NBC has renewed the drama for a record-setting 21st season, making the show the longest-running live-action primetime series in American TV history. The series will surpass the record of 20 seasons currently held by its parent show, Law & Order (1990-2010), and CBS’ Gunsmoke (1955-75). (The Simpsons remains the all-time leader for any primetime show in both seasons at 30, with two more to come, and episodes, currently at 657.)
Star, executive producer and director Mariska Hargitay will also extend her run as Lt. Olivia Benson, the longest-running female character in a live-action primetime series. Hargitay has earned eight Emmy nominations for her role, winning the award for drama lead actress in 2006.
“We tip our cap to [creator/executive producer] Dick Wolf, Mariska Hargitay and the amazing cast and crew of SVU, who now all go into the record book,” said Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks, co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment. “This incredible run is an example of what happens when producers, writers and actors all come together and create a show that, year after year, speaks to its audience in a powerful way. We couldn’t be more proud of this remarkable achievement.”
SVU premiered in September 1999 and has racked up 452 episodes to date. There are no current plans for season 21 to be the show’s last, although Wolf’s long-standing overall deal with Universal TV is up in June 2020. Hargitay said at a Paley Center event in June 2018 that if the show’s writing remains sharp, “I’ll stay for 25 years.”
NBC is also developing a spinoff called Law & Order: Hate Crimes, though the network pulled back from airing a planted spinoff episode during SVU this season. Wolf will have four shows on NBC next season as all three Chicago dramas have already been renewed. The prolific producer also has FBI and a potential spinoff at CBS, and a sequel to his 1990s Fox series New York Undercover is in contention for next season at ABC.
“As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate and crusader for women,” said Wolf. “She is an enduring champion of the movement to end sexual violence, and dozens of episodes have dealt with the very same issues that have shifted into the spotlight in this country in the past two years. Mariska is a delight as No. 1 on the call sheet and, to me, a true friend.”
Said Hargitay, “I’m deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today. The longevity and continued success of SVU is a testament not only to the show’s powerful storytelling and ability to connect with viewers, but to its necessity. We have told important stories for 20 years, and we will continue to tell them.”
SVU also stars Ice T (the longest-running castmember after Hargitay, having joined in season two), Kelli Giddish, Peter Scanavino and Philip Winchester . Wolf and Hargitay executive produce with showrunner Michael Chernuchin, Julie Martin, Alex Chapple, Arthur Forney and Peter Jankowski.
The Law & Order franchise — the original series, SVU, Criminal Intent, Trial by Jury and Law & Order: LA — has produced more than 1,100 episodes of television.
Along with SVU and the three Chicago shows, NBC has renewed dramas The Blacklist and New Amsterdam and comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, Superstore and Will & Grace for 2019-20.