Can Christopher Meloni’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Spin-Off Work Without Mariska Hargitay?

With the world caught up in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as though many movies and television shows are getting pushed back or delayed. In general, there has been very little good news for fans of pop culture.

However, in late March, it was revealed that Christopher Meloni, one of the former stars of Law & Order: SVU would be returning in a brand-new limited series, playing his character from the long-running police drama, Elliot Stabler. There are a lot of unknowns about the new series, and fans are already wondering whether or not it will be nearly as successful as Law & Order: SVU — especially since it will apparently not be featuring Meloni’s SVU co-star, Mariska Hargitay, as a series regular.

How long did Christopher Meloni star on ‘SVU’?

Born in 1961, Meloni’s path to show business fame wasn’t an easy one. Before making it as a television star on the HBO series Oz, Meloni worked a series of odd jobs, including bar bouncer and construction worker.

However, once he landed the role of Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU, he was catapulted into the next level of fame. Stabler was a new kind of detective hero – empathetic as well as tough, and fans couldn’t get enough of his interactions with his partner, Olivia Benson, played by Hargitay.

Stabler and Benson were the definition of friendship goals and never hesitated to support one another, both on and off the field. Much like another famous television couple, Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, fans kept hoping that Stabler and Benson would end up together, but their relationship was strictly platonic.

Meloni played Stabler for an incredible twelve seasons until he left the show in 2011 in order to pursue other projects. Still, fans have never stopped hoping that Stabler might one day ride again.

What is known about Christopher Meloni’s new series?

Christopher Meloni
Christopher Meloni | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

In late March, NBC announced Meloni would be returning to the role of Detective Stabler in a new, limited series. The series, so far unnamed, has been greenlit for thirteen episodes and has no release date yet.

However, fans do know that the show is going to take place within the SVU universe, and is considered to be a spinoff of Law & Order: SVU. The series is set to be filmed in New York City, just like SVU, so the potential is definitely there for cameos from existing SVU cast members — like Hargitay.

Many fans are already speculating about the possible reunion between Stabler and Benson, and have even expressed their hope for a romance between the two longtime friends and former partners. 

Will Christopher Meloni’s new series work without Mariska Hargitay?

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Since the news broke only a few weeks ago, speculation about the new series has been intense. Some fans have been wondering whether or not Meloni’s new series will mean diminished ratings for Law & Order: SVU. Others have expressed concern that even though Stabler is a leading character in the SVU universe, a new series couldn’t possibly work without Benson at his side. 

Still, this is likely an unfounded fear. When Meloni left SVU in 2011, many believed that the show wouldn’t last long without him. However, the show has thrived even in his absence — just as this new series is likely to without Hargitay’s constant presence.

It seems more likely that while the two shows will borrow from each other, Meloni’s star power will be more than adequate to carry the brand-new series for at least a limited run. Whether or not the show gets extended remains to be seen.