Law and Order SVU, Mariska Hargitay, Chris Meloni

NBC Photo: Justin Stephens

Fret not, tubers. Law & Order: SVU's sexy sex-crimes avengers aren't going anywhere yet, but after last summer's contract-negotiation waiting game, we're still nervous about the fate of our favorite detective series, should the duo decide to call it quits after the 11th season wraps. 

When we asked show runner Neal Baer if SVU would continue on without its stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, he told us, "I don't know, it's a good question because we've never tested that. What's weird is that I was looking at the show titles Wednesday night, and it was like, 'Oh my God, everybody's back together again from when I first came on in year two!' It's a very unusual situation. I can't think of another show where that's happened."

OK, that wasn't quite the definitive answer we were hoping for, but Neal did share some things that point to a promising future for SVU, including the possibility of a buzzworthy Benson-Stabler hookup, a maybe-return to the coveted 10 p.m. time slot and, oh yeah, Sayid from Lost coming by to shoot someone...

Obviously, the switch back to a later time can only happen if NBC pulls the plug on the Jay Leno Show experiment, but with Leno's floundering ratings that might not be such a far-fetched notion. "[The 9 p.m. switch] has cut into our numbers, obviously, because they are lower," Neal mused. "Would we be doing better at 10 p.m.? I think almost certainly, because there are no huge hits at 10 p.m. right now."

That doesn't mean the brains behind the operation isn't completely confident in the outcome should SVU stay right where it is. Said Neal: "You have to look at the whole picture—we are happy to be on, and we're happy to be on a lot. We're holding our own." And when he says a lot, he means it! "I wanted to find out how many people watch SVU in a 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, it's like 8 million. Then I found out you can check with our people, and they told me the average per week is 45.6 million viewers, because it's on USA and also in syndication. The challenge for us on SVU is that it's too much of a good thing, in a way."

Naveen Andrews, Lost

ABC/Bob D'Amico

Don't worry your pretty little heads about SVU overload, because with the guest stars and story arcs coming in the New Year, you'll want to tune in whenever and wherever you can.

"We like to vary things, so when we come back in January, you'll have Naveen Andrews and Sarah Paulson. Naveen is brilliant on Lost, and Sarah was on Studio 60 and many movies. They're in the same episode, Jan. 6," Neal revealed, "Then Jan. 13 you'll have Brian Geraghty, star of The Hurt Locker, and this wonderful actor named Jack Larson who played the original Jimmy Olsen in Superman. We also have Lena Olin, and Richard Burgi from Desperate Housewives. Then we have the inimitable Kathy Griffin who's going to play a lesbian activist. That takes us to the Olympics."

Neal saidof Kathy's role, "You'll see her in a different light, but it's very funny too." Viewers can also look for a flashback to Lena's Alias days when her character takes a turn for the worse on SVU. "[Lena's] only with her client in the first two acts, then she's in big trouble. She plays a lawyer who faces a horrible ethical decision and is actually on trial and defends herself." And we're convinced that Sayid Naveen's role involves shooting Olivia Benson (we've seen the photos of Mariska on the set the day her character gets shot, and she's a bloody mess!), but that's a storyline Neal remains tight-lipped about.

"Naveen's character is involved [in a shooting], but let's just say he's not what you expect. He's on the show with Sarah, who plays a very wealthy woman whose parents have been murdered," teased Neal.

As for that Stabsen, Benbler, Stabler-Benson romance, Neal would only say: "I guess it's one of those things where you just never know. Time will tell," which sounds surprisingly promising to us. Don't ya think?

Law & Order: SVU is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Are you still hoping for the two SVU detectives to hook up? Are you missing SVU at 10 p.m.? Shout out in the comments below.


Follow Kristin Dos Santos on Twitter @kristinalert.

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