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  • Actor Allusion:
    • Jeremy Irons ("Mask") playing a sex-addict who slept with his daughter. Turns out it was actually her similar-looking best friend (he was drunk, she consented).
    • Alex Kingston of Doctor Who fame playing a defense attorney in Season 10 named Miranda Pond. May also double as Hilarious in Hindsight depending on when she was cast.
    • When Tutuola joined the show, his previous background was in Narcotics, which was the job of Ice-T's character in New Jack City.
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    • And when Lee Tergesen guest-starred as a suspect in the episode "Savior," he and Elliot got very touchy-feely in the interrogation room as they prayed together, undoubtedly a reference to their intimate times in prison together.
    • Harold Perrineau recently played a wheelchair-using ex-con ("Secrets Exhumed") who is now going back to prison for several rapes committed before he became a paraplegic, much as he did on Oz (though sadly this was after Christopher Meloni's departure)
    • Reg E. Cathey's character Barry Querns also bears the same surname as the character he played on Oz. Given the numerous other Oz allusions in the show, this was probably an intentional Shout Out.
    • The Cold Opening for "Loophole" had Bill Goldberg as a perp hopped up on PCP. Elliot clocks him in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher and gets trashed for his efforts. What finally stops the rage? Fin with a chair to the head.
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    • "Ballerina": A roommate seeing his friend in the kitchen with a knife and an ear print being discovered at the first crime scene.
    • Amaro at one point visits a Cold Case unit. Also, "Secrets Exhumed" begins the same way most Cold Case episodes did, with one character (in this case, Munch) saying that they'd gotten a break in an old case. Munch hands the case file to Amaro.
    • In "Above Suspicion" , Cassidy mockingly refers to Amaro as Ricky Ricardo. Danny Pino portrayed Desi Arnaz in the 2003 TV movie Lucy.
    • Anyone old enough to remember Donal Logue's Jimmy the Cab Driver sketches on MTV should smile at Lt. Murphy's perp disguise in "Spring Awakening."
    • Pablo Schreiber who plays William Lewis, the raging psychopath (and briefly prisoner) on this series was also moonlighting as a slightly less psychopathic prison guard on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
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    • While Schreiber played a criminal on this series and a C.O. on another series, he actually portrayed a completely sane, crime-fighting detective on the short-lived cop drama Ironside (2013), which coincidentally aired right after SVU during the Wednesday night line-up.
    • Jefferson Mays plays an M.E. named Carl Ruddnick, who cross dresses frequently for the sake of covering up his crimes. Mays was nominated for a Tony for his role in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder as the D'Ysquith Family - a role which required him to master quick changes in order to play multiple male and female roles within the same family. The difference here is that Mays' characters are the ones that are murdered over the course of the play.
    • In the episode "Father Dearest", a missing girl's father angrily demands that they call the FBI in when it appears that the cops are having no luck. The man was played by Eric Close, who spent seven years playing a member of the FBI's Missing Persons Unit on Without a Trace.
  • Actor-Shared Background:
  • Adored by the Network: USA Network and Ion Television absolutely adores marathons of this series. Justified, as like it's original series, the series is a huge money maker on syndication thank to its huge episode count.
  • Arch-Enemy: Averted with Lewis, for Benson, when he kills himself in front of (and all over) her in his fourth episode. Word of God says this was to avoid what happened in Law & Order: Criminal Intent where it seemed ridiculous that the enemy couldn't be caught by the detectives nor smart enough to stay away.
  • Billing Displacement:
    • Despite being a cast member since Season 2, Ice-T has been billed below several cast members who joined in later, specifically Diane Neal (Seasons 5-9), Michaela McManus (Season 10), Danny Pino (Seasons 13-16), and Kelli Giddish (since Season 13). Pino and Giddish were also billed before original cast member Richard Belzer until Belzer's departure in Season 15.
    • Likewise, both B.D. Wong and Tamara Tunie were part of the cast since Season 2. Though they only got their Promotion to Opening Titles in later seasons (Seasons 4 and 7, respectively), they were still billed below cast members who joined in later, specifically Diane Neal, Adam Beach (Season 9), and Michaela McManus. It even applies between Wong and Tunnie themselves. Wong is billed and promoted before Tunnie despite the latter debuting much earlier and having more screen time.
