NBC announced changes to their line-up today that included a delay of Law & Order: Organized Crime, the much-anticipated Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spin-off, marking the return of Christopher Meloni (Happy!) as Detective Elliot Stabler. According to TV Guide, the Meloni-lead spin-off was originally slated for October 2020, but has now been pushed to an undetermined date in 2021.
The New York Police Department detective, Elliot Stabler, was a staple on NBC’s crime procedural, leading alongside Mariska Hargitay’s (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) Detective Olivia Benson. After contract negotiations between Meloni and NBC came to a standstill, Meloni parted ways with the series after a 12-season run, via TV Guide. Nearly a decade after his 2011 departure from the series, Meloni was set to return to the role of Detective Stabler in the new spin-off Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Organized Crime will see Detective Stabler returning to the NYPD, in the wake of a personal tragedy, as the head of an organized crime division aimed at “taking apart the city’s most powerful criminal syndicates one by one” (TV Guide). Matt Olmstead (Chicago Med, Chicago Fire) will serve as showrunner on Organized Crime, part of the larger Dick Wolf produced Law & Order television universe.
When reporting on themes in the series, TV Guide commented that Meloni’s Detective Stabler “must adapt to a criminal justice system in the midst of its own moment of reckoning.” Statements of this nature have led some to speculation that the delay of Law and Order: Organized Crime was a calculated decision to grant the writer’s time to reassess the show’s approach to the topic of policing, in light of recent sociopolitical conversations, via Screen Rant. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another show pushed back to 2021 at NBC, had recently announced that they were to rewrite their upcoming eighth season due to this summer’s protests. Screen Rant conjectures that “there’s a chance that the ongoing movement against police brutality has forced NBC to reassess the narratives of [Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Law & Order: Organized Crime] to reflect what’s happening in real life.”
In an interview with SiriusXM on July 31, Meloni stated he’d “yet to see a script” for Law & Order: Organized Crime. Meloni confirmed that the show is in the midst of “pandemic production” and discussed the roadblocks the series, which will film in New York, has seen in regards to the Coronavirus [SiriusXM]. So, while there was no concrete reason given for the Law & Order spin-off’s delay, the COVID-19 outbreak is another probably cause.
COVID-19 interfered with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit production near the end of the show’s most recent twenty-first season. According to TV Guide, Meloni’s return to the Law & Order universe was meant to be set-up in Special Victim Unit’s season 21 finale by featuring Detective Stabler’s wife and one of his sons. “We were going to lay a little groundwork for [Meloni’s return]. We were going to see Kathy Stabler come back very upset,” remarked SVU showrunner Warren Leight (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) when speaking to TV Guide. However, this episode never came to fruition due to pandemic-induced shut downs.
This is the @SVUWritersRoom Season 21 team. So happy with this room:@ItsAlwaysBreezy @LisaCullen @MonetSimone @VirgoBrain @svubrendan @denis_hamill @JulieMartinSVU @kat_dobie @micharne @peterblauner
with assists from @veepspeaks, @mrklpyka, and Christian Tyler. pic.twitter.com/Rjp6Vd6AHx
— Warren Leight (@warrenleightTV) June 18, 2019
Season 22 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will return to NBC in the fall, as originally scheduled, and will feature an episode with Meloni to further set-up Law & Order: Organized Crime. “Stabler will appear in SVU’s season premiere before the spin-off debuts,” according to TV Guide. This means an on screen reunion for Meloni and Hargitay is in store for Law & Order fans on November 12. Meloni even teased that “it almost feels that we won’t do one or two [crossover] episodes and move on our merry way,” indicating that there might be more crossovers in the future of the Law & Order universe (TV Guide). But, for now, audiences must wait til 2021 to see Meloni in Law & Order: Organized Crime.
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