With NBC’s renewal of Law & Order: SVU, the show will set new records for the longest-running live-action primetime series within American television history. Law & Order (1990-2010) was the previous record holder with 20 seasons, and CBS’ Gunsmoke (1955-75) was the record holder prior to that. The Simpsons still holds the record for primetime shows with its current 30 seasons and 657 episodes, but as for live-action shows, Law & Order: SVU will hold the record with 21 seasons.
NBC Entertainment’s co-chairmen Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks shared their thoughts on the new records: “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. 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.”
Law & Order: SVU currently has a total of 452 episodes and has been running since 1999 with no end date in sight. However, Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the show, has a deal with Universal TV that will be up in June of next year. Hargitay announced last year that she would stay as long as the writing was still good: “I’ll stay for 25 years.”
Nevertheless, it seems likely Wolf will stick with NBC. He will have a total of four shows airing on their channel next season, as three of the Chicago shows have been renewed. Additionally, another spinoff of Law & Order is in the works. According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBC is developing a show called Law & Order: Hate Crimes, but is holding off on airing it during the same season as SVU. However, he also might have some hold with other companies like CBS, where he may produce a potential FBI spinoff along with a sequel of New York Undercover, which would be on ABC.
In addition to this record, another milestone has been set. Executive producer Mariska Hargitay, who also plays Lt. Olivia Benson on the show, is officially the longest-running character in a live-action primetime series. Before her were James Arness and Milburn Stone of Gunsmoke, and Kelsey Grammer, who had played the same character of Frasier Crane for two different series, Cheers and Frasier. His run marked a total of 17 seasons. Hargitay has already received eight Emmy nominations along with an award for drama lead actress for her role in this show.
“As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate and crusader for women,” Wolf told reporters. “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.”
Hargitay also expressed her gratitude. “I’m deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today,” Hargitay stated. “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.”