Neal Baer on ER and LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT's Milestone Anniversaries - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Neal Baer on ER and LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT’s Milestone Anniversaries

September 19, 2019 by  

ER SVU Anniversary

Credit: NBCU

A number of shows are reaching milestones this fall, but LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (celebrating its 20th anniversary and milestone 21st season on television) and ER (25th anniversary) share a common thread: executive producer Neal Baer. (SVU star Mariska Hargitay also had a brief arc on ER when Baer was an EP.)

Baer, who is also a doctor, was brought on to ER for his medical expertise. “I believe I’m the first doctor-writer on TV,” he points out. While other shows broke the stories first and then added the medicine in later, “[creator] John Wells’ insight and foresight flipped it and started the foundation with [doctors], recounting our stories. So it was built on the medicine.” 

Both series were ahead of their times…a move that wasn’t without risk. “I’m very grateful to NBC for allowing us for 18 years—I did seven on ER and 11 on SVU—to do these hard-hitting shows that still resonate to the audience,” Baer says.

“I’m so proud of what we were able to do because of Gloria [Reuben]’s storyline,” he says. “[Her character, Jeanie] was the first ongoing HIV+ character who didn’t die a horrible death. And that showed that people can live a full life; that there’s nothing to be afraid of. And if I never did anything else, I would be probably most proud of that. I love Gloria and Michael Beach, and I’ve worked with them since. And they were really great to do it.”

“And also, all the ethical dilemmas we played on the show,” he continues. “I feel that it was a touchstone for people that understand and see other sides of life. And for me to write Laura Innes’ character [Kerry] as a lesbian—I was in the closet then, and I wrote a lot of gay-oriented storylines on that show. Then also in SVU, I made Ice-T’s [character’s] son gay. And we did the first story about a trans kid who took hormone blockers for Kate Moennig, who played a trans woman forced to go into a man’s prison. Doing these things for the first time and putting it out there, there’s just nothing better.” 

Though the LAW & ORDER franchise is known for its ripped from the headline stories, “SVU, I used to say the headlines would be ripped from us,” Baer notes. As such, they tackled a number of hot-button issues years before they became a part of the larger public conversation

“[There was an arc where Olivia] sent in her DNA to the find her [biological] father and ends up finding her brother, because we did a lot of deep diving with experts and consultants, and reading on what was going on,” he recalls. “That was, now, how they found the Grim Sleeper. Someone went to the 23 and Me and they found the guy. And we did early shows about rape in the military and raping college campuses. And it wasn’t until later, after a number of documentaries came out, it really got attention and it’s because it has to build. And I couldn’t get the attention I wanted to it [at the time].”


LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT — Season: 21 — Pictured: Kelli Giddish as Detective Amanda Rollins, Peter Scanavino as Detective Sonny Carisi, Ice T as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, Mariska Hargitay as Lieutenant Olivia Benson — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Thanks to the timelessness of both shows, they remain part of the modern pop culture world—ER via reruns on Pop and streaming on Hulu, while SVU is still running new episodes on NBC.

“I always said there were two things that kept SVU popular: one is Mariska as Olivia, because every year, new young women find her,” Baer says. “She is a role model, plain and simple, that speaks to them. So we’d recruit new viewers constantly.”

“[And] there are so many topics [still timely] today,” he continues. “I was listening to the radio about a story on solitary confinement, which isn’t humane. We did this incredible episode with Stephen Rea and Christopher Meloni[’s Stabler] seeing what it was really like. And wow, we did that years ago, and it’s now finally getting the attention it deserves. I think people just keep watching SVU, young people, and it doesn’t age. I just read about ER in the same way: it’s one of the most popular shows among millennials on Hulu. The average age is 27. And it doesn’t age, first of all, because everyone is in scrubs and scrubs help.”

And he’s experienced the next wave of fans in his more recent shows. “One of our writers [at DESIGNATED SURVIVOR was] in her late 20s [would] come in every day [after seeing a new episode],” he recalls. “’Oh my God, Neal, George just saved the kid.’ I wrote that episode. I was reliving [it through her], ‘What did you see today?’ ‘Oh my god, George brought in the woman with seizures and she died. We didn’t know her name.’”

But even though it’s been years since he wrote for either show (he left ER in 2000, SVU in 2011), Baer admits every once in a while he stumbles across something that he wishes he had done on one of the shows. “I did it for SVU for a while—I would call up Peter Jankowski, and say there’s a story about a rapist who got custody of his child because there was no law that said he shouldn’t. I wish we had done that!”


Follow @GiveMeMyRemote and @marisaroffman on Twitter for the latest TV news. Connect with other TV fans on GIVE ME MY REMOTE’s official Facebook page.

And be the first to see our exclusive videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel at

Filed under ER, Law & Order, SVU

Comments Off on Neal Baer on ER and LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT’s Milestone Anniversaries


Comments are closed.