Christopher Meloni Leaving ‘Law & Order: SVU’ This Fall

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 26th, 2011 at 8:49 am,

christopher meloni stabler law order svu Christopher Meloni Leaving Law & Order: SVU This Fall

Half of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s dynamic duo will not be returning when the thirteenth season starts this fall. Christopher Meloni, famous as NYPD detective Elliot Stabler, has not renewed his contract with NBC.

Meloni has been in extended contract talks with the network for some time. According to TV Line (who did not reveal their source) the talks have broken down, and Law & Order creator Dick Wolf is actively searching for a new male lead.

The actor has played Elliot Stabler for twelve seasons, and is one of only four actors who has been with the show for its entire run up until now. The other three remaining original cast members, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer and Law and Order veteran Dann Florek, will all return in the fall, though Hargitay will only appear for half of the season.

This isn’t good news for NBC. The broadcast network has struggled in the ratings game in the last few years, and SVU is its top scripted drama. The original Law & Order series concluded last year, and the first spin off, Criminal Intent, has moved on to the greener pastures of cable on USA. A handful of other Law & Order projects have failed to find an audience, like the recently cancelled Law & Order: Los Angeles.

It’s hard to imagine how SVU will continue with the loss of one of its most visible players – and likely two, by the end of the season. As interesting as John Munch (Belzer) and “Fin” Tutuola (Ice-T) are, they’ve never driven the drama-heavy stories as well as Benson and Stabler. Instead of promoting the secondary characters to the spotlight, Dick Wolf will probably bring in some fresh blood – like the short-lived addition of Jeff Goldblum to Criminal Intent‘s 8th season.

law and order svu season 12 cast Christopher Meloni Leaving Law & Order: SVU This Fall

Meloni has consistently played the “bad cop,” as Stabler regularly assaults rapists and child molesters. He’s also the conservative voice in the show’s regular station house debates, playing against Benson’s liberal leanings and Munch’s libertarianism. Meloni’s replacement will likely need to mirror the Stabler character’s aggressive style and sociological affiliations to keep the current dynamic.

After thirteen years, SVU‘s character-driven drama and hot-button topics have had less and less impact, driving the producers to create big moments and guest arcs that distract from the cases and trials. In just the past few seasons there’ve been several extra-long gunpoint standoffs and an extended birth scene in a wrecked car. One wonders how long the most successful of Law & Order‘s franchises can keep it together with its leading man gone.


New episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will return to NBC this fall – minus one detective.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

Source: TV Line

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  1. Well this sucks… One of the few shows I actually watched and for this to happen.

  2. Just another great TV character who starts to think he is too big for his britches. Meloni has done a few movie appearances but that never went anywhere. He needs to be happy where he is!

    • …or maybe he simply wanted move on after spending years in the same role. People DO get tired, after all.


  3. sorry to say but there is no way anybody can be like chris. chris is his own person and he plays from the heart. i will tell you that i estimate that your ratings will go down by 60% that is my guess and i feel that i’m right cause i’m usually like half right. So please for the benefit of your fans and their fans please try harder to work a great deal for chris cause i don;t want to see any ratings for nbc and law and order svu go down cause you guys were getting a good handful of ratings cause of these law shows .

    • I agree wholeheaartedly with you. Meloni is a vital part of the SVU team. If it is money if probably involves Mariska making more money than him and him having to do all the episodes while she’s off getting a promotion and only showing up for 13 episodes. I won’t be returning to the show either Chris so don’t feel so bad. After over 20 years of wtching Law and Order shows and spin-off’s it is time to say Good-bye!

  4. This is some sad news. Given it’s more “anonymous” confirmation instead of one side or the other confirming this, I hope there’s a chance they can work something out for nothing more than to give him a proper exit if they can’t get him back for a full season. He really is such a key character to that show and I don’t think they can replace him without it feeling really weak.

  5. SVU has always been the best L&O in my opinion (tough story lines to watch sometimes, but WAY better acting). I think this is going to be a good thing for Meloni. He is a very good actor and I hope he gets some good roles in some feature films.

