LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and ORGANIZED CRIME Bosses Share How They've Crafted a Shared Universe - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and ORGANIZED CRIME Bosses Share How They’ve Crafted a Shared Universe

May 27, 2021 by  

SVU Organized Crime shared universe

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT — “Return of the Prodigal Son” Episode 22007 — Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler, Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson — (Photo by: Christopher Del Sordo/NBC)

As LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT was finishing out its (COVID-impacted) milestone 21st season, a bombshell dropped: NBC had ordered a new L&O series, ORGANIZED CRIME, to be led by former SVU star Christopher Meloni, reprising his role as Elliot Stabler.

Given Meloni’s importance to the first dozen years of SVU’s run—and with his former on-screen partner, Mariska Hargitay, still on SVU, leading up the series as now-Captain Olivia Benson—immediately there were questions about how the two shows might intersect. While, historically, the L&Os were contained to their own show worlds (minus the occasional crossover), in recent years, executive producer Dick Wolf had crafted an entire combined universe with the ONE CHICAGO shows and the growing FBI franchise.

Indeed, SVU showrunner Warren Leight revealed, after season 21 concluded, that the original plan—had they not had to halt production—was to reintroduce the Stabler family in the intended season 21 finale, to set the stage for Stabler’s return…and his reunion with Benson. The plan, at the time, was to bring Stabler back into the SVU world in the season 22 premiere, leading into ORGANIZED CRIME’s fall debut.

But following the national conversation about police reform and a showrunner shift, ORGANIZED CRIME got pushed to midseason, moving back Stabler’s return to SVU. Ilene Chaiken stepped in as showrunner in the fall, and production of the SVU-OC crossover kicked off in December.

And while it was clear Stabler and Benson would—and needed to—interact, staging the reunion had its own challenges. Not only did they have to quickly address the ten years of silence between the former partners (prompted by Meloni’s exit from the show after his then-final episode was filmed), but the two shows were fundamentally different: SVU, a procedural, where the squad took on new cases every week; OC, whose first season was designed to tackle one story/villain for the duration, and dive deeper into character exploration. And, importantly, both shows had their own writing staffs, on entirely different production schedules.

“We’re very much on the same page and good colleagues,” Chaiken says. “But it’s incredibly challenging, because we were in our room, they’re in their room, and we’re making stories, and we’re not on the same schedule. Hopefully in subsequent seasons, we would be on the same schedule…but [this year, they were] way ahead of us in shooting, so at a certain point, we’re still rewriting our script and we do something, and they’ve already shot the crossover episode and it just doesn’t line up, so we have to rejigger everything.”

And it hasn’t just been the big, event-like crossovers bringing the two shows together: though SVU and OC have staged two separate two-hour crossovers in their first six weeks of shared air time, Hargitay has also appeared in a handful of OC episodes, as have SVU stars Peter Scanavino (who plays ADA Carisi) and Demore Barnes (who plays Chief Garland), while Stabler has been mentioned multiple times, sans appearing, on SVU.

For the first time in the LAW & ORDER franchise, the two shows are seamlessly feeding into each other’s storylines—and the plan is for this to continue.

“There’s no perfect formula yet,” Leight admits. “When Ilene finally gets a minimal hiatus—the [amount of work needed on] the first eight episodes of a new show is staggering; forget about [doing a show in the midst of] COVID, it’s just a staggering lift, anyway—we’re all going to sit down: me, [executive producer] Julie [Martin], Ilene and her team, Chris, Mariska, and the Wolf brain trust, and we’re going to talk about the future.”

“A lot of this has been tricky to coordinate,” he continues. “And anything that happens in their show, at the end of their episode, affects the beginning of ours the next week, and anything that ends ours [can impact them]. We’re in each other’s kitchens and we’re saying, ‘Don’t use that spice, we just used that spice.’ Luckily, Ilene is very gracious and a beautiful writer. We both have had to say, ‘Oh wait, if you guys are doing that then, then we’ll do this.’ But sometimes, they’ll need something and we’ll have to figure out the dance.”

To help facilitate the awareness of each other’s shows, they share scripts and rough cuts when the other show is impacted in an episode. “We talk to make sure that neither of us is doing anything that disrupts the storytelling from the other show,” Chaiken says. “And then when we do a big crossover, we work very closely together. It’s really fun.”

