12 Impressive Facts About ‘Law & Order: SVU’s Landmark Run

Law Order SVU Season 21 Olivia Barba Return
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

NBC gave a huge vote of confidence to Law & Order: SVU and the One Chicago shows last month, renewing all four series for three more seasons.

“Dick Wolf has proven time and time again that he makes shows audiences love,” Paul Telegdy, Chairman, NBC Entertainment, said at the time. “We are delighted, excited and proud that as part of this epic deal with Wolf Entertainment, NBC’s loyal audience will know that their favorite shows have a certain future for the next three years.”

SVU, however, had already made history long before the three-season renewal. Scroll down to read impressive facts about SVU’s longevity and legacy.

1. Law & Order: SVU became the longest-running scripted live-action series in the history of American TV upon the premiere of its 21st season in September 2019, breaking the 20-second record shared by Gunsmoke and the original Law & Order.

2. By the end of Season 22 next year, SVU will have become the fourth scripted primetime American TV series to cross the 500-episode mark—joining the ranks of Lassie, Gunsmoke, and The Simpsons.

3. Mariska Hargitay has starred as one character—namely, Olivia Benson—in more consecutive seasons than any other actor in scripted American primetime drama TV history, having surpassed the 20-season runs of Gunsmoke’s James Arness and Milburn Stone.

Law & Order SVU Season 21

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

4. SVU is the sole remaining scripted, primetime American TV series that has aired continuously since the 1990s.

5. NBCUniversal reports SVU has been seen in more than 230 territories around the world, including Turkmenistan, Macau, Vatican City, and Antarctica.

6. With her 2006 win, Hargitay is the only actor from any Law & Order show to win an Emmy for a series-regular performance in the franchise. She’s been nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category nine times for her work on SVU.

7. Hargitay has appeared in all but nine of the show’s 470-plus episodes.

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

8. The actress decided to become a rape crisis counselor around the time SVU premiered, and she launched the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to “help survivors heal and reclaim their lives,” as she explained to InStyle in 2018. “Almost 20 years ago, the conversation around sexual violence was very different, virtually nonexistent, but I think the show helped give people permission to talk about it more openly,” she added. “That’s when I started getting letters from survivors, many of them saying, ‘Your show saved my life. I’ve never told anyone this before.’”

9. SVU’s guest star roster includes numerous Oscar winners and nominees — including Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, Angela Lansbury, and Robin Williams — and Tony winners like Daveed Diggs, Audra McDonald, Rita Moreno, Bernadette Peters, and Billy Porter

10. From Season 13 to Season 17 and then again in Season 21, the number of letters in each episode’s title matches the number of the season — e.g. all the episodes in Season 21 have 21-letter titles.

11. As NBCUniversal notes, the week that SVU premiered, TIME magazine celebrated the release of the third Harry Potter book, a 17-year-old Serena Williams won her first singles at the U.S. Open, TLC’s “Unpretty” topped the charts, and the Ashley Judd thriller Double Jeopardy took the No. 1 spot at the box office. SVU debuted two days before The West Wing, which ended its seven-season run more than 13 years ago.

12. There have been four U.S. presidents and three popes during SVU’s run.

Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC