Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (season 1)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, an American police procedural television series, premiered on September 20, 1999 on NBC. Created by Dick Wolf, it is the first spin-off of Law & Order and follows the detectives of a fictionalized version of the New York City Police Department's Special Victims Unit, which investigates sexually based offenses. SVU originally aired on Monday nights at 9pm/8c EST, but it was moved to Friday nights at 10pm/9c after the ninth episode. Showrunner Robert Palm felt too disturbed by the subject matter and left after the season's conclusion.[1]

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (season 1)
Season 1 U.S. DVD cover
Starring
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes22
Release
Original networkNBC
Original releaseSeptember 20, 1999 (1999-09-20) 
May 19, 2000 (2000-05-19)
Season chronology

Production

Inspiration for the series came from a 1986 murder in Central Park committed by Robert Emmet Chambers whose strategy in court was to sexualize the victim.[2] The season one episode of Law & Order, "Kiss the Girls and Make them Die" is based on this case. Dick Wolf wanted to continue exploring similar themes in a dedicated legal drama and hired Ted Kotcheff and Robert Palm as executive producers of the new series, as well as Jean de Segonzac, the franchise director for Law & Order. Robert Palm was previously an executive producer on Law & Order and was the first person to use the term "mothership" to distinguish the original from its spin-offs.[3] This phrase has become popular with fans of the franchise.

Unlike the original Law & Order, filming for SVU began in North Bergen, New Jersey since there was not enough real estate available to get a studio in Manhattan. The production staff were still told to think of the area as being Manhattan.[4] As with Law & Order, writers for the series primarily worked in Los Angeles. However, SVU featured more female writers with the series aiming to bring a "strong woman's perspective" to the screen.[3] Writer Dawn DeNoon has mentioned that many of the writing staff were fired during the first season because their scripts were not up to par.[1]

For the lead roles, Christopher Meloni was cast as Detective Elliot Stabler and Mariska Hargitay was cast as Detective Olivia Benson after they auditioned together.[5] Hargitay, who had to move from Los Angeles to New York when she got the role, said she was able to do this on short notice because she was already planning on moving to New York to pursue a Broadway career.[6] The squad commander role was filled by Dann Florek, who had portrayed Captain Don Cragen for the first three seasons on the original Law & Order and later reprised his role in Exiled: A Law & Order Movie. He joined the cast on the condition that he not be asked to audition.[1] Richard Belzer was cast as Detective John Munch, continuing his role from the series Homicide: Life on the Street. In Belzer's words, he was cast because "Dick Wolf and Tom Fontana got drunk at a party".[7] Halfway through the season, Richard Belzer reprised his role of Munch in Homicide: The Movie, which briefly shows his character out on a case in his SVU context in New York. At Belzer's insistence, his character was partnered with Brian Cassidy, who was portrayed by Dean Winters. However, Winters' contractual obligation to the HBO series Oz forced him to leave halfway through the season. Michelle Hurd, who portrayed Detective Monique Jeffries, filled Winters' void for the remainder of the season, and was at that point added to the main credits.

Cast

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest stars

The first season featured the highest number of crossover appearances in SVU. Angie Harmon portrayed her Law & Order character ADA Abbie Carmichael for six episodes. Jerry Orbach (Det. Lennie Briscoe) and his new partner Jesse L. Martin (Det. Ed Green) were shown working together in the third episode. Almost the entire cast of the original series appeared in the crossover episode "Entitled." Another character establishing ties to the original was Detective Ken Briscoe, the nephew of Lennie Briscoe. He was played by Chris Orbach, the son of Jerry Orbach. The younger Orbach later said that he had mixed feelings about his role on the show, as he felt he "only got the gig because of [his] old man."[8] Years after that, he'd admit to friends that he was simply very nervous on set about living up to his dad, and felt out of his depth.

Family members of both lead detectives appeared in the opening episode. Kathy Stabler, Elliot Stabler's wife, was played by Isabel Gillies. Gillies continued to play Kathy Stabler over the course of the next 11 years either as a guest star or a recurring actress. She recalled that she was in the middle of buying a wedding dress when she got the call to be on SVU.[4] Elizabeth Ashley was cast to play Serena Benson, Olivia's mother. Serena Benson did not appear in SVU again but was mentioned several times. Her character's history of being a rape victim who never got justice—and whose attacker was Olivia's biological father—figures in many later episodes.