And there has been a quasi-unexpected wild card: “Sometimes, something will happen on set, that neither of [the writing teams] anticipated, where [Hargitay and Meloni] will get on set and find a beat that really, really works, because, guess what, they know their characters,” Leight notes. “And it’s not what we had planned, but it works really well and it affects things going forward.”

“This was the year of zooming and being nimble, and we just have to stay open,” he continues.

Leight has also been cognizant that while Stabler’s state of mind is getting explored in OC, there isn’t exactly the same show real estate to do the same with Benson on SVU. (A recent episode, however, revealed that Olivia had reached out to her therapist to discuss Stabler’s return.)

“It’s been tricky,” Leight says. “Also, Elliot is in extremis right now. He’s in the midst of an unimaginably painful crisis. So his character [with] PTS is all over the place. There’s a lot of people telling Olivia, ‘Be careful around this guy.’ And a lot of people telling Elliot, ‘Be careful.’ But they’re interwoven; they’re braided together. There’s too much history for them to just say, ‘Well, my, my boss said to give you some distance, so I’m going to walk away.’ That can’t happen. But there’s a slight imbalance [in exploring that].”

“Our show is Olivia at the head of a ensemble, solving a crime every week,” he continues. “And theirs is a serialized story of a man coping with the death and murder of his wife. It’s two very different shows, tonally, emotionally, so you will get more insight into [Elliot]. He is in crisis, where Olivia is reacting to the return of Elliot her life—but she’s captain of her unit. She has a kid, she has a good team of people; she’s in a very different place. I find that interesting: Years ago, in some ways, Elliot was the more experienced detective, and her life was sort of isolated, and she had that lousy apartment that I hated. Now, it’s 10 years later and she’s more centered and settled than he is. And so it makes sense to me that you spend more time with his emotional state than Olivia’s.”

But as the two teams continue to navigate how the shows will blend—whether it’s tackling where the Stabler/Benson relationship goes from here or addressing the big things the duo missed in the decade they were apart—the writers are committed to working together.

“The big fear is you end up with a parallel universe where Olivia’s married on OC to Stabler and dating [someone else] on our show…that would be bad writing,” Leight says. “So we keep in touch.”

“We will never make a decision [about big moments in their relationship] that hasn’t been made jointly,” Chaiken adds. “We might have an idea that we want to do something, where we want something to happen for Benson and Stabler at a certain point in our season, but we bring it to Warren and Julie, so we all discuss whether it’s a good idea. Because there’s no question that it’s going to impact them as well. And likewise, when they want to tell a story in which Stabler or any of the OC characters appears, they’ll do the same for us.”

“And we have a rule,” she continues with a laugh. “We’re just not allowed to kill one of their characters without telling them.”




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.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made through links/ads placed on the site.


4 Responses to “LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and ORGANIZED CRIME Bosses Share How They’ve Crafted a Shared Universe”

  1. Angela Yoho on May 28th, 2021 10:17 am

    These two shows are doing a great job of interlacing stories! Two of the best written and acted drama’s on network television currently. Please continue the great work. Personally I hope Benson and Stabler get together down the road, but I’m engaged in the unforeseen journey. The two actors have out of this world chemistry that has gotten stronger if possible.

  2. Carmela on May 29th, 2021 2:26 am

    Please don’t put Stabler with anyone ,to soon .Especially the lady that had his wife killed that would be a kick in the face to his wife’s memory. Also the mother of his children. The only person he should end up with down the road should be Olivia.

  3. Melodie Michelle Wood on May 29th, 2021 4:06 am

    I think Elliot and Benson’s getting together a bit down the road would be AWESOME for SUV and CO fans everywhere!
    I know I’ve watched SVU since it came out years ago and I was extremely happy that they find a way to bring Elliot back! There was to much passion between their characters for this not to happen;-)

  4. Melodie Michelle Wood on May 29th, 2021 4:34 am

    I’ve watched SVU since the beginning and I’ve almost caught up on OC!

    SOMEHOW, I’ve always known that Elliott wasn’t gone forever when he left SVU that season and look, I was right! From day one Stabler and Benson had chemistry with passion between their two characters and everyone felt it!

    I was so floored when Stabler was introduced back to SVU a few shows back. It was electrifying to say the least! I then started following OC and the why SVU and I intertwine is