The bump was all thanks to the heat between Stabler and Benson’s much-anticipated almost kiss
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The romantic chemistry between “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” characters Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is heating up — just like the NBC procedural’s viewership, which hit a new high since Meloni’s return to the series in April 2021 following his Season 12 departure.
In Thursday night’s episode, which averaged 5.8 million watchers during the 9 p.m. primetime slot per Nielsen live plus same-day figures, the two characters — who have long flirted with being more than partners and friends — shared a much-anticipated almost kiss. Season 24, Episode 12, titled “Blood Out,” also won the night in the 18-49 demographic, netting 0.67 in ratings.
Those numbers catapulted the network overall — which also aired flagship series “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” (Meloni’s vehicle) — to a primetime win, with 0.58 in the demo and an average viewership of 5.1 million overall. Last week’s primetime programming was largely dominated by encore runs for CBS, Fox and NBC. While the former network still won out in terms of viewership, it was ABC that nabbed the highest demo ratings with a new installment of “Celebrity Jeopardy!.”
The long-awaited kiss between Benson and Stabler was previously teased in a promo dating back to mid-January, meaning that audiences (particularly “Bensler” shippers) knew to tune in live if they wanted to be the first ones to view all the action (or lack thereof). While Stabler leaned in for the smooch during the episode’s closing credits, Benson put a stop to it, saying that she wasn’t ready for something more and was worried that things might not work out. As a result, the pair’s romantic future is now on uncertain terms.
Created by Emmy Award-winning producer Dick Wolf, “Law & Order: SVU,” now in its 24th season, is the longest-running primetime live-action series of all time. The hard-hitting spinoff follows the Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department, an elite squad of detectives who investigate crimes of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence. As commander of the SVU, Capt. Benson is a seasoned veteran who leads with compassion and professionalism, all the while dealing with her identity as a survivor. Benson is the longest-running female character in a primetime live-action television series, and Hargitay has garnered an Emmy Award and Golden Globe for her role.
Meanwhile, “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” now in its third season, follows the detectives of the Organized Crime Control Bureau as they work to dismantle New York City’s most vicious and violent illegal enterprises. Meloni stars as Det. Stabler, who returned to the NYPD after a decade away and must rebuild his life after a devastating personal loss. Meloni first played the role as an original cast member on “SVU.”
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Prior to becoming a TV reporter at TheWrap in 2022, Natalie served as a general entertainment news reporter. She has covered film, television, music and business beats for two years, beginning her career as an intern at Variety, where she continued to freelance as a TV features reporter. Since then, Natalie has been a Celebrity News Writer at BuzzFeed and contributed to such publications as Metacritic and Vox Media, where she was part of the company's inaugural Writers Workshop.