Some of the earliest revelations about Detective Benson's personal life are found in "Stalked." In this episode, Bruce Kirkpatrick played a rapist who decides to intimidate the detectives once he learns that he is under investigation. An episode dealing with mental illness, "The Third Guy," featured a guest performance by Denis O'Hare. He played an intellectually disabled rapist who elicits differing opinions in the SVU.

The episode "Closure" aired shortly before Detective Brian Cassidy left the Special Victims Unit. However, because of its nonlinear storytelling, it portrayed Cassidy as still working for the unit months later. Despite the continuity error, the producers decided to revisit this episode in the second season owing to the cliffhanger ending and Tracy Pollan's well-received performance as Harper Anderson, a rape victim who becomes obsessed with taking revenge on her attacker. She was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.[9]

Reiko Aylesworth was one of the actresses who originally auditioned for the role of Olivia Benson.[5] Instead, she was cast as Assistant District Attorney Erica Alden, whom she played in the last three episodes of the season. In the season's penultimate episode, "Nocturne," Kent Broadhurst played Lawrence Holt, a piano teacher who molests his students. Wilson Jermaine Heredia played Evan, Holt's student and victim, who knows more about Holt's crimes than he lets on.

Episodes

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
U.S. viewers
(millions)
11"Payback"Jean de SegonzacDick WolfSeptember 20, 1999 (1999-09-20)E090114.10[10]

Two detectives from the NYPD's Special Victims Unit, Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, investigate the stabbing and castration of a cab driver, only to learn that the victim had purchased a phony hack license from an inmate (Matt Skollar) at Rikers Island. Further investigation reveals that the dead man was a Serbian soldier named Stefan Tanzic, who had been indicted on charges of ethnic cleansing. Herself a child of rape, Benson has trouble separating herself from the case after realizing that the victim was a rapist. Stabler tries to keep her from crossing the line in her attempts to protect suspects whom she feels were justified in their actions.

22"A Single Life"Lesli Linka GlatterMiriam KazdinSeptember 27, 1999 (1999-09-27)E0903N/A

When the body of Gretchen Quinn is found wearing only a red slip after having been thrown out of a window, Benson and Stabler soon find out that "Gretchen Quinn" was just an alias. While trying to piece together her life, the detectives are led to the victim's psychiatrist (Dennis Boutsikaris) and a well-known television newscaster (Michael Gaston), both of whom were sleeping with her. It soon comes to light she was a young woman who changed her name and identity after graduating high school, to get away from her sexually abusive father (Paul Hecht).

33"...Or Just Look Like One"Rick RosenthalMichael R. PerryOctober 4, 1999 (1999-10-04)E0907N/A

After teen model Jazmin Burgess is beaten, raped, and dumped in front of Roosevelt Hospital, Benson and Stabler investigate to find out why a sixteen-year-old girl was out alone after midnight. High levels of drugs in Jazmin's system lead them to take a look at not only the modelling agency with which Jazmin was signed, but also the photographer (Ritchie Coster) who was supervising her last shoot (and had booted her out because she was "too heavy"). Stabler's disgust with the whole issue is aggravated by his concern that his daughter Maureen, who has been refusing to eat, may be anorexic.

44"Hysteria"Richard DobbsDawn DeNoon & Lisa Marie PetersenOctober 11, 1999 (1999-10-11)E090813.72[11]

When a young woman is found dead, she is initially believed to be a prostitute and the latest victim of a serial killer. As they look into her home life, however, Benson and Stabler realize that the victim does not fit the pattern, and may not be connected to the other deaths after all. After Munch's instincts lead the team to believe their suspect is a cop (Joe Lisi), Cragen consults his old friend Det. Lennie Briscoe for help.

55"Wanderlust"David JonesWendy WestOctober 18, 1999 (1999-10-18)E0905N/A
After a travel writer (Bruce Barney) is found nude, strangled, and beaten to death with lingerie stuffed down his throat and duct tape over his mouth, Benson and Stabler initially suspect his landlady's (Patricia Richardson) boyfriend (John Dossett), a convicted child molester. But suspicion soon turns to the landlady and her daughter (Lynn Collins), who seemed far too interested in what their tenant was doing with his time. After learning the daughter had a sexual relationship with the tenant, things take an even stranger turn.
66"Sophomore Jinx"Clark JohnsonJohn ChambersOctober 25, 1999 (1999-10-25)E090412.48[12]

After a female student is found raped and murdered at a local college, Benson and Stabler turn their attention to two star players on the school's basketball team. However, the college, unwilling to risk the negative publicity that the investigation could bring to the school and the upcoming championship, blocks their investigation at every turn. But the worst secret actually lies with one of her teachers.

