Law and Order
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Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit

Lawandorder02

Alternate Title(s) L&O: SVU, SVU,
Special Victims Unit,
Sex Crimes
Format Crime Drama
Police procedural
Picture Format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Running Time 40–45 minutes
Created by Dick Wolf
Starring See below
Narrated By Steven Zirnkilton
Opening Theme by Mike Post
Country of origin United States
Language English
Original channel NBC
Peacock (streaming)
Original run 20 September 1999
Finale
No. of seasons 25
(As of present)
No. of episodes 551
(As of present)
List of episodes Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit episodes
IMDB profile Law & Order: SVU
TV.com summary Law & Order: SVU
related shows Law & Order franchise
"In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories."

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a crime drama television series aired on NBC that premiered on September 20, 1999. Created and produced by Dick Wolf, the series premiered on NBC on September 20, 1999, as the first spin-off of Wolf's successful crime drama, Law & Order.

The Special Victims Unit is located in the 16th Precinct of the New York City Police Department and focuses on victims of sexual crimes, such as rape, pedophilia, and domestic abuse, as well as cases involving children, the handicapped and elderly victims of non-sexual crimes who require specialist handling from the unit. Its stories also touch on the political and societal issues associated with gender identity, sexual preferences, and equality rights.

As with the original Law & Order, episodes are often loosely based on real crimes that have received media attention or as the franchise calls it "ripped from the headlines".

As of May 16, 2024, the series has aired 551 episodes, recently concluding the twenty-fifth season.

On March 21, 2024, the series was renewed for a twenty-sixth season.

It's the longest-running primetime drama series in history, surpassing both Gunsmoke and Law & Order in 2019. It's also the longest-running series in the Law & Order franchise.

On March 31, 2020, NBC announced that it had ordered a spin-off series titled Law & Order: Organized Crime, which premiered on April 1, 2021. Christopher Meloni reprised his role as Elliot Stabler and the series is produced by Dick Wolf. The series centers around an organized crime taskforce with Stabler as a member of the unit.

The entire series can be streamed on Peacock and seasons 1-24 on Hulu in the US. In Australia, Seasons 1-23 are available on Amazon Prime Video while cable service Foxtel's On Demand service streams recently aired episodes on Universal Channel for 30 days as well as seasons 5-18, 20 and 23. Seasons 7-13 are available to stream for free with ads on 7Plus as well as seasons 6-7 and 9-11 on Netflix Australia.

Premise[]

Based out of the NYPD New York City Police Department's 16th precinct in Manhattan, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit delves into the dark side of the New York underworld as the detectives of a new elite force, the Special Victims Unit (SVU for short), investigate and prosecute various sexually oriented crimes including rape, pedophilia, and domestic violence. They also investigate the abuses of children, the disabled and elderly victims of non-sexual crimes who require specialist handling, all while trying to balance the effects of the investigation on their own lives as they try not to let the dark side of these crimes affect them. Its stories also touch on the political and societal issues associated with gender identity, sexual preferences, and equality rights. While the victim is often murdered, this is not always the case, and victims frequently play prominent roles in episodes. The unit also works with the Manhattan District Attorney's office as they prosecute cases and seek justice for SVU's victims and survivors with precision and a passion to win and bring closure to the intense investigations. The series often uses stories that are "ripped from the headlines" or based on real crimes. Such episodes take a real crime and fictionalize it by changing some details.[1]

Originally, the show focused around the detective pairings of Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson and John Munch and Brian Cassidy. Stabler is a seasoned veteran of the unit who has seen it all and tries his best to protect his family from the horrors he has seen in his career. Meanwhile, Benson's difficult past as the child of a rape victim is the reason why she joined the unit. Backing them up is John Munch, and his first partner Brian Cassidy. Munch is a transfer from Baltimore's homicide unit, who brings his acerbic wit, conspiracy theories, and street-honed investigative skills; Cassidy is young and eager to learn from his fellow detectives. These two detective teams received support from Detectives Monique Jeffries and Ken Briscoe.[2] When Cassidy transferred to Narcotics after thirteen episodes, Jeffries was partnered with Munch for the remainder of Season 1 and Briscoe was phased out. In the beginning of Season 2, Munch was then permanently partnered with Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola, whose unique yet sometimes vulgar sense of humor and investigative experience make him a formidable match for Munch.[3] Brooklyn SVU Detective Chester Lake would assist on several Manhattan cases during the eighth season and then join during Season 9; Lake would then depart at the season's end after being arrested for murdering a crooked cop who had gotten away with rape.

