Warren Leight, the former showrunner of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, does not believe the episode that was reportedly inspired by President-elect Donald Trump will air this season.
“I will predict now that will not air on network this season,” Leight told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview on Tuesday. “They will not air that.”
The episode, titled “Unstoppable,” stars Gary Cole as a wealthy politician whose presidential campaign is derailed by accusations of sexual harassment. It was originally scheduled to air on Oct. 26 but was pulled from the schedule in mid-October. At the time, an NBC publicist told BuzzFeed News, “As a reminder, SVU is fiction.”
A source close to the situation told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that no decision had been made as to when the episode would air. The soonest it could hit airwaves is January 2017, when SVU returns with new episodes.
Variety reported in October that the episode had been “highly scrutinized” internally and that it underwent adjustments to “soften the portrayal” of Cole’s character.
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, NBC was criticized for its coverage of, and relationship to, Trump. Today anchor Matt Lauer was blasted for not fact-checking Trump and for not posing challenging questions to him during a forum in September. NBC fired Today host Billy Bush after 2005 footage emerged of him and Trump making aggressive sexual remarks about women. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon was also criticized for his light interview with Trump, while Saturday Night Live came under fire for allowing the now president-elect to serve as guest host.
Leight, who left SVU in May after serving as showrunner for four seasons, recently wrote the Trump-inspired short play Union Square Incident. It depicts a group of protesters being detained and includes specific references to the recent presidential campaign.
When asked if he thought Trump’s rhetoric would lead to less political TV series across the board, Leight said, “I already feel that TV has depoliticized with a few good exceptions. Network TV has depoliticized. There are fewer ripped-from-the-headlines kind of shows.”