Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 20
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has officially made television history.

NBC has renewed its long-running procedural for a 21st season, which pushes the series past the original Law & Order and Gunsmoke to make it the longest-running prime-time drama ever.

“I’m deeply proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show, and humbled to make television history today,” said actor, executive producer, and director Mariska Hargitay, who has played Lt. Olivia Benson since the show’s inception. “The longevity and continued success of SVU is a testament not only to the show’s powerful storytelling and ability to connect with viewers, but to its necessity. We have told important stories for 20 years, and we will continue to tell them.”

Creator Dick Wolf added, “As SVU moves into its third decade, Mariska has become an iconic figure as a star, advocate, and crusader for women. She is an enduring champion of the movement to end sexual violence, and dozens of episodes have dealt with the very same issues that have shifted into the spotlight in this country in the past two years. Mariska is a delight as No. 1 on the call sheet and, to me, a true friend.”

The series, which first premiered in 1999, centers on Benson and the rest of the Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department, who investigate crimes of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence. Hargitay has won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her work on the show, and Lt. Benson is now the longest-running female character in a primetime live-action series.

SVU’s current cast also includes Ice T as Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, Kelli Giddish as Det. Amanda Rollins, Peter Scanavino as Det. Sonny Carisi, and Philip Winchester as Asst. District Attorney Peter Stone.

Last fall, showrunner Michael Chernuchin told EW he and the rest of the SVU squad were already looking ahead to that record-breaking season 21. “We want it to be so special,” he said. “We want it to go another five or six years, but becoming the longest-running show in history, we’re all building towards that.”

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays on NBC.

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