77"Uncivilized"Michael FieldsStory by: Robert Palm
Teleplay by: Robert Palm & Wendy West
November 15, 1999 (1999-11-15)E0902N/A
When a young boy is found murdered, suspicion leads Benson and Stabler to a recently paroled child molester (Stephen Bogardus), who soon becomes a test case for a new and broader application of civil commitment. Although they both hate what the man has done in the past, it is soon obvious to the detectives that the teenagers who initially steered them in the man's direction (Jerry Careccio and Dominick Charles Carbone) are hiding disturbing secrets of their own.
88"Stalked"Peter MedakRoger GarrettNovember 22, 1999 (1999-11-22)E0911N/A
When the body of an assistant district attorney is found raped and beaten in Central Park, Benson lets her emotions get the best of her as she takes it upon herself to bring the suspected rapist, a local realtor (Bruce Kirkpatrick), to justice. Stabler tries to get the man's business partner to help in the investigation, but Benson may be the one who ends up needing help.
99"Stocks & Bondage"Constantine MakrisMichael R. PerryNovember 29, 1999 (1999-11-29)E0914N/A
When a financial analyst and devotee of BDSM is found strangled to death in a leather harness in her bedroom, Benson and Stabler at first suspect either suicide or accidental death from autoerotic asphyxiation However, the discovery of a large quantity of hidden diamonds leads the detectives into a shadowy world of money laundering and securities fraud.
1010"Closure (Part I)"Stephen WertimerWendy WestJanuary 7, 2000 (2000-01-07)E0915N/A

Benson does her best to help a rape victim (Tracy Pollan), who is able to describe her attack, but not the attacker (Neil Maffin) in perfect detail. When the detectives revisit the case a few months later, they find the woman even less willing to talk about what happened, as she claims she has moved on. Things turn uncomfortable within the squad when Benson and Cassidy, who spent a night together, argue over whether the relationship should be continued.

1111"Bad Blood"Michael FieldsDawn DeNoon & Lisa Marie PetersenJanuary 14, 2000 (2000-01-14)E0916N/A

The death of a young gay man initially leads Benson and Stabler to investigate his homophobic father, but once they start looking into the young man's living arrangements, they realize the person they're looking for may be closer than they think. Munch tries to help Benson find the man who raped her mother.

1212"Russian Love Poem"Rick RosenthalEva NagorskiJanuary 21, 2000 (2000-01-21)E091314.30[13]
When Andrew Harlin, a bisexual multi-millionaire, is found murdered in his home, Benson and Stabler turn their suspicion to Harlin's long list of lovers. Evidence at the crime scene leads detectives to a pair of Russian escorts, but before they can get the truth from them, one turns up dead, and the boyfriend (Olek Krupa) of the other confesses to murder.
1313"Disrobed"David PlattJanet TamaroFebruary 4, 2000 (2000-02-04)E0910N/A
After a judge is found murdered in his car, the detectives begin looking into his background and learn that he often delivered special verdicts for women in return for sexual favors. The team soon turns its eye to a battered wife (Kathryn Meisle) with a secret. Detective Cassidy transfers to Narcotics feeling unable to cope with the SVU cases, leaving Munch without a partner.
1414"Limitations"Constantine MakrisMichael R. PerryFebruary 11, 2000 (2000-02-11)E0919N/A
At the request of a victim, the police commissioner comes to Cragen with a special request: close the case of the man who raped three women (Jenny Bacon, Judith Hawkins and Seana Kofoed) nearly five years ago before the statute of limitations expires. The detectives finally get a lead when they realize one of the victims knows the rapist, but she is not willing to talk. Following Cassidy's departure, Munch is partnered with Jeffries.
1515"Entitled"Ed SherinStory by: Dick Wolf & René Balcer & Robert Palm
Teleplay by: Robert Palm & Wendy West
February 18, 2000 (2000-02-18)E0918N/A

After a salesman is murdered, the detectives turn their attention to Stephanie Mulroney (Noelle Beck), the youngest daughter of a well-known family with some deep connections. But as they join forces with the officers from the 27th Precinct, they realize that their case is connected with a long-unsolved case that Briscoe once handled years ago with his former partner, Detective Mike Logan.