  • The Cast Showoff:
    • SVU has had exactly three episodes featuring French (or Franco-African) characters, two of which just so happened to be when Detective Beck was on the show. Interestingly, it appears that the writers actually showed restraint on this one, seeing as Connie Nielsen speaks eight languages.
    • Averted when an episode shows most of the characters watching an Expy of American Idol. The only one not shown singing along is Barba, who is played by Broadway legend Raúl Esparza.
  • Cast the Runner-Up:
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Ice-T (who's a gamer himself) wasn't fond of "Intimidation Games," as he made clear on his Twitter after it aired.
    • Marcia Gay Harden regrets her final appearance as Dana Lewis, feeling that the show did the character an extreme disservice.
  • The Danza:
    • In the episode "Friending Emily," Taylor Spreitler guest stars as the victim's sister, Taylor Culphers.
    • The Victim of the Week in "Agent Provocateur", Madison Baker, is played by Madison Grace.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • Elliot Stabler (b. 1966) is played by Christopher Meloni (b. 1961).
    • Olivia Benson (b. 1968) is played by Mariska Hargitay (b. 1964).
    • The Season 6 episode "Obscene" revolves around 16-year old starlet Jessie Dawning, played by then 21-year old Maggie Grace.
    • In-universe: In the episode "Demon", they try to see if a rapist is guilty by baiting him with an adult cop who can pass for a teenager.
  • Directed by Cast Member:
    • Mariska Hargitay directed Season 15's "Criminal Stories", Season 16's "Padre Sandungeuro", Season 17's "A Misunderstanding" and "Sheltered Outcasts", Season 18's "Motherly Love", Season 21's "She Paints For Vengeance".
    • Chad Lowe, who guest-starred in the Season 2 episode "Pique", directed the Season 4 episode "Soulless".
    • Monica Raymund, who had a minor role in the Season 9 episode "Authority" (and later Chicago Fire regular Gabriela Dawson), directed the Season 20 episode "Hell's Kitchen".
  • Fake American: Adam Beach, who played Chester Lake, is from Manitoba.
  • Fandom Nod: in 11x13, "P.C.", Kathy Griffin's lesbian character coming onto Liv. The reasons she gives for her mistake are pretty much the same ones fans have been using for their Slash Fic since, oh, the start of the show. Olivia asking, "Why does everyone think I'm a lesbian?", Olivia fooling the suspect into confessing by pretending to be a lesbian, swaggering into the interrogation room in a leather jacket, it has it all.
  • Fan Nickname: After one too many uses of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, Elliot became widely known as "UnStabler."
  • Hide Your Pregnancy:
    • Why Olivia disappeared for part of season 8.
    • Averted in season 17 with Kelli Giddish's pregnancy. There's almost a Running Gag of the characters telling Rollins to stop pushing herself so hard when she's pregnant. The gag becomes much less funny when she has to be put on bed rest.
  • Image Source:
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • During the first half of the 2011 season, the episode "Missing Pieces" in which a mother claims that her car was stolen with her young son still buckled into his car seat bore more than a passing resemblance to the still-unfolding Sky Metalwala case.
    • "Personal Fouls" which revolves around a well-respected coach who uses a children's charity to molest young boys originally aired a few weeks before the Penn State molestation story broke. However, according to The Other Wiki, this one was actually based on a different sports abuse case.
    • In the episode "Imprisoned Lives," based on Ariel Castro but written before he was convicted, a scene with not-Castro allocuting about why he took the girls had to be cut when it ended up matching Castro's almost word for word.
    • Tragically, this real life case is disturbingly similar to both the season 4 episode "Resilience," in which a father artificially inseminates his teenage daughter, and, to lesser extent, the season 5 episode "Home," where a mother is an extreme control freak over her home-schooled children.
  • The Other Darrin: Kathleen Stabler was played by Holiday Segal in Season 1. Allison Siko took over the role starting Season 3. It's notable since the rest of the Stabler children retained their actors.
  • Out of Order: The second episode of season 2 featuring Monique Jeffries occurs late in the season yet is obviously meant to have been much earlier on. Hints include Fin wearing the same outfit as when first introduced as well as actually mentioning Fin's first name. The other episode featuring Jeffries involved her resigning from the force and Fin taking her place.
