NBC has renewed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for a record breaking Season 21. The renewal makes the show TV's longest-running primetime live-action series in history, even beating out Law & Order, which ran for 20 seasons from 1990 to 2010 and Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975. Additionally, Mariska Hargitay's Lieutenant Benson is now the longest-running character in a primetime live-action series. Hargitay has won both a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for her performance on the hit show.
Before Mariska Hargitay's Lieutenant Benson came around, Kelsey Grammer held the record for longest-running character as Doctor Frasier Crane from the Cheers and Frasier sitcoms, who also lasted 20 seasons. Grammer played the character on 123 episodes of Cheers and 264 episodes of Frasier. As of now, Hargitay has starred in 458 episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which is pretty incredible and that number is only going to get higher as Season 21 premieres. Mariska Hargitay released a statement, which you can read below.
"I'm deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today. 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."
Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks, Co-Chairmen, NBC Entertainment also made an official announcement for the Law & Order: SVU Season 21 news. Show creator Dick Wolf started Law & Order back in 1990 and started SVU in 1999 and both shows have been immensely popular over the years. Wolf and Mariska Hargitay have been instrumental in keeping the show going for so long. You can read what Telegdy and Cheeks had to say.
"We tip our cap to Dick Wolf, Mariska Hargitay and the amazing cast and crew of SVU, who now all go into the record book. This incredible run is an example of what happens when producers, writers and actors all come together and create a show that, year after year, speaks to its audience in a powerful way. We couldn't be more proud of this remarkable achievement."
Law & Order went through several cast changes over the years, with none of the original cast staying past Season 10. With Law & Order: SVU, Mariska Hargitay has been the star since the pilot and her co-star, Ice-T, has been with her for 19 of those seasons, which is equally as impressive. Dick Wolf released a statement of his own, praising Hargitay. He had this to say.
"As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate and crusader for women. She is an enduring champion of the movement to end sexual violence, and dozens of episodes have dealt with the very same issues that have shifted into the spotlight in this country in the past two years. Mariska is a delight as #1 on the call sheet and, to me, a true friend."
It is unclear if the Law & Order: SVU will go past Season 21, but even if it doesn't, it has been a powerful force over the past 20 years. The show has averaged a 1.9 rating in adults 18-49 and 7.6 million viewers overall during its current Season 20, which consistently earns the number one spot for their 10 PM timeslot. Law & Order: SVU Season 21 premieres with 22 new episodes in September. For now, fans can watch Season 20, which will wrap in May. Deadline was the first to report the record breaking Season 21 news.