Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Join the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own articles.After 12 seasons on the air, it's safe to say that "Law & Order: SVU" is a hit show.
For 11 of those seasons, Neal Baer has been the guiding force behind the show as Executive Producer.
But Baer's leadership will come to an end at the close of this season.
In late 2010, Baer signed a development deal with CBS so he will be packing his things and leaving NBC after a long run with the network.
What will this mean for "SVU"?
It's hard to say, but the show seems to have gotten stronger each year under the guidance of Baer.
In episodic television, Baer worked as a writer on "China Beach" and "ER" before taking the helm at "SVU".
Spun off from the highly successful original series "Law & Order," "SVU" has proven to be just as popular as the 'mothership' of the franchise.
While storylines about the personal lives of the detectives on the original series were not well-received by viewers, the opposite seems to be true on "SVU". Check any "SVU" message board and fans constantly comment not only on the chemistry of the two leads, Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), but also on the private battles of these characters within their families.
The characters on this show have grown and changed as real life co-workers do.
Aside from the personal aspect of the show, there is the procedural nature of it as well.
Also like the 'mothership', "SVU" has come to be known as having storylines 'ripped from the headlines', exploring issues that are timely.
But, while this show technically falls under the cop show/legal drama hybrid, it uses that platform to explore the gray areas of many issues that present true ethical dilemmas.
While each episode may start out with a crime, most episodes twist, turn, and at some point spin into a highly charged topic such as the right to die, childhood immunization, and even rape in the Congo.
It's clear that with Baer at the helm, "SVU" is firing on all cylinders.
Can a new EP keep this juggernaut on the right path?
To discuss this, it's necessary to understand the job of the Executive Producer or Showrunner, as this role is often referred to.
The Executive Producer, or EP, of a television show is the captain of the ship, keeping everything sailing smoothly along, overseeing all aspects associated with the final product.
Yes, there are several departments collaborating, but the EP has the final say on everything from the script to casting to editing.
The EP also takes direction from the network regarding the show and its contents.
It's not uncommon for a show to change EPs, but it usually happens when a show is in trouble, not when it's thriving, unless that is, as in this case, the EP has chosen to leave.
We can only speculate about who will take this position once Baer has departed.
Will it be someone already associated with the show or a newcomer?
With a show that's humming along, it's more likely the former than the latter.
Handing the reigns to someone already familiar with the procedures would seem to be more amenable to all involved rather than bringing in someone new to the fold of this already established machine. This may also help keep the vision that Baer has established flowing as is without upsetting the applecart.
There are really only three ways this can go. The show could somehow get better, it could remain status quo or it could go down in flames.
It remains to be seen if this transition will be unnoticeable on screen, a slight hiccup, or an uncomfortable twist that no one sees coming.
Tune in to season 13 to find out.
"Law & Order: SVU" airs on NBC Wednesday nights at 10pm ET. The show also airs in syndication and on the USA network. For air times, please check your local listings.