  • Playing Their Own Twin:
    • Mili Avital as Ava Parulis and Irina Burton in Season 2's "Parasites".
    • Creator/ReileyMcClendon as Logan and Lindsay Stanton in Season 6's "Identity".
    • TR Knight as Gabriel Thomas and Brian Smith in Season 13's "Double Strands".
  • Queer Character, Queer Actor: Dr. Huang is gay as is his actor, B.D. Wong.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Crossing with Romance on the Set, Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson) met her future husband Peter Hermann (Trevor Langan) on set. SVU had a hell of a time covering up her pregnancy in Season 8. She also pulled a few strings to have her father, Mickey Hargitay, cast in a small role in Season 5, quite openly saying that she'd always wanted to work with him at least once. This would be the elder Hargitay's final screen credit (he died three years later).
    • Diane Neal's (Casey Novak) ex-husband Marcus Fitzgerald guest-starred in Season 8's "Underbelly".
    • Kelli Giddish's pregnancy was incorporated into Rollins' story in Season 17, resulting in Giddish's own baby boy being brought to set to play Rollins' daughter Jesse in a few episodes.
    • Recurring Character Officer Montero, who first shows up at the end of Season 19 as the officer also held hostage alongside Olivia is played by Mariska Hargitay's cousin, Eddie Hargitay.
    • Richard Belzer's cousin, Henry Winkler, was cast as a Villain of the Week for Season 3's "Greed"
  • Reality Subtext:
    • Much like Olivia, Mariska Hargitay grew up with only one parent. In Mariska's case it's due to her mother's tragic death when she was only three, whereas Olivia is a Child by Rape.
    • Barba and Benson's close onscreen friendship springs from the fact that Raúl Esparza and Mariska Hargitay clicked with each other from their first meeting and rapidly became close in real life (Esparza has said on more than one occasion that working with Hargitay is his favorite thing about the show).
    • Kelli Giddish and Peter Scanavino have also admitted that Rollins and Carisi's close onscreen relationship reflects the fact that the two actors are also very close in real life.
    • The Elliot/Olivia vs Elliot/Kathy shipping wars can get very nasty. In real life, Mariska Hargitay considers Isabel Gillies, who plays Kathy, as one of her best friends.
    • Munch mentions a couple of times that his father committed suicide when he was a teenager. Richard Belzer's father died by suicide when Belzer was in his twenties.
    • Munch & Finn's friendly sniping at each other and mutual snarkiness is based in large part on the real friendship between Ice-T & Richard Belzer.
    • A subplot from Season 2's "Taken", dropped in part due to the Unfortunate Implications, would have revealed that Olivia's mother lied about being raped. In "Florida", when Olivia learns the identity of her biological father, she briefly considers the possibility that her mother might have lied about being raped, but ultimately determines that he had raped at least one other woman, leading Olivia to conclude that her mother was telling the truth. The way the arc plays out pretty much mirrors the development of it.
    • Their introduction in Season 13 present Rollins and Amaro as New Meats, with the latter being the more experienced one. At the time, both Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino have just starred on two Police Procedurals; Pino on Cold Case which ran seven seasons, Giddish on Chase which ran with just one.
  • Recast as a Regular: Counting only those who are recast as main characters here.
  • Recycled Script: SVU has a nasty habit of doing this with the original and then adding The Unfair Sex aspects to the plot. For example, in the original Law & Order 1995 episode "Bitter Fruit," a young girl is kidnapped between school and her music lesson and later killed. While it was questionable exactly who did it due to the fact that they both were Jerkasses. In the end it turns out it was the mother and while she tried to blame her ex husband she was given the maximum sentence. However “Shattered” had the exact same plot only they eliminated all of the ex husbands jerkassiness while transforming the mother into the biggest Misandrist that they possibly could. It turns out that it was the father who kidnapped his son even though that made absolutely no sense.
    • Another recycled script from the Mothership was used in the season 5 episode "Poison." The plot was taken from Law & Order's season 7 episode "I.D." Both episodes deal with a corrupt judge railroading an otherwise open and shut murder trial because of his personal biases and dislike of the ADA (Jamie Ross in the original and Casey Novak in the SVU version) handling the case. The ADA eventually gains the upper hand and exposes the judge at the end of the episode.
