I'm a big fan of SVU, I've been watching it for years. The characters are great and the crimes are interesting. At least, they were. I've noticed recently that I just don't really enjoy watching it any more. I still have been, but I've realised that it's more out of habit than anything, and I think I've worked out what's gone wrong.
They've been gradually fleshed out over time and that was a great tactic for keeping things interesting, and it worked for a long time, but there's really not much left to discover about them at this stage, and the writers seem to be panicking a bit.
Every one of them has had a major plot arc now, and they've all settled on some very well-defined personalities including back-stories, motivations, unexpected revelations and sudden changes in circumstance. So what's left? Well, the answer the writers seem to have settled on is rehashing everything over and over again.
The most obvious example is Elliot Stabler. Just about every episode now has him do something that should cost him his job and often should result in him being arrested. How many times are we expected to watch him assault suspects in custody and get away with it with a slap on the wrist from Cragen without wondering how he's still there?
This one is even more perplexing. Every episode now has some bizarre twist or unexpected development. What happened to the normal crimes? Am I alone in saying I just want to see a straight-forward rape and murder?
Every cop show features the same crimes over and over, really, so it's not like audiences are bored with that stuff. But the SVU writers seem to think we are. It's gotten to the point that when the inevitable shocking discovery occurs you just sigh and think about how frequently things aren't what they seem to be these days.
Now, I can't back this up with any real expertise, but are the lawyers getting less knowledgeable about the law? My own understanding of the law comes largely from TV (and to a lesser extent, the news) so I can't exactly put my finger on what the issues are here, but it just seems like they're not paying as much attention to how the law actually works in the real world any more.
It's easy to sit here and pass judgement (fun too), but I actually think I know how to fix this show. Ditch the regulars. Or more specifically, Elliot and Olivia. These characters used to be a large part of why I watched this show, but I'm sick of them. And I think the writers are too. They've been done to death and they are holding the show back.
You can keep Finn, I guess, and they should definitely keep Munch, because that guy is awesome (and has never really gotten much screentime anyway, so he hasn't worn out his welcome like the others have), but I think SVU needs to remember that it's a Law & Order show and that the main cast are replaceable. The other L&Os do it all the time.
And once they have some new people they can go back to more normal crimes and we can see how some new people react to them. We know what Elliot and Olivia are like, we know how they react. Give us some new people to watch.