and Recreation star Rob Lowe, and follows an heiress who met and fell in love with a dashing yacht captain who wasn’t as well-intentioned as he seems to be.

School Ties (1992)

One of Wolf’s proudest projects was School Ties, starring Brandan Fraser as a Jewish teenager and promising quarterback who is transferred to a primarily Christian preparatory school during his senior year of high school. The cast of School Ties was stacked, featuring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, Cole Hauser, and Anthony Rapp. Despite premiering in the early 90s, Wolf feels the film’s themes are sadly relevant as ever.

“This country today is at a point that I never believed in my lifetime we’d see again,” Wolf told EW following the 25th anniversary of the film’s release. “Anti-Semitism is rampant. It’s not even hidden. School Ties was deliberately dated when it was made, but it hasn’t aged.”

Dick Wolf’s Early Television Credits: Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and New York Undercover

Lieutenant Martin Castillo, Detective Stan Switek, Detective James 'Sonny' Crockett, Detective Trudy Joplin, Detective Ricardo 'Rico' Tubbs, Detective Gina Navarro Calabrese appear in a promotional photo for Miami Vice.

Lieutenant Martin Castillo (Edward James Olmos), Detective Stan Switek (Michael Talbott), Detective James ‘Sonny’ Crockett (Don Johnson), Detective Trudy Joplin (Olivia Brown), Detective Ricardo ‘Rico’ Tubbs (Michael Thomas), Detective Gina Navarro Calabrese (Saundra Santiago) appear in a promotional photo for Miami Vice. Photo: NBCU Photo Bank

Wolf spent the last half of the 1980s working on several television projects, keeping true to his love for crime dramas and drafting compelling, if imperfect, characters. Wolf helped in the creation of series like Gideon Oliver (1989), Christine Cromwell (1989), Nasty Boys (1990), and H.E.L.P. (1990).

In the early ’90s, Wolf also helped create and write several high-stakes shows like Mann & Machine (1992), South Beach (1993), Crime & Punishment (1993), The Wright Verdicts (1995), Swift Justice (1996), Feds (1997), and Players (1997–1998).

Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)

From 1985–1986, Wolf was a staff writer for NBC’s serial police procedural Hill Street Blues. It was while brainstorming nail-biting plot lines on Hill Street Blues that Wolf received his first-ever Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for his solo work on Season 6, Episode 9 (“What Are Friends For?”)

That first Emmy was just a taste of what was to come from the man who has since created the longest-running live-action primetime drama in history.

Miami Vice (1984-1988)

Wolf was a producer and writer for NBC’s Miami Vice from 1986-1988, joining the production team for Seasons 3-4. Miami Vice was created by Anthony Yerovich, who had been a fellow writer with Wolf on Hill Street Blues throughout the early ’80s. In 1986, Wolf jumped aboard Miami Vice as an executive producer and writer after showrunner Michael Mann left the series to work on the NBC series Crime Story.

New York Undercover (1994-1999)

One of Wolf’s most beloved early television works was New York Undercover, which he worked on from 1994 to 1998. The series follows undercover Detectives J.C. Williams (Malik Yoba) and Detective Eddie Torres (Michael DeLorenzo). The two investigators were sent on several nail-biting undercover missions to investigate gang-related criminal cases. The undercover nature of each episode presented threats that had viewers on the edge of their seats.

Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchise

In 1990, Wolf struck gold by bringing his passion for true crime to television screens.

But he is the first first to attribute the franchise’s success to the outstanding efforts of the Law & Order cast and crew. It truly takes a village to pull off the television gymnastics Wolf produces.

“You don’t do it alone,” Wolf told Variety in 2021. “That’s why the consistency is there. It’s not accidental.”

Law & Order (1990-present)

Lt. Anita Van Buren, Detective Mike Logan, Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy, Detective Lennie Briscoe, A.D.A. Claire Kincaid.

Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth), Executive A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), A.D.A. Claire Kincaid (Jill Hennessy) appear in a promotional photo for Law & Order. Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Law & Order premiered on NBC in 1990 and was an instant obsession. Wolf’s delightfully digestible formula upped the ante for police dramas everywhere, with Sam Waterston as the dynamite District Attorney Jack McCoy and the O.G. Law & Order cast charming audiences with their swift criminal justice and emotional personal lives.

After Law & Order became a sensation, Wolf had a goal for the series: expansion.

Exiled: A Law & Order Movie (1998)

Detective Lennie Briscoe and Detective Mike Logan appear in Exiled: A Law & Order Movie.

Detective Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) appear in Exiled: A Law & Order Movie. Photo: Jessica Burstein/NBCU Photo Bank

After seeing the smash success of Law & Order (and having already had a hand in several film projects), Wolf married these passions with Exiled: A Law & Order Movie. The film takes place three years after Law & Order’s Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) was “administratively reassigned”  to the Domestic Disputes Department on Staten Island.

The two-hour television film featured appearances from Dann Florek as Captain Don Cragen, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, as well as a surprise guest appearance from Ice T who played a man named Kingston — years before his days of playing Fin Tutuola in Law & Order’s longest-running spin-off.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present)

Olivia Benson with medium length hair that's curled at the ends

Chrispher Meloni as Elliot Stabler and Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Photo: NBC

In 1999, Wolf debuted one of his most beloved projects of all time, a spin-off of Law & Order that focuses on criminal cases of a sexual nature: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Starring the magnetic Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler, the series has broken several records thanks to the decades-long chokehold it has on audiences.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001 – 2011)

A.D.A. Ron Carver, Detective Alexandra Eames, Dick Wolf, Detective Robert Goren, Captain James Deakins appear in a promotional photo for Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

A.D.A. Ron Carver (Courtney B. Vance), Detective Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe), Dick Wolf (creator), Detective Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio), Captain James Deakins (Jamey Sheridan) appear in a promotional photo for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Photo: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

After seeing the incredible obsession over SVU, Wolf penned another great Law & Order spin-off, Criminal Intent.

It ran for 10 Seasons and 195 episodes, shining a spotlight on suspects’ motivations, providing answers to anyone who may be swirling with questions about why criminals do the horrendous things they do.

Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005 – 2006)

D.A. Arthur Branch appears on Law & Order.

D.A. Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson) appears on Law & Order, Season 13 Episode 15. Photo: NBCU Photo Bank

Running for a single yet satisfying season, Law & Order: Trial by Jury focused more on the “order” side of Law & Order. Starring flagship series stars Jerry Orbach and Fred Thompson, as well as Amy Carlson and Bebe Neuwirth, the show followed legal teams for both sides of a jury trial, with equal attention paid to the prosecution and defense teams.


Conviction (2006)

Actress Stephanie March in a scene from Law & Order: SVU.

Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) appears in a scene from Law & Order: SVU. Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Airing for 13 nail-biting episodes, Conviction was an exciting spin-off that shifted the action to the law side of Law & OrderConviction followed the up-and-coming attorneys and legal experts inside Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office, led by SVU alum A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March). March shined in her reprise as the tenacious Cabot, delivering a powerhouse performance alongside cast members Eric Balfour, Julianne Nicholson, Anson Mount, Jordan Bridges, and J. August Richards.


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