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  Law And Order: Special Victims Unit

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This Show Page is maintained by: Bryan Alford

> Description 
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (also known as Law & Order: SVU, or simply SVU) is the first of four spin-offs of the long-running, award-winning crime drama Law & Order, currently airing on NBC (the others being Criminal Intent, Crime & Punishment and Trial by Jury). SVU, which first aired in the United States on September 20, 1999, has received higher ratings than any of the other L&O shows in recent seasons. The show stars Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler, and Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson.

Law & Order: SVU can currently be seen on Tuesdays at 10 pm ET on NBC. In addition, the show is also syndicated on the USA Network.

Series overview

Unlike the original Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU follows a distinct division of the New York Police Department: the Special Victims Unit (aka the Sex Crimes division). As its name implies, the detectives in this division investigate crimes involving sex or children. Their base is in the fictitious 16th Precinct.

The series was originally proposed under the title Sex Crimes, and unrelated to the Law & Order brand. NBC thought the title was too harsh, and after discussions between network executives and Dick Wolf (creator of Law & Order) it became part of the L&O brand, debuting as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. SVU also has the distinction of breaking from the original series' split storytelling format (where the police Detectives investigate and arrest the criminals in the first half hour, and the District Attorneys prosecute them in the second half), by focusing on the SVU detectives throughout the entire episode.

In addition, the show is character-driven, rather than the complete-focus of the main case, like the original show. For example: detectives Stabler and Benson each volunteered to work for the Special Victims Unit for different reasons: Stabler felt a moral responsibility to protect all people from the criminals that they had to deal with, especially because he had four children of his own. Benson joined because she thought her father was a serial rapist who raped her mother (her mother lied to Olivia about her paternity).

Sometimes the viewers will see the case will go to trial. In the first season, the program relied on a rotating mix of Assistant District Attorneys, including ADA Abbie Carmichael, a character on the original Law & Order, but the main focus always remains on the SVU detectives.

SVU contains by far the most controversial subject matter of any of the L&O series, focusing mostly on rape and child abuse.

Supporting characters

The cast also has characters from two other NBC series: Captain Don Cragen (played by Dann Florek), who was on the first three seasons of Law & Order and Detective John Munch (played by Richard Belzer), formerly a Baltimore detective on Homicide: Life on the Street. This character also made appearances on Law & Order, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, The Beat and The X-Files.

Supporting cast during season one included Dean Winters as Munch's partner, Detective Brian Cassidy, and Michelle Hurd as Detective Monique Jefferies. Cassidy was an immigrant detective, just assigned to the unit, who transferred to narcotics because he was having trouble dealing with some of the disturbing cases the division dealt with regularly.

Jefferies was originally a minor character, but when Winters left the show midseason, she played a more prominent role as Munch’s partner. Hurd played the role into the second season's first episode, after which she left the show.

Casting changes

The show, like its parent show, has had several cast changes: After Hurd was fired, her Monique Jeffries character was replaced with Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (played by rapper-turned-actor, Ice T); he has been on the show since season two. While technically Munch's partner, Fin has become much more prominent on the show than Munch; while Munch usually remains at the station, with sometimes only a few lines in some episodes, Fin is much more active in aiding the main characters' investigations, and is often sent on undercover assignments as well.

Also in season two the show added Stephanie March, as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra "Alex" Cabot, as a permanent supporting ADA to the show.

Joining the cast since season four is B.D. Wong, as George Huang, a forensic psychiatrist on loan from the FBI. In addition to that, a number of other doctors appeared on the show from time to time, including Leslie Hendrix as her L&O character, ME Elizabeth Rodgers, and J.K. Simmons as his L&O character, ME Emil Skoda. Tamara Tunie, as ME Melinda Warner, is the division's current Medical Examiner on the show. As of 2003, the show's most recent cast change came during season five, when Stephanie March was replaced with Diane Neal as ADA Casey Novak.

One other character that was important was Detective Ken Briscoe (nephew of Lennie Briscoe), played by Chris Orbach (son of Jerry Orbach). He appeared in early episodes of the show, along with his father.

In addition, the show has had many guest stars, including cast from Law & Order, including Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Fred Thompson as District Attorney Arthur Branch and Dianne Wiest as Interim DA Nora Lewin. Other high-profile guests have included Martin Short, Andrew McCarthy, Mary Steenburgen and Martha Plimpton.

Show Description Credit:
> Airing History & Information 
Premiere September 20, 1999
Network NBC
Format/Time Color / 60 Minutes
Country United States
Upcoming Airs Not currently airing
> Cast 
Stephanie March....   Alexandra "Alex" Cabot ((2000-2003))
Dean Winters....   Brian Cassidy ((1999-2000))
Diane Neal....   Casey Novak ((2003-))
Dann Florek....   Donald "Don" Cragen
Christopher Meloni....   Elliot Stabler
Richard Belzer....   John Munch
Michelle Hurd....   Monique Jeffreys ((1999-2000))
Ice-T....   Odafin "Fin" Tutuola ((2000-))
B.D. Wong....   Odafin "Fin" Tutuola ((2001-))
Mariska Hargitay....   Olivia Benson

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