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Outside of The Simpsons, one almost never hears about a scripted TV show lasting for 20 full seasons, but it's an entertainment milestone that NBC will soon be celebrating with Law & Order: SVU. And while there may have been a point in recent years when star Mariska Hargitay might have been willing to call it quits, the actress now sounds more enthused than ever to keep bringing Olivia Benson to audiences for years to come. In Hargitay's words:
The joke with [then-showrunner] Warren Leight and I was, Season 16 was good, and we said Season 17, we're going to phone it in. That was our schtick on set, because we were so exhausted. And then Season 17, we killed it. And then Season 18...we had a wobbly year. But Season 19, I was like, 'I'm sorry, did anyone see the show?' [New showrunner Michael] Chernuchin, every single episode, he outdoes himself. I'm in it for the long haul. I said, 'You keep writing like this, I'll stay for 25 years.' Why would I leave? I'm so grateful.
So while there have been some worries among fans in recent years that Law & Order: SVU might be turning in its badge at some point, let it be known that Mariska Hargitay won't be trying to convince NBC to pull the plug. The star appears to have hit a second (or third or fourth) wind within the franchise's most successful spinoff, and the creative energy that current showrunner Michael Chernuchin brought to the show has apparently got her reinvested in keeping Olivia Benson's struggles and successes going for a while longer. At least six more years, by her count. And considering they're finding ways to keep Fin around, despite his promotion, I think it's clear the SVU team s confident about sticking around on NBC until they're forced out.
Mariska Hargitay offered up some refreshingly frank thoughts, however brief, in speaking about the more recent past seasons. It appears Season 18 wasn't her favorite, which probably had to do with the one-and-done boss that year. Warren Leight served as Law & Order: SVU's showrunner from Season 13 through Season 17, having previously tackled showrunning duties on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Rick Eid took over the reins for Season 18 before passing those on to Michael Chernuchin. And while SVU suffered from some of the same ratings woes that hit shows all across primetime TV, the crime drama has been largely consistent with both its central viewership and its demo ratings, despite the casting changes, and the creative team has had a lot of wild real-world headlines to choose from in bringing its cases-of-the-week together.
Speaking with THR, Mariska Hargitay shared why she was so impressed with and enthused by Michael Chernuchin's presence for Season 19.
This fucking guy is such a genius, and he listened to everything I said. Our writers are so brilliant, and they usually have their own ideas. But he said, 'This is my idea, but what do you want to do?' I said, 'I want to go into what it is like for a woman, like myself, who has three children, and that [difficult work-life balance].' I have three children. Let me tell you something: It costs me every day. Do I quit the show, do I take my kid to school? What do I do? Either way I lose. And only working women understand that.
For what it's worth, Chernuchin somewhat recently said his goal is to get SVU to 21 seasons in order to break the primetime drama record set by Gunsmoke all those years ago. But he should probably boost his optimism quite a bit if he wants to keep up with Mariska Hargitay.