These detectives were supervised by veteran Captain Donald Cragen, who oversaw the team for seasons 1–15. Cragen's tough-but-supportive approach to the team's complex cases guides the squad through the challenges they face every day. Also on the team's payroll is FBI Special Agent Dr. George Huang and Medical Examiner Dr. Melinda Warner. As the resident psychiatrist for the Special Victims Unit, Huang helps keep the officers sane in a field that could drive ordinary people mad. He has also served as the squad's resident criminal profiler, and his insights into the criminal mind have often helped the officers to crack the toughest perps, while Warner has become an integral part of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, and her personal skills have contributed to the unit's high success rate in closing cases.

The Unit did not receive a full-time assistant district attorney until Season 2, when Alexandra Cabot was assigned to work with the detectives.[4] After Cabot enters the Witness Protection Program after almost being killed in a hit in Season 5, she was replaced by Casey Novak, who remained as the ADA until the end of Season 9, when she's censured for violating due process while trying to bring a rapist cop to justice. Kim Greylek became the permanent ADA in the Season 10 premiere, until Cabot made a return midway through that season when Greylek returned to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Cabot remained the ADA through the second half of Season 11. After Cabot's departure, the ADA void was filled by Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) and Jo Marlowe (Sharon Stone) until the conclusion of Season 11. Gillian Hardwicke (Melissa Sagemiller) served as the SVU's ADA during Season 12, while Novak would return for a guest appearance after completing her suspension near the end of the season. In Season 13, both Cabot and Novak returned as ADAs. From the beginning of Season 14, ADA Rafael Barba was SVU's prosecutor, until leaving halfway through Season 19. Chicago Justice's Peter Stone became SVU's ADA after Chicago Justice was canceled after only one season. In the Season 21 premiere, former Detective Dominick Carisi, Jr. became the SVU ADA.[5]

In Season 13, other big changes happened with Stabler having retired in the aftermath of the Season 12 finale, until he reappears in Season 22, leading him to join NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau. Huang also departed at the same time after being reassigned to Oklahoma City but has returned for occasional guest appearances. Detectives Nick Amaro and Amanda Rollins joined the team filling the void left by Stabler. Amaro brought empathy to his cases while dealing with a stressful home life, while Rollins had dogged persistence and instincts help her close cases, but also secrets that could derail her career.

During Season 15, both Munch and Cragen retired from the NYPD, leaving Benson, after being promoted to Sergeant, to take control of the unit; she would later be promoted to Lieutenant at the start of Season 17 and then Captain at the start of Season 21. Season 16 was another period of change with the introduction of Carisi at the beginning and the departure of Amaro at the end. Also introduced in Season 16 was Deputy Chief William Dodds, who served as commanding officer for the Special Victims Units in all five boroughs of New York. Dodds' son Mike transferred into Special Victims as Sergeant, becoming Benson's second-in-command until his death at the end of the season; Fin later passes the Sergeant's exam during Season 18 and is officially promoted in Mike's place in Season 19.

Following Carisi's move to the DA's office in Season 21, Vice Officer Katriona "Kat" Tamin joined the team after assisting on several cases, eventually getting promoted to detective. Dodds also departed the series at the start of the season, allowing new deputy chief Christian Garland to take his place.

At the start of Season 23, Tamin and Garland both resign from the NYPD after becoming disillusioned with the system's failures and systematic bias within the department, with Tamin being replaced by Detective Joe Velasco and Garland by Chief of Detectives Tommy McGrath.

