NBC commits to more Law & Order: SVU
by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 4th 2009 8:19AM
This doesn't come as a surprise, does it? NBC has ordered an 11th season of Law & Order: SVU. It isn't a surprise because of all the shows on NBC's roster – not including ER, which just had a celebrated swan song – are struggling in the ratings. Law & Order SVU is the lone exception, still drawing nearly 10 million viewers and at least keeping NBC challenging in the Tuesday night ratings.
It's not as strong as it once was, but what show is on NBC? It would have been network hari-kari to let SVU hit the road.
However, before all you Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay fans start breathing a sigh of relief, you might want to read on. It turns out that NBC's renewal is for the show, but not the stars. That still has to be negotiated. Right now their deals end in May. To me, re-signing these charismatic stars should be a slam dunk. Without either of them, SVU is just not the same show. You need them on that show; you want them on that show; you have to have them on that show!
But these days there are no sure things. In 2007, when Meloni and Hargitay signed the current two-year contracts, it was only after a lot of wrangling. Even after getting $330,000 an episode each, there was a lingering bitterness over the fight. And can you blame them for feeling that way?
Look at the kind of money CSI stars are earning, or Kiefer Sutherland ($23 million for one season of 24, as of his last contract). While it's true that we're in a recession and ad revenues are down and NBC is definitely in a downturn, that's not how the stars are looking at it. They see SVU as one of NBC's only sure things and Dick Wolf, the creator/producer, is making a fortune in syndication as every year of the show piles up. Why shouldn't the actors benefit, too?
Here's what is likely to happen: there will be tough negotiations and you'll hear about Mariska Hargitay contemplating staying home full time especially since she's recently had some health issues. In the end, a deal will be done and the stars will stay put. It may only be one more year, but NBC will find a way to keep SVU in the fold. Of course, it won't be a 10 o'clock show anymore unless it moves to Sunday night. Remember, Jay Leno owns all of NBC's weekday 10 o'clocks next season.