    • Season 19 episode "Complicated" is a beat-for-beat remake of season 10's episode "Stranger," right down to the ending twist. The only difference is the added subplot concerning the neverending drama of Olivia's adopted son Noah and his recently surfaced biological grandmother who is fighting Olivia for custody.
    • Season 13's "Theatre Tricks" has a nearly identical premise to Season 10's "Liberties", although they admittedly play out very differently: "Liberties" established almost immediately who was responsible and used that to lead into a Halfway Plot Switch, while the entirety of "Theatre Tricks" is focused on the detectives trying to determine the identity of the perpetrator.
    • Another Season 13 episode, "Lost Traveler", bears a very strong resemblance to the Season 1 episode "Uncivilized". Both involve a missing child turning up dead, both have an initial suspect arc that turns out to be a Red Herring, and in both cases, the two teenage witnesses turn out to be the killers. The episodes even have similar dynamics between the pairs of killers, with one teen being horrified and remorseful, while the other, the instigator, just shrugs it off.
    • Season 7 episode "Strain" rehashes the script for season two episode "Victims" nearly verbatim, including the killer's motive, with the only change being setting the story within the gay community.
  • Referenced by...: Sesame Street spoofed the show as "Special Letters Unit", which later leads to Richard Belzer making a "Sesame Street" Cred.
  • Star-Making Role: The show that made Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni TV icons.
  • Starring a Star as a Star:
    • Maggie Grace plays popular TV star Jessie Dawning in the Season 6 episode "Obscene".
    • Norman Reedus plays popular rock star and activist Derek Lord in the Season 7 finale "Influence".
    • Bailey Chase plays NFL superstar Lincoln Haver in the Season 9 episode "Closet".
    • Antwon "Big Boi" Patton of Outkast plays Hip-Hop artist Gots Money in the Season 10 episode "Wildlife".
    • Carol Burnett plays the eponymous legendary ballerina Birdie Sulloway in the Season 10 episode "Ballerina".
    • Mehcad Brooks plays NBA superstar Prince Miller in the Season 13 episode "Personal Fouls".
    • Chad L. Coleman plays NFL superstar A.J. Martin in the Season 16 episode "Spousal Privilege".
  • Technology Marches On:
    • Inevitable given that SVU premiered in 1999. The show's adjustment to the existence of social media occasionally veers into the hilarious.
    • Often swerves into their Technologically Blind Elders — the characters are frequently exasperated by the Evil Internet, but the writers themselves have a very shaky grasp of how popular websites work (see their definition of "blogging" as "daily visits to one website" and describing a Twitter account as having thousands of "friends" and featuring posts from many different users. That's...not how that works.)
  • Trolling Creator:
    • Warren Leight having Olivia describe her relationship with Elliot as one where she was completely unable to grow. Even the positive interpretation of that, that she held herself back because she was nursing unrequited love for him, mightily pissed fans off.
    • Leight's use of characters from seasons beyond his era has resulted in major character derailment with half-assed justifications for those developments. Major examples include:
      • Dr. George Huang, who worked with SVU from seasons 2-12 (with occasional episodes in 13, 14, and 15), returns for an episode in season 17 to help another lawyer win her case by stating that Liv coerced a confession out of him. Not only was Liv pissed, but Leight has stated that there's little hope for Huang and Liv's professional relationship because Liv holds grudges.
      • As of mid-season 17, Liv is dating IAB Captain Ed Tucker - the same officer who relentlessly persecuted various SVU officers (including Liv herself!) over seasons 3-15. When asked what could have led to this development, Leight stated that Liv has decided to let go of the past and that the relationship makes sense since Liv hasn't had time to look elsewhere due to having a toddler at home. What.
  • Troubled Production:
    • Season 9 was produced with less episodes than normal (19 vs the usual 22-24) due to the 2007-2008 Writers Strike.
    • Production of the last four episodes of Season 21 was cut short due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic.
  • Underage Casting: Alexandra Cabot (b. 1968) is played by Stephanie March (b. 1974).
