The network has sealed a deal with producer Dick Wolf to bring Law & Order: SVU back for an 11th season, sources confirm to me exclusively.
But there's a catch: The pact covers the show but not leads Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, whose contracts expire in May. NBC is only now starting negotiations with both actors, and if history is any indication, it could be a tense, protracted affair.
Back in 2007, you'll recall, shortly after the pair inked new two-year deals worth more than $330,000 an episode, Meloni posted a terse message on his personal website calling the talks "unpleasant to say the least." He added that "I'll have much more to say about that when my responsibilities to the show are done."
My beloved Mariska, meanwhile, raised eyebrows last fall when she seemed to suggest in an interview with Ladies' Home Journal that she was looking forward to life after SVU so she could spend more time with her son, August. (At the time, a source close to the actress said her comments were taken out of context.) Her recent health problems also may factor into her decision to stay or go.
NBC declined to comment, but an SVU insider says the net is expected to make a formal announcement about SVU's renewal early next week. Maybe the net's waiting until they have pickup deals in place with the other two L&O's?