The long-running drama series Law & Order avoided the death penalty Sunday when creator Dick Wolf and NBC reached a deal to bring the series back for 22 episodes next season.

Law & Order, which had slumped to all-time low numbers, was in danger of seeing its reign as the longest running scripted series on television end at 17 seasons. But NBC announced the pick-up along with a larger deal with Wolf, whose Wolf Films had its agreement with NBC Universal extended through 2012.

NBC also agreed to pick up a full 22-episode order Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The show has always been the weakest ship in the L&O fleet, but repeats are typically among the highest rated shows on NBCU's USA Network. As such, Criminal Intent's new season will have its first run on USA and then be repeated on NBC, reversing the terms of the previous arrangement.

During a conference call with reporters, Wolf said there will be some "belt-tightening" for the two shows, which had seen their expenses go up while ratings declined, but he promised that the cutbacks would be imperceptible to the viewer, noting that no major cast changes are planned.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was renewed in January. - Reporting by Stephen Battaglio