Can you believe that we are entering season 18 of “Law & Order: SVU“? This is truly an astounding number, especially in an era of hyper-competition on broadcast television. When you look around at broadcast television, few shows have been around a longer stretch of time. This is the longest-tenured scripted drama currently on the air, and only one scripted series in “The Simpsons” has been around longer on network TV.
So what has made it so successful? You have to start with great writing, since without that there are no pages for the actors to read. There are no compelling stories, and it is harder for the characters to be memorable. The various writers and showrunners over the years have done a tremendous job making the show perpetually relevant, touching on issues both in the press and the legal system.
From there, you can then talk about the cast, fronted by the incredible Mariska Hargitay, who has proven to be both a champion to stop domestic violence both on the show and off. Benson is an iconic character, and at this point part of the appeal for viewers to see her is a little bit of stability in a relatively-unstable world.
The question that we’ve mentioned on CarterMatt in the past, and we’ll continue to mention over the coming weeks, is this: Could we get to a season 20? Could this show match both the original “Law & Order” and “Gunsmoke” to become tied for the longest-running scripted drama ever on network TV? The obvious case for it is that the show continues to fare well, and to go along with that is a strong player in DVR ratings and also internationally.
However, you don’t want to celebrate an achievement before it is announced, given that NBC has not formally made a decision beyond this season. For now, the biggest reason to have confidence is that the numbers for season 17 were down only 1% from season 16 in the adults 18-49 demographic, which is incredibly impressive when you consider that the show was up against quite a bit of “Empire” over the course of the year.
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