Evaluating Law and Order SVU’s fall schedule

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) /

Now that Law and Order SVU has a premiere date, how does it fit into NBC’s fall schedule? We evaluate Law and Order SVU’s fall plans.

With NBC having confirmed a premiere date for Dick Wolf‘s Law and Order SVU season 20, we’re taking a look at the show’s place on the network’s fall schedule—and what impact that could have on next season.

Yes, the show is back for its record-tying 20th season, and the renewal this time was a lot quicker than it was last season (possibly because it’s a milestone season).

But it’s got a new day and a new time slot, and those things could possibly be problematic when the series returns in September.

So how concerned should fans be about what’s up next?

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First, the good news: SVU season 20 is bringing the show back to 10:00 p.m., which is a better fit given the series’ hard-hitting topics and willingness to go to some dark places.

Not that 9:00 p.m. was bad, but 10:00 p.m. has just always felt like that’s where this show belongs.

And there’s the interesting fact that now, NBC has put this show on every weeknight on its primetime schedule.

But shifting it to Thursdays is a minefield, given how other networks have changed their schedules for the fall.

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Fans of Chicago Fire know how Thursdays on NBC are a difficult spot, because Thursday is NBC’s comedy block, which isn’t compatible with the Dick Wolf drama properties; they’re totally different ends of the TV spectrum.

It got even harder for Fire when the 9:30 p.m. comedy was a brand-new series, Champions, which flopped and was ultimately cancelled. And it’s still going to be hard this fall for SVU.

The lead-ins for Thursday next season are all comedies. And the direct lead-in for SVU is another new sitcom, I Feel Bad, which is getting its buzz mostly on the fact that it’s executive produced by Amy Poehler.

It’s hard to see how anyone watching that show will want to stay for Olivia Benson and company. And while that series doesn’t premiere until Oct. 4, there’s another, bigger threat for Benson right out of the gate.

Starting with its season premiere on Sept. 27, SVU season 20 will be going directly head-to-head with Thursday Night Football, which FOX took over from NBC after last season. Live sports almost always dominate the broadcast TV ratings.

To see first-hand the impact that NFL football can have on a show, fans can look close to home: it’s part of what killed Philip Winchester’s first NBC series, The Player, which had the exact same 10:00 p.m. Thursday time slot that SVU now lives in.

SVU will probably have better luck, because unlike The Player its target audience isn’t the men 18-49 group that also watches football, but from September until Dec. 13 it will have a Goliath to slay for sure.

As far as its regular competition, there’s not so much to worry about. ABC has How to Get Away with Murder, which Chicago Fire usually beat in the TV ratings last fall. CBS has its SWAT remake, which was solid but by no means a barn-burner. The CW will be airing local news.

Next: Watch the trailer for Dick Wolf's new series FBI

If Law and Order SVU season 20 can deal with its utter lack of a lead-in and withstand that NFL football onslaught, it should do fairly well in its new home. Audiences should expect from it about what Fire was able to pull off last season, and NBC is clearly happy with that.

Law and Order SVU returns to NBC on Sept. 27.