Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Meloni Exits SVU

The knocks keep coming for longtime Law & Order watchers.  We've already covered the demise of the original show ad infinitum here, but now comes the news that Christopher Meloni, who's starred as hard-bitten detective Elliot Stabler on Special Victims Unit since its 1999 premiere, will depart the skein at the close of next season (its twelfth).  This comes via the man himself, who also offers some thoughts on how he'd like to see Stabler leave the force (hint: he wouldn't retire).  In addition to Meloni's departure being momentous in its own right, it also leaves the future of the veteran series beyond next season in doubt.

Unlike the L&O mothership, which practically made its reputation on swapping its players like baseball cards, SVU, while possessing a very talented ensemble, has primarily revolved around stars Meloni and Mariska Hargitay.  While this has earned the pair a considerable amount of audience loyalty, it also makes the way forward a bit more complicated.  Still unknown is whether Hargitay returns sans Meloni (my guess is no), and, failing that, whether the show continues without its original stars.  Given the brand's storied history, I'm guessing it will, but I'd hate to see Dick Wolf go all "Coy and Vance" and risk diminishing the show's legacy.

And by way of another interesting stat, SVU actor Richard Belzer has been playing his character John Munch since 1993, having originated him on Homicide: Life on the Street before transferring to Special Victims upon the former's cancellation.  After next season, that would put him just two years shy of tying the record for longest-running primetime character (alongside Marshal Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke and Kelsey Grammer's Dr. Frasier Crane).  Curious to see if he gets the chance to match or meet that record.  Given how things worked out for the original Law & Order, it could go either way.

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