Following the closing of a rape executed by teenage BX9 gang members, Benson poaches Detective Grace Muncy from the Gang Unit headed by Captain Mike Duarte. Rollins and Carisi get married, and Rollins leaves the NYPD to become an adjunct professor at Fordham University, where Carisi attended law school. To help replace Rollins, Detective Terry Bruno and plainclothes Officer Tonie Churlish transfer in from Bronx SVU.

Muncy and Churlish depart at the end of season 24, while Bruno returns in a recurring role. McGrath resigns from NYPD when he pulls his service weapon on his neighbor after his daughter, Shea, was raped at a party. Captain Renee Curry, who once investigated Benson at IAB, transfers to SVU. Also assisting the unit is FBI special agent Shannah Sykes.

Episodes[]

For a list of episodes, see Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes.

Production[]

Development[]

The idea for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" originated with the 1986 "preppie murder" case of Robert Chambers, who strangled Jennifer Levin, a woman that he dated and later murdered during what he claimed was consensual "rough sex" in Manhattan's Central Park.

The crime inspired Dick Wolf to write the story for the Season 1 episode of "Law & Order" titled "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die". However, even after writing the episode, the case continued to haunt Wolf, who wanted to go deeper into the psychology of crimes to examine the role of human sexuality.

The original title of the show was "Sex Crimes", reflecting the sexual nature of the crimes depicted on the show. Initially, there was concern among the producers that, should "Sex Crimes" fail, identifying the new show with the Law & Order franchise could hurt the original show.

Additionally, Ted Kotcheff wanted to create a new series that wasn't dependent upon the original series for success. However, Wolf felt that it was important and commercially desirable to have "Law & Order" in the title, and initially proposed the title of the show be "Law & Order: Sex Crimes".

However, Barry Diller (then head of Studios USA) was concerned about the title and it was changed to "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" to reflect the actual unit of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) that handles sexually based offenses that are especially heinous.

The first episode, "Payback", premiered on NBC on September 20, 1999.

Executive producers[]

Executive producer Neal Baer left Law & Order: SVU as showrunner at the end of Season 12, after eleven years (Seasons 2–12) on the show, in order to sign a three-year deal with CBS Studios. Baer was replaced by former "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" showrunner Warren Leight.

In March of 2015, it was announced that Warren Leight signed a three-year deal with Sony Pictures Television, that would allow him to work on SVU one more season, its seventeenth. Leight joined the show in Season 13.

It was announced on March 10, 2016 that original "Law & Order" veteran producer Rick Eid would take Leight's place as showrunner starting in Season 18.

Creator Dick Wolf commented to The Hollywood Reporter, "I'm extremely pleased that Rick had decided to rejoin the family and hope that he will be here for years to come."

During post-production of Season 18, following the announcement that "SVU" was renewed for a nineteenth season, it was revealed that Rick Eid departed the series. He took over another Dick Wolf/NBC series, "Chicago P.D.".

It was announced on May 25, 2017 that original "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent "showrunner Michael S. Chernuchin would be reprising his role starting on Season 19.

Chernuchin was also co-creator and executive producing showrunner of "Chicago Justice", another Wolf-related show that was canceled by NBC at the end of the 2016–17 TV season.

Main Cast[]

Current Cast and Characters[]

Image Actor Character In Show/
Number of episodes
Oliviabensonseason24 Mariska Hargitay New York City Police Department
(NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan
Special Victims Unit (SVU), Captain
(promoted from Junior to Senior Detective, later promoted to Sergeant, then Lieutenant and finally Captain)
Olivia Margaret "Liv" Benson
Seasons 1-present
(551)
Icetseason21 Ice-T New York City Police Department
(NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan
Special Victims Unit (SVU), Police Sergeant (promoted from Detective)
Odafin "Fin" Tutuola
Seasons 2-present
(525)
Peterscanavinoseason21 Peter Scanavino New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau
Assistant District Attorney (ADA)
Dominick "Sonny" Carisi, Jr. (previously New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU),
Junior Police Detective First Grade)
Seasons 16-present
(203)
Octaviopisanoseason24icon Octavio Pisano New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Junior Police Detective Joe Velasco Seasons 23-present
(54)
Kevin Kane New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Junior Police Detective Terry Bruno Season 26-present
(19)

