‘Law and Order: SVU’ Just Broke This TV Record

To show you how differently we perceive time nowadays, it seems TV shows run years longer than they used to, despite not feeling like they’ve been on that long. Several generations ago, a show running 20 years felt like an eternity and a mammoth achievement no other show could touch. Now it’s becoming more commonplace.

Law & Order: SVU just hit one of those milestones in becoming one of the longest TV dramas in history. NBC has renewed it for a 21st season, placing it in a special category going beyond a few iconic shows of the past.

Let’s look at what this means and how long Law & Order: SVU could potentially go based squarely on our perpetually perverse headlines.

Was the ‘SVU’ renewal a surprise?

It seems nobody really knew if NBC would renew SVU, despite still having good ratings for the coveted adult demographic. The network announced the 21st season renewal on March 29, shattering the records previously held for the original Law & Order and CBS western classic Gunsmoke.

NBC seemed ecstatic in their press briefing at being able to keep SVU on the air, though gave a lot of credit to producer Dick Wolf and star Mariska Hargitay for their roles in making it successful.

With Hargitay’s hard work in being an advocate for women who’ve suffered through sexual abuse, the show has become more than just a compelling crime drama. As we live in a time when we see more alarming sexual assault from the non-famous and famous, it makes SVU a singularly important show to keep us cognizant of harsh reality.

The show will likely keep taking from the headlines

All the sexual assault stories we keep hearing in America continue being unique cases with their own forms of perplexing questions and horrendous acts. No wonder SVU keeps taking their plots directly from the headlines, because there’s never any end to the shocking scenarios.

Even if many of the plots feature a typical professional alpha male who sexually abuses women, the show also formulates many other bizarre cases with role reversals and situations creating almost unbearable pain. When the abuse comes from a family member or a trusted mentor, we all realize there’s a real-life case just like it somewhere in our neighborhoods.

Based on the structure of the show and the service it provides, it makes us wonder if it could technically go on forever. As Hargitay said herself recently:

“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.”

Dramas as a service rather than just entertainment

There isn’t any doubt SVU works like a public service to make us aware of just how many sex crimes are going on outside New York City. While maybe you can argue NYC seems to have more crimes in the Law & Order franchise than Cabot Cove had in Murder, She Wrote, it still gives us a weekly warning of what’s lurking in every city, large and small.

Will the public and entertainment industry recognize SVU as a service to humanity and keep it going indefinitely? Look at tweets about the show and you’ll find many who realize how much it’s done to educate the public on how twisted so many sexual crimes are becoming.

If NBC continues to see the show this way, expect it to go on as long as the actors want to. Whether they will is another thing, even if seeing Hargitay’s Lt. Olivia Benson passing the torch to her successor would be gratifying television. A multi-generational show about capturing America’s sexual assault perpetrators would truly break all records.

We just hope it’ll also show some of those criminals getting successful mental treatment for a form of healing.