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Skeet Ulrich is out of 'Order'

Dick Wolf, creator of the "Law & Order" franchise, has seen more than his share of actors come and go from his dramas. But his decision to remove Skeet Ulrich from "Law & Order: LA" was particularly hard.

"Sometimes someone has to die so that everyone else can live," Wolf said during a conference call to promote tonight's return of the drama (NBC/4 at 9), which has been off the schedule since November. "It was a very, very painful call to make." Wolf continually praised Ulrich, who was the first actor cast for the Los Angeles version of the landmark police/legal drama. Ulrich, who played a homicide detective, was one of the leads of the ensemble series.

CHANGES WERE NEEDED But Wolf and Bob Greenblatt, NBCUniversal's new president of entertainment, agreed that the series was not living up to expectations, and that changes had to be made. Greenblatt told Wolf that the first half of the hour, which concentrates on the police investigation of the crime, was "not clicking." Part of the problem was the rush to get the series on the air in time for the fall schedule. Wolf said some hasty decisions were made.

Greenblatt also was concerned about the handling of Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina, who appeared in alternating episodes as deputy district attorneys. Greenblatt was bothered that "we had two world-class movie actors who we were only seeing half the time."

SO CHANGES WERE MADE When "LOLA" (the informal name for "Law & Order: LA") returns, Molina, who plays deputy District Attorney Ricardo Morales, will return to the police force as a detective. Molina and Howard, who plays Jonah Dekker, will now appear in each episode.

Wolf said the rhythm of the series "is different and better." He added that he would work with Ulrich again in a situation that was a better fit for the actor.

"When something isn't working," Wolf said, "it's my fault."

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