In 1999, the “Law & Order” universe expanded to bring viewers compelling stories chronicling the cases of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit. In the premier episode, we were introduced to veteran detective Elliot Stabler, a hot-headed yet deeply emotional character portrayed by “Oz” alum Christopher Meloni. We also met rookie detective Olivia Benson, a product of rape portrayed by Mariska Hargitay. Despite bringing in Captain Donald Cragan from the original “Law & Order” and Detective John Munch from “Homicide: Life on the Street”, “SVU” took some time to gain its footing, but soon became one of the most-watched shows on television.
I began watching “SVU” during its third season and I was hooked right from the start. I had been a fan of “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” before I tried “SVU”, but the outstanding main characters and intriguing storylines quickly made “SVU” my favorite series of the franchise. “Special Victims Unit” hit its stride in the fifth season, reaching its peak with the “murder” of Assistant District Attorney Alex Cabot.
Attempting to build on the shock-and-awe value of increasing intense and deadly situations only lasted so long before the stories became too over-the-top to believe. “SVU” episodes involving an adult shooting a child outside the courtroom, a child actor portraying both a boy and his sister (who used to be a boy), and Stabler being shot and near-death more times than I can count took advantage of the loyal fan base.
The writers of “Law & Order: SVU” needed to make a change, so they turned to rotating guest stars, some of which delivered amazing performances, others which were simply ploys to raise ratings despite horrible storylines and dialogue. There has rarely been an episode of “Special Victims Unit” in the past few seasons that has not been advertised by focusing on the guest star of the week.
As the stories continue to become more outrageous, we continue to explore the personal lives of Benson and Stabler to the point where they don’t even make sense with the background information presented in earlier seasons. “SVU”‘s characters and storylines are no longer believable. This was very clear in the season eleven finale where recurring guest star Sharon Stone was the focus of the story, which resulted in an outlandish standoff at the office of the medical examiner. The standoff featured Stone’s character revealing a double mastectomy while Benson performed makeshift surgery on the medical examiner who had been shot by a distraught mother, all while the characters talked to and carried around the dead, naked body of a child who had been killed earlier in the episode. Talk about a soap opera, “Special Victims Unit” would make daytime television blush.
Of course the standoff would not have even occurred without Benson’s emotions getting in the way, forcing Detective Stabler to swoop in at the end to clean up her mess. A resolution we have seen far too often, and one that undermines Mariska Hargitay’s Emmy-Award winning acting abilities.
It is time. “Law & Order: SVU” should have ended a couple of seasons ago. Continuing this series disgraces the franchise and, quite honestly, embarrasses the fine actors and the outstanding episodes that have aired in the past.
Please, Dick Wolf, put us, your loyal viewers, out of our misery. Please cancel “SVU”.
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