Christopher Meloni To Leave Law & Order: SVU After 12 Years On The Force

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Is the Law & Order era coming to an end? The flagship show was shut down episodes away from becoming the longest running prime-time drama ever, and the LA version was canceled after one season, despite signing big names like Terrence Howard, Alfred Molina and…Skeet Ulrich (there’s the rub). Now Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is headed for its first major shake-up, with Christopher Meloni leaving after 12 years(!) as the show’s male lead. No word on what made negotiations fall apart, but we have to imagine its hard to work up righteous indignation over stories ripped from the headlines year after year after year after year. And it’s not like the residuals will be going away anytime soon…we’re just amazed they haven’t made a L&O channel yet.

Season 13 was already set to be a risky one for the show, with Meloni’s partner Mariska Hargitay set to take a more “supervisory” role half way through. Jennifer Love Hewitt was rumored to be replacing Mariska as the show’s female lead, but with Meloni already out the door, creator Dick Wolf and the gang might want to think really hard about which actors they choose—or just letting Richard Belzer & Ice-T run the ship like a pair of Lenny Briscoes. Let Skeet be a teachable experience.

[Photo: Getty Images]