'Law & Order: SVU': Back for '09-'10?

Mariskahargitay_lawandorderspecialvictimsunit_240 That would be a yes, albeit with a possible catch. "Law & Order: SVU" -- NBC's most popular series not involving John Madden -- will be back for an 11th season in 2009-'10.

The news comes courtesy of EW.com, which reports that the show will indeed be back in the fall. The network says it's not commenting at the moment.

Even in NBC's Jay Leno-fied world next season, where the current "Tonight Show" host will have a prime-time talk show every weeknight at 10, it comes as little surprise that the network would renew "SVU." The show, which is averaging about 10.5 million viewers a week this season, is NBC's most-watched series aside from "Sunday Night Football."

Now, about that catch: EW also notes that while the show has been renewed, stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni haven't re-upped their contracts yet. Both actors are at the end of two-year deals that make them among the better-compensated stars on TV (a reported $300,000 plus per episode). Negotiations are underway with Hargitay and Meloni, who have been "SVU's" leads for all 10 seasons, a rarity in the "L&O" universe.

Hargitay recently returned to work after being sidelined for treatment of a partially collapsed lung. Her character, Detective Olivia Benson, was written out of one episode, but she'll be back for the remainder of the season.

A formal announcement on the future of "SVU" is expected in the next week or two, and NBC will officially unveil its 2009-10 lineup at its upfront on May 4-5. The network has already picked up new seasons of "The Office," "30 Rock" and "The Biggest Loser."

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