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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit loses showrunner

Law & Order SVU
Carisi (Peter Scanavino) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) discuss a case on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Pic credit: NBC

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is now searching for a new boss.

Warren Leight announced he would be stepping down as showrunner for the series after its 23rd season. 

There is no word on any replacement for the man who’s guided the series for the last several years as it prepares for Season 24. 

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its showrunner history

When Law & Order: Special Victims Unit began in 1999, the concept of the “showrunner” was different than today. Executive producer Dick Wolf oversaw the first season before his commitment to other series had him step back.

Barry Diller took on the duties of guiding the show from scripts to production and handled that until the end of Season 12. His exit coincided with Christopher Meloni also leaving the series as Elliot Stabler.

Warren Leight took over showrunner duties for Season 13 and held the position until Season 18. He was replaced by Rick Eid (who now is the showrunner for FBI), with Michael S. Chernuchin taking over for Season 19. 

Leight returned as showrunner for Season 21 and has kept at the job since. In a lengthy thread on his Twitter feed, Leight revealed he would be departing, citing the complications of filming the last few seasons during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Warren Leight's tweet about final day of shooting
Pic credit: @warrenleightTV/Twitter

“The final day of shooting is always bittersweet. Today was a little more than that. As some of you have already figured out, I am stepping down at the end of #SVU23. The last two years of show running during a pandemic have been arduous, and I’ve decided to take a break.”

The long thread had Leight praising the cast and production crew, citing several of the difficulties of filming over the last few seasons. He ended it with praise for the fans. 

“Finally, I’d like to thank the fans. You’ve stayed loyal to the show, and vocal in your support and occasional dismay, for 23 years. No other show can say that, and so you know, EVERYBODY at #SVU is grateful to you for that commitment. You too are part of this team.”

Warren Leight's tweet thanking fans
Pic credit: @warrenleightTV/Twitter

Leight’s exit does provide one more shakeup for the Law & Order franchise as the seasons wrap up.

What’s next for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?

Leight had been hinting at a possible exit in a post a few days earlier discussing the filming of the Season 23 finale (which has the return of Raúl Esparza as Rafael Barba).

“As the days dwindle down, to a precious few…It takes a village to get the #SVU23Finale produced. This is [maybe] 1/20th of the people involved. It is a joy to work with them all.”

Leight’s exit comes not long after Ilene Chaiken departed her role as showrunner for Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2. 

With the Season 23 finale done, NBC has time to find a replacement showrunner, although there hasn’t been word of any other changes. Given the daring storylines Law & Order: Special Victims Unit tackles every week, that can be challenging. 

NBC had already given Law & Order: Special Victims Unit a three-season renewal in early 2020, guaranteeing Season 24. This will solidify it as the longest-running prime-time drama in network TV history.

While the departure of a showrunner is a big deal, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will have time to find a new boss to prepare for another huge year of drama to come.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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