Ever since high school, I’ve been an avid viewer of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Although the material has been extremely intense and sometimes difficult to watch, I couldn’t help but tune in to watch my favorite detectives, Olivia Benson and Elliott Stabler, serve and protect the streets of downtown Manhattan. My take isn’t uncommon either, as the show has been on the air for 20 consecutive seasons. Crazy, right?
Well, for those of you who have loyally watched and supported “LOSVU” over the years, it’s time to buckle your seatbelts. NBC has ordered “Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit” from producers Dick Wolf and Warren Leight. And the most exciting part? (Drumroll, please!) Mariska Hargitay (AKA Olivia Benson) will resume her role as Detective Benson. High school me is in shock.
Favorite characters aside, I think it’s high time a television network addresses this pressing issue. Acts of discrimination have been relevant for decades, and police procedural dramas have danced around the prevalence of hate crimes, maybe portraying one instance of police brutality in an entire 24-episode season.
Luckily, Wolf and Warren plan to change the world of crime TV with this revolutionary series. The structure is said to be extremely similar to SVU, with a highly skilled team of specialized detectives bringing heinous criminals to justice.
This special team of “specialized detectives” will work under the Special Victims Unit, of which Benson is the head. As in “Law & Order: SVU,” members of the Hate Crimes Unit are extremely passionate, working relentlessly behind publicized discriminatory headlines and videos, serving justice where it’s needed most.
Perhaps the most significant part of the show will be its portrayal of hate crimes and discrimination. “Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit” is based off the real Hate Crimes Unit in New York City, in hopes of shedding light onto what real detectives encounter on a daily basis.
This should be expected, as Wolf’s shows have always had an air of reality to them: “As with all of my crime shows, I want to depict what’s really going on in our cities and shine a light on the wide-ranging victims and show that justice can prevail.”
While the portrayal of such prominent issues in our country is needed, many people are wary of Wolf’s latest series, as they aren’t sure if the ill-treatment of marginalized groups should be the subject of entertainment.
Not only would violence toward minorities be difficult to watch, but many people have questioned whether TV is the right platform for such a sensitive topic.
People also fear that minorities will strictly be cast as victims, and in a show created by two white men. As an attempt to put potential viewers at ease, NPR critic Eric Deggans stated: “We should bear in mind there isn’t a script. There isn’t a pilot episode created. So we’re talking about a show that doesn’t really exist yet.”
In the same interview, Deggans went on to say how “Law & Order: SVU” has turned rape and sexual assault into entertainment: “Now, it can still be tough to watch a succession of people assaulted in different ways every week without looking exploitive. And I think that’s the concern about what might happen during this ‘Hate Crimes’ series as well.”
However, he also said that “LOSVU” has educated viewers and has shed light onto the experiences of survivors as well as how law enforcement officers struggle to put these cases on trial. His main argument lies in Detective Benson, as her conversations with sexual assault victims have resonated strongly with “Law & Order” audiences.
Her presence in “Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit” will likely draw in (and maintain) high viewership ratings. It looks like Mariska Hargitay is the best thing to happen to the “Law & Order” series — I knew my instincts were right.
If anything, Wolf hopes that this latest installment of “Law & Order” will spark conversation about hate crimes and acts of discrimination. He explained how many sexual assault victims refused to come forward when “LOSVU” first came out, but after bringing similar situations to the big screen and included sympathetic detectives (aka Olivia Benson), people finally started to talk. Wolf believes that “LOHCU” will produce a similar effect.
The series sure is timely, as hate crimes have been at an all-time high since Trump’s inauguration in 2016. A few examples include Neo-Nazism, white supremacists and the persistent use of the phrase “go back to your own country” to immigrants.
When writer Kevin Allred got word of “LOHCU,” he sarcastically responded: “With a rise in actual hate crimes since the 2016 election, the thing we definitely need most is to be subjected to lots of fictionalized hate crimes on network tv too.” Many others chimed in, claiming that a show about hate crimes in unnecessary, as they can watch a “hate crime live stream” through their bedroom window.
Again, I’m a huge fan of “Law & Order: SVU,” so I’m slightly biased. That being said, “LOSVU” has yielded plenty of positive change, and “LOHCU” could easily produce the same effect — especially with Olivia Benson in the picture.
Seeing as hate crimes are especially prominent in the U.S., one can only hope Wolf portrays them realistically on the big screen. And honestly, with his track record, I don’t think there’s much to worry about.
So, when will the latest installment of “Law & Order” air? The premiere date is TBD, but if you’re an Olivia Benson fan, you’re hoping it’s sooner rather than later. As I already mentioned, today’s discriminatory political climate warrants a show such as “Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit,” in which instances of hate and discrimination are finally addressed. And hey, if “LOHCU” is anything like “LOSVU,” its task force will feature ethnically diverse detectives, which will hopefully put audience skepticisms at ease.
As an avid “LOSVU” viewer, my expectations couldn’t be higher for Wolf’s next addition to the “Law & Order” universe. This fan is extremely excited to see Detective Benson back in action fighting for justice once again.