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18 Years 400 EpisodesOne Unstoppable Franchise Image Credit: TV Guide Magazine
18 Years 400 EpisodesOne Unstoppable Franchise Image Credit: TV Guide Magazine

18 Years… 400 Episodes… One Unstoppable Franchise!

NBC’s heart-racing investigation drama marks a major milestone. Plus: A look at what’s on the horizon and how the cop tale has evolved over two newsworthy decades.

Ileane Rudolph

In the fall of 1999, Hurricane Floyd swept through the Southeast, Donald J. Trump announced his first run for POTUS—on the Reform Party ticket—and producer Dick Wolf launched his very first Law & Order spinoff, Special Victims Unit. Eighteen years later, Trump has finally won that coveted job, and SVU is the third longest running live-action scripted show in TV history, after its progenitor and Gunsmoke, both tied at 20 seasons. On February 8, the beloved procedural will air its 400th episode as it inches closer to Law & Order’s grand total of 456. (Gunsmoke holds a record at 635.) Not bad for a show whose intro touts a focus on “especially heinous” sex-based offenses (one early review stated it featured “crimes that will have the cops and viewers holding their stomachs”).

Delicate constitutions aside, SVU’s longevity and continued sturdy ratings have been propelled by what cast member Ice T—who’s been playing Det. Fin Tutuola since way back in Season 2—cites as “a whodunit format that offers a chance for fans to play detective each week.” And that audience is not exactly who you’d expect. “We’re seeing a whole new generation rediscover the show on streaming [services like Hulu],” says NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. “Our audience is getting younger year to year, which is incredibly rare


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