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“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” celebrates 25 seasons with a fabulous Entertainment Weekly spread, featuring the drama series’ stars Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T. The series has captivated viewers since 1999. Let’s celebrate with a walk down memory lane, exploring the “Law & Order: SVU” episodes inspired by true pop culture events.

Actors Hargitay and Ice-T stun the cover story of Entertainment Weekly as they reminisce on the long-time running NBC drama series, “Law & Order: SVU.” The pair talk through their stories of partnership, heartbreak and healing, history, spinoffs, and their personal journeys.

The 25 season series created by Dick Wolf follows detectives that are part of the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit, who investigate crimes of sexual nature. While the focus of the other shows in the “Law & Order” franchise largely deal with murder cases, the SVU detectives frequently deal with crimes, such as rapes, in which the victim survives and assists authorities in the investigation. The series features a cast of veteran actors, including Hargitay, Ice-T, Richard Belzer, and Dann Florek. There are occasional crossover episodes, featuring detectives from other series in the franchise.

The show has featured countless guest stars like Snoop Dogg, Mahershala Ali, Meagan Good, Sarah Paulson and more. The series is also notable for using real-life stories and events as inspiration for the show. Though dramatized, the series has covered many pop culture moments from the Bill Cosby case to Chris Brown and Rihanna.

1. Blood Brothers (S13, Episode 3)


This episode follows a 13-year-old girl, whon ends up pregnant at a Catholic high school, and the “SVU” detectives are called in to investigate. While the girl’s best friend is a Hispanic boy named Arturo, his mother works as a maid for a politician, and it turns out that the politician’s son is who impregnated her. Not only that, but it turned out that the politician himself is Arturo’s father due to an affair with Arturo’s mother, who has been in his employment for many years. Sadly, Arturo killed his half-brother because he was angry about the pregnancy and felt he would never help his child.

However, the real story behind this episode has nothing to do with murder. Instead, the basis for this story was about Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had an affair with one of his maids in 1996 which he later confessed to wife Maria Schriver couples counseling sessions according to People. The episode takes considerable dramatic liberties with its source material, both with the homicide, underage pregnancy, and incestuous elements, and the general animosity of all involved toward one another.

2. Entitled (S1, Episode 15)


This isn’t directly linked to one particular true story or the other, but the first season has references to many famous cases. Some include the Son of Sam killer and the Zodiac killer, as well as the conspiracies surrounding these. It also references the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident involving the Kennedy family.

The “Entitled” episode based on a true story borrows from real life to construct its narrative, which centers on a wealthy and influential family — similar to the Kennedy’s — and looks into long-unsolved cases that authorities worry might see the same killer return despite decades passing.

3. Star-Struck Victims (S17, Episode 16)


In this episode, Barba is made to drop rape charges leveled against a well-known actor due to a lack of evidence. Rollins also goes rogue and tries to get a video confession, not realizing the suspect has lawyered up and this could hurt the entire department. This is another episode based on a true story of how easily the rich and powerful can defend themselves from the law.  

“Star-Struck Victims” is a loose adaptation of the real-world sex abuse scandal involving famed actor and comedian Bill Cosby. The episode makes these drastic crimes seem very personal, and part of that stems from the terrifyingly convincing turn from recurring cast member Delaney Williams.

4. Spousal Privilege (S16, Episode 8)


This episode involved a high-profile celebrity that made headlines when a video surfaced online. Detective Tutuola discovers security cam footage of a famous sportscaster having a physical altercation with his girlfriend. Footage showed him hitting her, knocking her unconscious, and dragging her body to the car.

Another story “ripped from the headlines,” the case for this episode was inspired by the Ray Rice scandal in 2014. Rice was arrested after a video surfaced of him assaulting his fiancé in an elevator of a New Jersey casino. She was knocked unconscious, and the video showed Rice dragging her body out of the elevator. The charges were later dropped.

5. Scorched Earth (S13, Episode 1)


The detectives of “SVU” are called in on a case when a hotel maid reports being assaulted by an Italian diplomat. The team finds more than enough evidence of assault, but, as the investigation continues, the maid’s credibility starts to fall apart. In 2011, a hotel maid accused French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.

The episode follows the real case closely as the maid in real life began to lose credibility as a victim. The prosecution also stated the inconclusive physical evidence of the crime. A judge later dismissed the case. However, further sexual assault accusations arose against him, forcing him to drop out of future elections.

It was also sadly the episode where Benson finds out Elliott will be leaving the squad. 

6. Sick (S5, Episode 19)


A troubled youth’s online activities lead investigators to the home of a billionaire toy manufacturer by the name of Billy Tripley. Billy is suspected of molesting children in one of his stores, but, after a lengthy judicial process, he beats the charges. This 2004 SVU installment took influence from the allegations of sexual misconduct that surrounded pop star Michael Jackson at the time.

Suspicions surrounding Jackson’s dealings with minors haunted his later career, and these issues once again surfaced posthumously following the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland. This episode based on a true story is a unfortunate reminder that justice isn’t always served.

7. Pathological (S19, Episode 10)


This notable episode is based on a real murder that was widely publicized. The real-life case gained immense media coverage and was covered by the show and later made into a limited Hulu series titled, “The Act.”

In the episode, the “SVU” team is called to investigate the sexual assault of two disabled children, but soon realize their illnesses were induced by their mother. Things get even more complex when the mother is found murdered.

The episode was inspired by the 2015 Dee Dee Blanchard murder case. Blanchard convinced the world that her daughter, Gypsy, was severely ill. Gypsy slowly learned that her mother was manipulating her and making her sick with medication. Her mother subjected her to physical abuse and unnecessary medical procedures. Blanchard was found murdered in her home, and Gypsy and her boyfriend were later convicted of first-degree murder, although Gypsy only served part of a 10-year sentence.

8. Funny Valentine (S14, Episode 16)


The show used the unfortunate events that took place between singers Chris Brown and Rihanna as the source material for an episode titled “Funny Valentine.” Some fans loved the real-life parallels. But others felt the storyline went too far.

The episode featured a sequence of events easily recognizable to any pop culture fan. It featured two young singers, Caleb and Micha, pursuing their individual careers while fostering their romantic relationship. When Micha confronts Caleb over his flirtations with a background singer, Caleb becomes enraged and violentyly attacks Micha.

News of the fictious characters goes public, which leads to a media circus with fans and news outlets reporting on the situation. The episode ultimately ends with even more violence, with a nightclub fight that results in more injuries for Micha. While Caleb is tagged for his role in the tragic event, Micha lies under oath to protect her boyfriend. At the end of the episode, Caleb kills Micha when she questions his fidelity.