NBC renews Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for season 21, making TV history in the process. Created by Dick Wolf, the NBC crime drama stars Mariska Hargitay as Lieutenant Olivia Benson. To date, Hargitay has won both a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for her lead performance.
In 1990, Wolf debuted the NBC series Law & Order, which ultimately aired for 20 seasons through May 2010. Based on the series’ success, NBC ordered a spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which premiered in 1999. The series follows detectives from New York City’s 16th precinct who investigate sexually-based offenses. For the first 12 seasons, Christopher Meloni co-starred as Detective Elliot Stabler, but left the show in 2011. Since then, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has continued its “ripped from the headlines” approach, with Hargitay staying on board for the entire run. In September 2018, NBC premiered Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season 20, and the latest 22-episode installment is scheduled to conclude in May.
Per Deadline, NBC has renewed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for season 21, marking a significant moment in television history. Not only has Law & Order: Special Victims Unit surpassed Gunsmoke and Law & Order as the longest-running live-action primetime series, but Hargitay’s Olivia Benson is now the longest-running character for the same category. Previously, Kelsey Grammer's titular Frasier character survived 20 seasons, along with the characters portrayed by Gunsmoke’s Milburn Stone and James Arness. Currently, Hargitay has starred in 458 episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Hargitay is the daughter of actress and model Jayne Mansfield. In 1967, the blossoming American icon was killed in a car accident at age 34. Hargitay’s father is actor Mickey Hargitay, who made four movies with his late wife and later made a cameo as “Grandfather” in a 2013 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit entitled “Control.” Before landing her famous role, Mariska Hargitay starred on the CBS soap opera Falcon Crest in 1988, and also had a main role in the network’s short-lived series Tequila and Bonetti. Hargitay returned to CBS again for a lead role in the sitcom Can't Hurry Love, and ultimately landed a career-changing role on NBC’s medical drama ER. In the series’ fourth season, she portrayed desk clerk Cynthia Cooper in 13 episodes.
Given how much the world has changed since the original Law & Order premiered, the franchise has become especially relevant given its willingness to address current news stories. Furthermore, Hargitay’s Olivia Benson is one of primetime television’s most endearing yet tough characters, and fans can easily identify with her journey and conflict. Plus, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit isn’t merely a nostalgic show for NBC to keep around, as the series has reportedly won its new Thursday 10pm time slot among regular dramas in the key 18-49 demo.