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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Photo Credit:  Jason Bell/NBC
  • Premiered: 
    September 20, 1999
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: NBC
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Drama
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Second series in the franchise of Law & Order 
  • Subject Matter: Crime
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    Season 1
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    Season 12

Plot Synopsis

LAW & ORDER: SVU -- a spinoff from LAW & ORDER -- chronicles the life and crimes of the Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department as detectives investigate the city's especially heinous sexually-based offenses, which are often ripped from recent headlines. For the first 12 seasons, this drama series focused on detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson, and now Benson, a seasoned veteran of the unit, is the acting commander of the SVU leading with empathy and professionalism, all the while dealing with her difficult past as a product of rape, and her future as mother to a young child, both of which influence the way she relates to each victim in need of help. The squad also includes: Det. Odafin "Fin" Tutuola, who adds a unique sense of humor and undercover investigative experience, which made him a formidable match for his former partner, Munch; and Det. Amanda Rollins. Currently the longest-running drama series on television, the show's 14th season opened with the head of the DA's Public Integrity Unit handling the case against then-captain Don Cragen, who was under suspicion of murder after Season 13 closed with him waking up in the middle of the night with blood on his hands and a dead prostitute in his bed. Season 15 debuted with the cliffhanger from the previous season, when Detective Benson was put in mortal danger by an unnamed man who masterfully outplayed the SVU squad after being arrested in Central Park. A few episodes later, Det. Munch retired from the force. In the Season 16 premiere, Benson juggled work and her new role as foster mother to baby Noah Porter. Det. Amaro, working the traffic beat in Queens, arrested an underage prostitute with connections to Noah's mother, who was greenlit by her pimp and brutally murdered. Amaro's undercover work set off a chain of events that put everyone connected to the case -- even baby Noah -- in danger. Meanwhile, Det. Sonny Carisi started off on the wrong foot after being assigned to Manhattan SVU.

Season 17 of LAW & ORDER: SVU premiered on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 from 9-11pm ET/PT on NBC with a two-hour season opener, and then moves to its regular timeslot -- Wednesdays from 9-10pm ET/PT -- the following week. In the season premiere, "Devil's Dissections/Criminal Pathology," the SVU is called to a familiar crime scene -- the beach where serial killer Gregory Yates (guest star Dallas Roberts) buried his many victims. When another body washes ashore, Detective Rollins tries to coax him into confessing, but the surprising information he provides sends shockwaves through the police department. As the case goes to court, Barba faces off against two hotshot defense attorneys in a trial that leads to blackmail, an incriminating confession, a new victim and a fugitive suspect.

Season 18 of LAW & ORDER: SVU premiered on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 9pm ET/PT on NBC. In the season opener, "Terrorized," a young boy is found wandering alone in Central Park and the search for his parents leads to startling evidence of a planned mass casualty event in the city. As the SVU works with the joint-terrorism task force to find the suspects and the motive, Lt. Benson must also convince Barba to address allegations of rape and torture the boy's mother discloses. Guest starring Peter Gallagher, Robert John Burke, Elizabeth Marvel, Natia Dune, and Marc Damon Johnson.

Season 19 of LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT premieres on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 9pm ET/PT on NBC. In the season opener, "Gone Fishin'," when Fin crosses international borders to catch a fugitive rapist, a political tug-of-war derails Barba's legal case. Meanwhile, shocking allegations against Benson lead to the return of an old friend. Guest starring Dean Winters (Brian Cassidy), Peter Jacobson (Randy Dworkin), Will Chase (Byron Marks), Mariela Garriga (Elana Marks) and Amy Smart (Karla Wyatt).

On Thursday, September 27, 2018 from 9-11pm ET/PT, NBC premiered the twentieth season of LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, debuting back-to-back new episodes.
Tonight (Thursday, September 12, 2019) at 10pm ET/PT, NBC airs "Diss," an encore episode of SVU. When a pop star is assaulted in her home, the SVU investigates the public feud between her rapper husband (guest star Orlando Jones) and a competing recording artist (guest star Snoop Dogg). Meanwhile, Fin's family ties to a suspect takes him off the case. Also guest starring Amber Stevens West (Dallas Monroe), L. Scott Caldwell (Jo Anderson), Deandre Leatherbury (Andreas Harper), Elizabeth Tate (Vickie Lewis) and Milan Marsh (Lexie Monroe).

Season 21 of LAW & ORDER: SVU premieres on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at 10pm ET/PT on NBC, racing into the record book to set the mark as the longest-running primetime live-action series in television history. The record defeats the longstanding previous mark of 20 seasons set by "Law & Order" (1990-2010) and "Gunsmoke" (1955-75).

"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," Said Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks, Co-Chairmen, NBC Entertainment. and Cheeks said. "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."

"As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate and crusader for women," said creator/executive producer Dick Wolf. "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."

"I'm deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today," said Hargitay. "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."


Other Titles

  • Previously known as Law & Order's Sex Crimes
  • Also known as Law & Order: SVU

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Wolf Films
  • In association with Universal Television
  • In association with Studios USA Television


  • - New York City, New York USA

Firsts, Lasts & Notable Notes

  • March 31, 2009: First time the United Nations appears on TV as a setting in a major network television production.
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Births, Deaths & Weddings

  • May 18, 2011: Sister Peg dies
  • April 9, 2014: William Lewis dies
  • May 20, 2015: Johnny D dies