Stars are dropping like flies from many of television’s top-rated shows. And the latest casualty comes from NBC’s newly-renewed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. According to reports, star Christopher Meloni will not be returning for the series’ 13th season in the fall.

A report from TVLine says that talks between the actor and the studio broke down during negotiations this week, leading to Meloni’s departure. There is no word as to what the specific sticking point was, although NBC had thought the deal was set. Whatever the case, Eliot Stabler will not return.

This does not mean the end to Law & Order: SVU. Meloni’s co-star, Mariska Hargitay has already committed to another season, although there is talk that her character, Olivia Benson, might change jobs. The change would lead to a replacement for the principal female role, supposedly being offered to Jennifer Love Hewitt.

If this were the case, then both of the original lead detectives on the series will be replaced. Not that this is an issue for the Law & Order franchise, which has kept itself going for decades on the premise that everyone is replaceable.

With this news, Chris Meloni joins the growing ranks of stars abandoning veteran series. Two and a Half Men lost Charlie Sheen to that nationally-touring meltdown midway through the past season. Kyra Sedgwick will not return after the coming summer season of her hit TNT show, The Closer, even though the network plans to continue the series under the title Major Crimes. Most recently, Lisa Edelstein, who plays Lisa Cuddy on House, chose not to renew her contract for an eighth season on that show.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the last of the once ubiquitous Law & Order franchises on American TV. Co-spin-offs Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Los Angeles came to an end this year, while the original series was canceled in 2010. The show has garnered some of NBC’s highest ratings for years and was the only scripted program considered guaranteed for renewal in 2011-2012.

It will be back. But Law & Order: SVU will come without Detective Stabler.

Will you watch Law & Order: SVU without Meloni? Why do you think he left? Was it a good move? Leave your comments below!

(Image courtesy of NBC)

Laurel Brown

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include ChuckModern FamilySupernaturalMad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.