Next year, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will tie Gunsmoke and the original Law & Order as the longest-running scripted primetime dramas in TV history. Showrunner Michael Chernuchin sees no reason for it to stop at 20 seasons, and it "may never end."
"I don't see any reason why this show will end," Chernuchin told TV Guide after the season 19 finale aired on Wednesday. "[We're going to continue] until Mariska [Hargitay] says, 'let's end it,' because we're dealing with things that are on the front page in the papers every day. Now, more than ever."
Chernuchin is referring to the #MeToo movement, which shined a light on sexual assault and harassment.
Considering the series is built on ripped-from-the-headlines stories and the #MeToo movement plays right to the show's strengths. The producer said he hopes to touch on the subject in season 20, even though there have already been episodes about men accused of sexual harassment sprinkled throughout Law & Order: SVU's history.
"This whole Me Too movement... it's everywhere. Even though we've been touching on it for 19 years, we may do a full-blown episode on that," Chernuchin said. "And it makes perfect sense. After all, SVU's DNA is rooted in these sort of ripped-from-the-headlines stories, so dedicating an entire episode to the massive movement isn't just inevitable, it's expected.
Chernuchin, who has been working on the Law & Order franchise since 1992, said he has no idea how the show could end.
"If we start to get a whiff of the network saying this is the last year, then we'll dig our heels in and think about it," he said. "But until then, I don't really see a reason to think about it. I don't see the show going away."
Chernuchin also said he would like the show to reach 500 episodes. Wednesday's finale was only episode 434, so it would take at least three more seasons to hit that mark.
Mariska Hargitay will also set her own personal records. Next year will be her 20th season playing Olivia Benson, which will tie her with Gunsmoke actors James Arness and Milburn Stone for the number of seasons playing the same character. Kelsey Grammer also belongs in that group, since he played Frasier Crane on Cheers and Fraiser for a combined 20 years.
“I think she loves the show, she loves to be Benson, to be that protector of women, she loves her foundation,” former NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke told Deadline last year. “It’s not a job for her anymore, it’s a calling.”
The new season of SVU will air on Thursdays this fall on NBC, after airing on Wednesdays this season. The show will start at 10 p.m. ET, following the sitcoms Superstore, The Good Place, Will & Grace and the new I Feel Bad.
Photo credit: NBC