1616"The Third Guy"Jud TaylorDawn DeNoon & Lisa Marie PetersenFebruary 25, 2000 (2000-02-25)E0920N/A
An elderly woman is found tied up and sexually assaulted in her apartment and suspicion is initially on the young men that had broken into her home and robbed her. Once the detectives catch the young men, they learn that there was someone else in the apartment. The offered plea bargain initially doesn't go over well, but they finally reach a deal which leaves the detectives with a new case - whether or not the person who sexually assaulted the woman (Denis O'Hare) was mentally handicapped.
1717"Misleader"Richard DobbsStory by: Nick Harding & Nick Kendrick
Teleplay by: Nick Kendrick
March 31, 2000 (2000-03-31)E0912N/A
After the pregnant daughter-in-law of a prominent Christian right leader (Robert Foxworth) is found murdered in her hotel room, the detectives investigate a rash of hotel burglaries, only to discover that her adultery (and the probable father of her child) was what led to her death.
1818"Chat Room"Richard DobbsRoger GarrettApril 14, 2000 (2000-04-14)E0923N/A
When a teenage girl (Paz de la Huerta) comes into the squad room to tell the detectives that she was raped by a man she met on the Internet, the detectives set up a special sting operation. They end up stepping on some highly-placed toes as Munch plays the kid to net the big fish.
1919"Contact"Michael ZinbergRobert Palm & Wendy WestApril 28, 2000 (2000-04-28)E092112.84[14]
After seven young women in a six-month time span are raped by a flash-and-dash assailant (Sal Viscuso) on the city subways, the brass calls in a psychiatrist to help the team get into the head of the perpetrator. When he is caught, all seven victims identify him in a police lineup, but the IDs are suppressed. However, the detectives find that he possesses the driver's license of a new victim who could put him away.
2020"Remorse"Alexander CassiniMichael R. PerryMay 5, 2000 (2000-05-05)E0924N/A
Television reporter Sarah Logan (Jennifer Esposito) refuses to let her recent rape get her down, and talks about her experiences on the air, leading to the arrest of a young man that the team feels is responsible. Over the course of the investigation, Munch and Jeffries become unusually affected by the case, albeit in different ways.
2121"Nocturne"Jean de SegonzacWendy WestMay 12, 2000 (2000-05-12)E092213.70[14]
After a pharmacy turns over some disturbing photos of a young boy, Benson and Stabler arrest a piano teacher (Kent Broadhurst) for child molestation. After the boy claims to have seen other pictures of young boys at the teacher's house, the detectives get a warrant and discover a series of videos that document the life of a young boy named Evan (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). Believing he can make or break their case, the team searches for him, only to realize that his testimony may not help at all because Evan is scarred far more deeply than they realized.
2222"Slaves"Ted KotcheffLisa Marie Petersen & Dawn DeNoonMay 19, 2000 (2000-05-19)E0926N/A

After a shopkeeper brings a note for help to the squad, the detectives begin trying to locate a young Romanian woman named Ilena (Layla Alexander), who has not been seen in months. The squad eventually find her working as a nanny at the home of the Morrows (Andrew McCarthy and Susan Floyd), a successful yuppie couple who harbor a terrible secret. A forensic psychologist analyzes the team, and presents disturbing findings to Cragen, suggesting that one of the detectives be removed from the team immediately.

References

  1. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 23
  2. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 2
  3. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 5
  4. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 13
  5. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 11
  6. "Mariska Hargitay Interview". Karastan. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  7. Dick Wolf, Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer, Dann Florek (2003). Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Beginning. Universal Channel.
  8. Green and Dawn (2009), p. 163
  9. "SVU Emmy Nominations". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  10. Flaherty, Michael (December 3, 1999). "'Law & Order', 'Friends' and TV's Other Champs & Chumps". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  11. "Prime-Time TV Rankings". The Los Angeles Times. October 20, 1999. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  12. Lowry, Brian (November 3, 1999). "Post-Series NBC Win, but Shows in Foul Territory". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  13. "Episode List: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit". TV Tango. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  14. "SpotVault - Law & Order: SVU (NBC) - 1999-2000". Spot Vault. December 9, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2012.

Bibliography

  • Green, Susan; Dawn, Randee (2009). Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The Unofficial Companion. Dallas: BenBella Books. ISBN 1-933771-88-7.
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