Previous Cast and Characters[]

Image Actor Character In Show/
Number of episodes
Hurd icon Michelle Hurd New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU) /
Vice, Junior Police Detective Monique Jeffries
Seasons 1-2
(Recurring Season 1)
(25)
Beach icon Adam Beach New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Brooklyn / Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Junior Police Detective Chester Lake Season 9
(Recurring Season 8)
(21)
Untitled1 Diane Neal New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Casey Novak Seasons 5-9
(Guest Season 12)
(Recurring Season 13)
(112)
McManus icon Michaela McManus New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Kimberly "Kim" Greylek Season 10
(22)
Capture-1 Stephanie March New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau Assistant District Attorney (ADA)
Alexandra "Alex" Cabot
Seasons 2-5, 11
(Recurring Seasons 10, 13)
(Guest Seasons 6, 19)
(97)
Chrismelstab Christopher Meloni New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Senior Police Detective Elliot "El" Stabler, Sr. Seasons 1-12
(Recurring Seasons 22-24)
(283)
Wong icon B.D. Wong New York City Police Department
(N.Y.P.D.) contracted Forensic Sex Crimes Psychiatrist Doctor, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent
George Huang, MD
Seasons 4-12
(Recurring Seasons 2-3)
(Guest Seasons 13-15, 17)
(230)
Tunie icon Tamara Tunie New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), Assistant Medical Examiner (ME)
Doctor Melinda Warner
Seasons 7-12
(Recurring Seasons 2-6, 13-17, 22)
(Guest Seasons 19, 21, 23)
(226)
Belzer icon Richard Belzer New York City Police Department (N.Y.P.D.) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (S.V.U.), Senior Police Detective (later promoted to Sergeant) / Manhattan District Attorney's Office, District Attorney Investigation Unit John Munch Seasons 1-15
(Guest Seasons 15, 17)
(326)
Florek icon larger Dann Florek New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Police Captain
Donald "Don" Cragen
Seasons 1-15
(Guest Seasons 16, 23)
(332)
Amaro icon Danny Pino New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Police Detective Second Grade
Nicholas "Nick" Amaro
Seasons 13-16
(Guest Season 23)
(95)
Barba icon Raúl Esparza New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Rafael Barba Seasons 15-19
(Recurring Seasons 14, 23)
(Guest Seasons 21-22)
(119)
Peter Stone2 Philip Winchester New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Peter Stone Seasons 19-20
(Guest Season 19)
(36)
Jamiegrayhyderseason21 Jamie Gray Hyder New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Junior Police Detective Katriona Azar "Kat" Tamin Seasons 21-23
(Recurring Season 21)
(36)
Demorebarnesseason22 Demore Barnes New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Deputy Chief Christian Garland Seasons 22-23
(Recurring Season 21)
(Guest Season 23)
(25)
Kelligiddishseason21 Kelli Giddish New York City Police Department
(NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan
Special Victims Unit (SVU), Police
Detective Second Grade
Amanda Rollins
Seasons 13-24
(Guest Season 24)
(Recurring Season 25)
(254)
Mollyburnetticon Molly Burnett New York City Police Department (NYPD) 16th Precinct, Manhattan Special Victims Unit (SVU), Junior Police Detective Grace Muncy Season 24
(Recurring Season 24)
(21)

Crossover Guest Stars[]

