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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the most sensationalized installment of the Law & Order franchise because of its focus on sex crimes. Graphic, unusual crimes are the norm, and victims are frequently women and children. There's some strong language ("bitch, "damn," etc.), crude sexual references, drinking, smoking, and drug use. Rape and alcoholism are major themes in some seasons.
What's the story?
LAW & ORDER: SVU centers on "the elite squad of detectives who investigate sexually based crimes" -- known as the Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department. Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson are seasoned cops who investigate some of the city's most difficult and perverse crimes. Also assigned to their department is Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) and his partner, Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (played by rapper Ice-T). Headed up by Captain Donald Cragen (Dan Florek), the detectives work hard to solve an endless array of disturbing and violent sex crimes with the help of Assistant district attorney Casey Novak (Diane Neal), forensic psychiatrist George Huang (B.D. Wong), and medical examiner Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie).
Is it any good?
After 17+ seasons, the sensational series consistently combines the suspense of the investigative process with the graphic details of disconcerting and sinister sex crimes to create narratives that are entertainingly disturbing. Unlike other installments of the Law & Order franchise, many of the stories are somehow connected to the characters' personal lives, which serves to heighten the emotional nature of the show. Adding to the drama are the performances delivered by a lengthy roster of guest stars over the years, including Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Hyland, and Serena Williams.
Law & Order: SVU has seen its fair share of cast members come and go. But despite the changing characters (played by folks like Michelle Hurd, Stephanie March, Adam Beach, Peter Scanavino, Dean Winters, and Kelli Giddish), the integrity of the show remains intact thanks to its commitment to telling a good story. Whether you tune in to the early seasons, or find yourself watching later ones, the overall series is consistently compelling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the natures of the crimes featured on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. What are some of the psychological consequences of some of the show's frequent themes? Are these crimes common? Who do they impact the most?
TV procedurals like Law & Order: SVU feature a range of criminal behaviors that range from being disturbing to extremely violent. Is featuring these crimes in a fictional series bringing attention to them, or just sensationalizing them? Why?
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