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The Season 1 episode "Limitations" had the detectives rushing to catch a serial rapist before the five-year statute of limitations ran out. The prosecutor tried to indict the rapist using his DNA profile but the court wouldn't allow it. In real life, New York State courts have since ruled that DNA indictments are permissible and the law was rewritten in 2006 so that the statute of limitations doesn't apply to first-degree rape.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Nick Chinlund, Tim Matheson, and John Slattery were the actors considered to play Elliot Stabler before Christopher Meloni was cast, with Chinlund being the runner-up according to Meloni himself.
    • Samantha Mathis and Reiko Aylesworth were the actresses considered to play Olivia Benson before Mariska Hargitay was cast.
    • Both Fin and Barba were supposed to be only four-episode characters, but their popularity caused the show to keep them as regulars.
    • It was originally going to be revealed that Olivia's mother lied about being raped.
    • Originally, upon Homicide's cancellation and after hearing that Benjamin Bratt was leaving the original series, Richard Belzer suggested to Dick Wolf that Munch become Lennie Briscoe's new partner, since they had originally teamed in three Homicide crossovers. Wolf loved the idea, but had already cast Jesse L. Martin as Det. Ed Green.
    • The creators actually considered making Elliot and Olivia a couple during the former's marital problems between Seasons 6-8, complete with scenes of Olivia dreaming of Elliot and appearing jealous of him and Dani's (her replacement) closeness, before deciding that the two are much Better as Friends.
    • Kathy and Dickie Stabler are supposed to guest star in the Season 21 finale to serve as a Sequel Hook for the returning Elliot's upcoming Spin-Off, but production for the last four episodes of the season were halted due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic.
  • The Wiki Rule: Law and Order Wiki.
  • You Look Familiar: Aside from the ones Recast as a Regular above;
    • This guy has played an FDNY Captain, a bartender, and a character named Erik Pullham. And that's only on SVU. On Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent he has played four additional one-off characters.
    • This lady played two different characters in season 4 and season 5.
    • Mili Avital appeared in prominent roles in both the Pilot and the Season 2 episode "Parasites".
    • Noelle Beck played two different characters in Seasons 1 and 12.
    • Hayden Panettiere has played two different characters within 5 years (in Season 2 and Season 6).
    • Liza Lapira has played two other characters besides a lab tech, see here.
    • Peyton List played two different characters in Seasons 2 and 4.
    • Nestor Serrano played two different characters in Seasons 2 and 6.
    • Sarah Hyland played two different characters in Seasons 3 and 10, in addition to her guest-stints on both Law & Order: Trial by Jury and the original Law & Order.
    • Paige Turco played two different characters in Seasons 3 and 13. Both times with Diane Neal, coincidentally.
    • Kyle Gallner has appeared on the show as two different characters, in Season 4 and Season 9.
    • Elizabeth Mitchell played two different characters in Seasons 4 and 12.
    • Chad L. Coleman played to different characters in Seasons 4 and 16, in addition to two prior appearances on Law & Order.
    • Samantha Mathis played three different characters in Seasons 5, 15, and 21, plus a guest appearance on Law & Order: Criminal Intent during its fifth season.
    • Kyle MacLachlan played two different characters in Seasons 6 and 13. Both times as a father whose son was killed by another boy, coincidentally.
    • Paget Brewster played two different characters in Seasons 8 and 14.
    • Wentworth Miller played two different characters in Seasons 11 and 21.
    • Alyssa Sutherland played two different characters in Seasons 12 and 20.
    • Andre Braugher as an attorney. Kinda weird, given that Homicide: Life on the Street exists in the same universe as the Law & Order series. It works because Frank Pembleton never appeared on SVU and (aside from Munch) never met or worked with any of the SVU characters. Lampshaded when Munch greets Ellis in a familiar (and sarcastic) way, and Ellis replies "Have we met?"
    • Lothaire Bluteau seems to be the guy the producers have on speed dial whenever they need a vaguely European-ish creep (although the actor is actually Canadian), having played such roles in three episodes. He's also appeared as separate characters on Criminal Intent and Trial by Jury.
    • Sherri Parker Lee played a grifter suspect in "Greed" and a protective older sister who was also guilty of assault and murder in "Mother."
    • Guillermo Diaz played two different characters in season 13 and season 21. Both characters were innocent men who had been wrongly convicted and serving life sentences in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

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