Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The upheavals in Law & Order-land don't start and stop with the recent closing of the brand's West Coast office. Its lone standard-bearer come fall, Special Victims Unit, now heading into its thirteenth year, has been going through some cast reshuffling of its own. You may remember that last June I posted about the opaque plans of series star Christopher Meloni, who's headed the cast as Detective Elliot Stabler since the show's inception in '99, beyond this year.

At the time, with the actor's contract due to expire at impending season's end, it sure sounded like he wasn't keen on re-upping, and that prediction came to pass yesterday evening, with last-minute negotiations (and pay bump) to keep Stabler on the force falling through, and Meloni announcing his departure from the NBC warhorse shortly thereafter. While no one should be surprised by this given the actor's previous comments, it is disappointing that, after so many years, audiences may not get a chance to bid Stabler a proper on-screen goodbye (barring some kind of one-off deal being reached).

With Meloni's departure from the veteran skein now confirmed, that leaves his partner-in-crime-solving Mariska Hargitay to hold down the fort, and even that may not last for very much longer. Hargitay's season 13 deal was sealed a few weeks ago, and with a reduced workload that will see her prominence significantly reduced for the season's back nine episodes, it sure looks like Olivia Benson is due to join Stabler on the retirement track shortly. This paves the way for an all-new, all-different Special Victims Unit come the end of next season.

At last word, the net was eying actress Jennifer Love Hewitt (who guested earlier this season as one of the "victims" in the title) to take over Hargitay's place in the cast scheme, and while Hewitt (or whoever they end up settling on) would originally have been paired with Meloni, it now looks like SVU is getting a much more drastic makeover. And while we all know that Law & Order as a brand is no stranger to cast changes, this is the one show in the lineup that's kept its core duo in pace for so long that, as I said last year, "I'd hate to see Dick Wolf go all 'Coy and Vance' and risk diminishing the show's legacy."

As far as who should replace Meloni on the forrce? One commenter on Deadline may just have solved this one:
Easy fix. Just have Ricardo Morales [Alfred Molina's career-switching Law & Order: LA cop] decides to get away from the corruption and the politics of Los Angeles and decides to get back on the detective beat working sex crimes for NYC. There’s absolutely no way this idea couldn’t not work twice.
Why not, right?

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