Law and Order SVU renewed for season 20: What we know

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT-- Pictured: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBC)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT-- Pictured: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBC) /

Law and Order SVU season 20 is coming to your TV this fall after NBC had SVU renewed on Wednesday ahead of the SVU season 19 finale.

The Law and Order franchise will continue for at least one more year, as Dick Wolf‘s Law and Order SVU was renewed for its 20th season on Wednesday.

The renewal news came from NBC as SVU season 19 as winding down, with the season finale slated for May 23—in a little less than two weeks.

So what do we know about the 20th season so far?

The order means that SVU will tie its predecessor for number of seasons. The original Law & Order ran for 20 seasons until 2010, and seemed to be headed for season 21 until NBC shocked TV fans by cancelling it in May 2010.

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The show also ties both Law & Order and Gunsmoke for the most seasons by a scripted drama in TV history.

Which series is actually on top in the history books is an ongoing debate: while they all have the same number of seasons, Gunsmoke has more episodes than either Dick Wolf show with 635 installments.

However, 233 of those were when the show was a half-hour long, not an hour-long program. If you want to get very technical and only count hour-long episodes, Gunsmoke has 402, while SVU has 431 as of season 19 and the original L&O had 456.

By the end of SVU season 20, it should come close to surpassing the original series but it won’t quite beat it. NBC’s order this season was for 24 episodes, and it needs 26 episodes to become the longest-running Law & Order.

So this next season will be a history-tying season for Law and Order SVU, but not necessarily a history-making one. That would be season 21—which is definitely still a possibility!

And the longest-running primetime TV series overall is FOX‘s The Simpsons, which is on its 29th season with 637 episodes and counting. It broke Gunsmoke‘s episode count last month and had a neat hat tip to that show when it did:

That’s a lot of numbers and technicalities to throw at you, so what does all of this actually mean if you’re an SVU fan? In terms of what you’re going to see, probably not much. The record-tying 20th season is a great accomplishment and something that NBC can use to promote the next cycle of the show, but it’s not the kind of thing that would necessarily impact any creative decisions.

As far as we know this week, the show’s entire current cast is expected to return. So the biggest news is that former Chicago Justice star Philip Winchester will get a second season to play Peter Stone, which is more than he got in the Chicago franchise (and more than his previous NBC show before that, The Player).

And with NBC also renewing all three of Dick Wolf’s One Chicago shows, that means the door is open for more cross-franchise crossovers, although we did not have one in this current season.

To get down to it, SVU season 20 will be business as usual for the series and its stars—with an extra feather in the show’s cap at tying history, and certainly with an eye toward earning a next renewal so that it can break those records.

The one major change is that NBC is moving the series one day later and an hour back, into the Thursdays at 10 p.m. time slot formerly occupied by Chicago Fire (and also by The Player, which ultimately killed that show). It’ll be worth watching to see how SVU’s ratings do in this new slot.

Next: Oxygen renews Dick Wolf's unscripted shows

Are you excited that Law and Order SVU has been renewed for season 20 at NBC? Let us know your reaction to the news in the comments.

Law and Order SVU airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.