Things don't look good for NBC's leading primetime drama, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In addition to losing stars Christopher Meloni and (possibly) Mariska Hargitay, longtime series regular B. D. Wong will not return for the upcoming thirteenth season.
Instead, he'll be playing a psychiatrist (go figure) on Awake, NBC's midseason action/sci-fi starring Harry Potter's Jason Isaacs. Awake follows a policeman who shifts between alternate realities, and has been compared to 2010's blockbuster mindbender Inception. Initial critical reactions are positive.
Wong announced the move on Twitter on Sunday night. There had been some speculation that due to Awake's midseason status, Wong would reprise his role as Dr. Huang for at least part of the new season, as co-star Hargitay is doing with Detective Benson. Wong denied these rumors and reiterated his excitement for Awake.
Wong has played FBI agent/criminal psychiatric profiler Huang for the last ten years. The doctor was a large part of the show and functioned as the SVU's go-to analyst for everything from serial killers to abused children. Wong is a fan favorite, and recognizable from his roles in the HBO OZ (where he played a priest/councilor, coincidentally enough), Jurassic Park and voicing the male lead in Mulan.
The news is a big blow for SVU, which lost original cast member Christopher Meloni earlier this year (fun fact: Meloni and Wong were co-stars in HBO's OZ). Hargitay will feature in half of the upcoming episodes before a probable departure before Season 14 - assuming there is one. SVU is the last remaining show in production for the long-running Law & Order franchise.
On the plus side, Ice-T has re-signed his contract to play Detective Tutuola for at least two more years, and the thinning NYPD ranks will be bolstered by newcomers Kelli Giddish (star of Chase, cancelled this spring) and Danny Pino (Cold Case). Former SVU regulars Diane Neal and Stephanie March will return for arcs this season, but the fates of remaining stars Richard Belzer, Tamara Tunie and Dann Florek are unknown.
UPDATE: Belzer and Forek ARE returning for the upcoming season. Thanks to commenter Patrick Hall for the tip.
Can Law & Order: SVU (and by extension, the franchise) survive for another year after such radical casting changes? Who knows. While it's NBC's highest-rated scripted show by far, it's not hard to imagine audiences abandoning SVU like Manhattan in rush hour after the loss of so many key players.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will begin its thirteenth season this fall on NBC.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider
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