Television will all-too-soon see the end of long-running TV shows like Criminal Minds and Supernatural, but there's one that will live on to make TV history. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the sole remaining entry in the once-prolific Law & Order franchise, has been renewed for an unprecedented Season 21, breaking multiple records at once and guaranteeing the show a legacy in primetime.
The renewal for Season 21 officially makes Law & Order: SVU the longest-running primetime live-action series in TV history. While that's a record that technically could be broken by a show like NCIS or Grey's Anatomy (which recently hit its own huge milestone) if SVU calls it quits before either of those, there is another record broken by the renewal that certainly can't be broken for at least another couple of decades and change.
By hitting Season 21, Law & Order: SVU becomes the longest-running installment in the Law & Order franchise. The original series with 20 seasons will officially be beaten once its most successful spinoff premieres its first new episode next season. Olivia Benson has defeated Jack McCoy.
In addition to beating the record held by original recipe Law & Order, SVU will beat CBS Western Gunsmoke with Season 21. The only primetime show running longer than SVU nowadays is The Simpsons. That show, which is currently in Season 30, is likely to outlast SVU by virtue of its status as an animated show with almost a decade's head start, but SVU has cornered the live-action primetime market.
As somebody who has seen enough episodes of SVU that I say the opening narration of "In the criminal justice system---" along with the voiceover every time I tune in, I'm thrilled that SVU is making TV history. The renewal is also a payoff on comments made back in early 2018, when executive producer Michael Chernuchin revealed that he was "hoping that we break the record and go 21 seasons." SVU was still airing Season 19 at the time, but he believed the show was "still more relevant than ever."
Leading lady Mariska Hargitay is expected to stay on for Season 21, making Olivia Benson the longest-running female character in a primetime live-action series. Last summer, Hargitay said that she's "in it for the long haul" and would "stay for 25 years" if Michael Chernuchin kept producing the kind of episodes he was producing since taking over for Warren Leight as showrunner. We'll have to wait a while for news on Season 25, but her wish to keep going was fulfilled!
The Season 21 renewal also makes SVU the fourth and final show in its extended universe to be renewed. The three Chicago shows do technically share a universe with Olivia Benson, and they were all renewed back in February. Hey, even Chicago Justice kinda sorta lives on in its own way! The next episode of Law & Order: SVU airs Thursday, April 4 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.