  6. With Meloni leaving it will be the start of a slow death to the show. JLH is not acceptable. If she joins the show I will stop watching. Keep Meloni on the show.

  7. So Hargitay leaves halfway through the season, and Meloni completely disappears next season? There is no chance of saving the show at that point short of hiring Johnny Depp to star each week in Meloni’s place.

  8. @MEA……he is a great actor and can pull off many roles. Maybe he did leave to pursue further acting in movies, he was awesome in the show “OZ” on HBO. sure the show won’t be the same and its guna suck even more cus mariska will only be in half the episodes. But if ur. A die hard fan like I am, ull support his decision, ( even if u do t like it). Congrats Chris may the road takes you to where ever u wanna go.

  9. This is the greatest series of Law and Order. I’m sorry but no one will be able to fill Meloni or Hargitay’s shoes. They help make the show what it is today. They are the key roles in this show.

  10. Just end the series, then. I hate that Dick Wolf feels he needs to keep it going. This show will be NOTHING without Chris and Mariska, and will fall apart just like L&O did after Jerry Orbach died. LET IT GO, DICK.

    • Agreed.

      Not a huge fan of the show, but I always enjoyed the episodes I did watch. 12 years is a good stretch for a drama, but without Marissa and Chris the show will lose a lot of it chemistry.

  11. Omg this is sad. I pray they can work out a deal those two have to be partners……… They are the dynamic duo

  12. Been watching the show on Netflix and am currently on Season 7. I enjoy the show but I can see how it gets old after a while. I think they should try to keep the team together but they should focus more on the secondary characters. I’ve found Munch, Wong, and most of the DAs to be the most interesting ones.

  13. no benson and stabler no show!

  14. All i know is they better make some kind of deal with christopher meloni because i will not watch it unless he is on. He is the only reason i watch it yes its a good show but he brings the spark into the entire series that keeps people watching without his rough tough attitude and his good looks the show will never survive. Many people will not only be dissapointed but will stop watching as well i think abc needs to make any deal they need to to keep him this is one of the only good shows left it would be a shame to see it all end.

  15. my name is freddie miller my feelings are hurt and my heart is broken and I feel like running away because of christopher meloni

  16. for the past 2yrs i have enjoyed watching svu and finally caught up with the season and now chris is leaving that cant be. i hope they can make a deal with chris cause this fan will not watch if he does not return. plus mariska leaving half way down the show. sorry but show will not be a hit without them. just look at other Law and order shows gone. please this is my show love it please dont leave. thanks

  17. I wish Chris Meloni all the best, he’s one of my favorite acrors, and as much as I like watching L&O, I think its rating will go down without Chris.

  18. Wow I really hate to see Benson and Stabler broken up. They do not work well with others…LOL so something needs to be done to get him back. That is my favorite show. Reruns and new episodes. The big wigs need to handle their business and get him back….

  19. Omg, I love this show, we cannot lose Stabler, how will this show go on without him, Benson and Stabler work well together, they are the two who keeps the ratings up, and how will the first show spin off, since he is not here anymore?

  20. I think this is bad for the show. Without the two main characters I doubt the show will last much longer, I am a huge SVU fan but those two made the show as great as it is

  21. Just saw the new episode off svu and it sucked! Not the same without stabler. Nbc is going down hill. They need to keep certain people on certain shows if they want to keep their audience happy.

    • Clearly greed was his motivator, since it would be silly to think that maybe, after so many seasons, he simply wished for some variety…a change of pace. Clearly.

      Judgemental much?

  22. This sucks!!! Benson – Stabler = really crappy show! Why does NBC always have to screw everything up. I’ve watched this show faithfully for the past 12 seasons and Stabler is the one that kept me watching. It’s dead now. You’ve killed the best show on your network!! BRING STABLER BACK!!!

  23. Ill watch without Meloni in it. But I wont watch with Giddish in it. I hate her

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