Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) returns tonight, September 26, for its record-breaking 21st season on NBC. The crime drama, starring Hamptonite Mariska Hargitay as Sgt. Olivia Benson, who heads up an elite squad of detectives solving sex crimes in Manhattan, has officially overtaken Gunsmoke as the longest-running primetime drama ever. Additionally, Hargitay’s character is now the longest-running character in primetime television history.
Created by Dick Wolf as a spinoff of Law & Order—which ran for 20 seasons—SVU follows the trials and tribulations of the Special Victims Unit, including Benson and Detectives Fin Tutuola (Ice-T), Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) and Dominick Carisi (Peter Scanavino). Each episode tells a self-contained crime story the characters work to solve, though over the years there have been longer stories, including Benson’s kidnapping at the hands of a deranged serial killer.
Entertainment Weekly reports that this year, with the departure of ADA Peter Stone (Philip Winchester), there will be less of a focus, at least initially, on courtroom scenes. Instead, there will be more field investigations and squad room drama. The show will continue its tradition of ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling, with upcoming episodes featuring Ian McShane as a predatory Hollywood figure, Ariel Winter as a victim with no memory of her assault and a tale involving a man who fakes his own assault.
Fans of the show will also be excited to learn that a companion podcast, The Law & Order: SVU Podcast, will debut online immediately after the premiere. The podcast is hosted by Anthony Roman and features interviews with the cast and creative team.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.