Image Actor Character Seasons
Orbach icon Jerry Orbach New York City Police Department (NYPD) 27th Precinct, Manhattan, Homicide Squad, Senior Police Detective
Leonard W. "Lennie" Briscoe
(Recurring Season 1)
Martin icon Jesse L. Martin New York City Police Department (NYPD) 27th Precinct, Manhattan, Homicide Squad, Junior Police Detective
Edward "Ed" Green
(Recurring Season 1)
Hill icon Steven Hill New York City, Manhattan District Attorney
(DA) Adam Schiff
(Guest Season 1)
McCormickSeason4 Carolyn McCormick New York City Police Department (NYPD) / Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Psychologist Doctor Elizabeth Olivet (Recurring Season 2 and 19)
(Guest Seasons 114)
Waterston icon Sam Waterston New York City, Manhattan Executive Assistant District Attorney (EADA) / District Attorney (DA)
John James "Jack" McCoy
(Guest Seasons 1, 9, 11, and 19)
Wiest icon Dianne Wiest New York City, Manhattan Interim District Attorney
(DA) Nora Lewin
(Guest Seasons 3-4)
Thompson icon L&O Fred Dalton Thompson New York City, Manhattan District Attorney
(DA) Arthur Branch
(Guest Season 4)
(Recurring Seasons 5-7)
Rex Winter3 Skeet Ulrich Los Angeles Police Department
(L.A.P.D) Robbery-Homicide Division Senior Police Detective Rex Winters
(Guest Season 12)
Jonahd3 Terrence Howard New York City Defense Attorney
(former Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office Senior Deputy District Attorney (DDA))
Jonah "Joe" Dekker
(Guest Season 12)
Roache icon Linus Roache New York City, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sex Crimes Bureau, Bureau Chief Assistant District Attorney (BC-ADA)
Michael "Mike" Cutter
(Recurring Season 13)
Erbe09 Kathryn Erbe New York City Police Department (NYPD) Manhattan, One Police Plaza, Major Case Squad (MCS) Lieutenant
Alexandra "Alex" Eames
(Recurring Season 14)
DeLaGarzaicon3 Alana De La Garza New York City, United States
Department of Justice
,
Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA)
Consuela "Connie" Rubirosa
(Guest Season 15)
Sciorra Annabella Sciorra New York City Police Department (NYPD) Bronx Special Victims Unit (Formally Major Case Squad (MCS) One Police Plaza (1PP) Junior Police Detective) Lieutenant Carolyn Barek (Guest Season 22)
AyannaBell2 Danielle Moné Truitt New York City Police Department (NYPD) Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Recurring Season 23)
(Guest Season 24)
JetSlootmaekers2 Ainsley Seiger New York City Police Department (NYPD) Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) Detective/Technology Expert Jet Slootmaekers (Guest Season 23)
(Recurring Season 24)
RichardWheatley2 Dylan McDermott Richard Wheatley (Guest Season 23)
AngelaWheatley2 Tamara Taylor Angela Wheatley (Guest Season 23)
Donovan icon Jeffrey Donovan New York City Police Department (NYPD) 27th Precinct Manhattan North Homicide Squad Junior/Senior Police Detective Frank Cosgrove (Guest Season 24)
Manheim icon Camryn Manheim New York City Police Department (NYPD) 27th Precinct Manhattan North Homicide Squad Lieutenant Kate Dixon (Guest Season 24)
Mehcadbrooksjalenshaw Mehcad Brooks New York City Police Department (NYPD) 27th Precinct Manhattan North Homicide Squad Junior Police Detective Jalen Shaw (Guest Season 24)
Jamiewhelanseason3 Brent Antonello New York City Police Department (NYPD) Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) Detective Jamie Whelan (Guest Season 24)
Bobbyreyesseason3 Rick Gonzalez New York City Police Department (NYPD) Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) Detective Bobby Reyes (Guest Season 24)

Recurring Guest Stars[]

For a list of recurring characters, see SVU recurring characters.

External Links[]

  1. Conan, Neal. "'Law & Order' Writer Turns Headlines Into TV", Talk of the Nation, NPR, September 29, 2009. 
  2. "Payback". Writer: Dick Wolf. Director: Jean de Segonzac. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. NBC. September 20, 1999. No. 1, season 1.
  3. "Limitations". Writer: Michael R. Perry. Director: Constantine Makris. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. NBC. February 11, 2000. No. 14, season 1.
  4. "Wrong is Right". Writers: Jeff Eckerle & David J. Burke. Director: Ted Kotcheff. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. NBC. October 20, 2000. No. 1, season 2.
  5. "I'm Going to Make You a Start". Writers: Warren Leight & Peter Blauner. Director: Norberto Barba. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. NBC. September 26, 2019. No. 1, season 21.
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