Christopher Meloni leaving Law & Order: SVU

May 24, 2011 at 8:58 p.m. ET

Christopher Meloni is leaving Law & Order: SVU after 12 years on the job.

Christopher Meloni

If you were hoping for more surprise shots of Christopher Meloni in his underwear next season, you'll have to turn your sights elsewhere. The actor is leaving Law & Order: SVU after 12 years.

Meloni was in the midst of protracted negotiations for a new contract, which new NBC head Bob Greenblatt said at upfronts was "nearly done." Not nearly enough, apparently, because the actor will not be playing Detective Elliot Stabler during the show's 13th season.

"It is true -- 12 great years and time for the next chapter," Meloni's rep told E! News.

Meloni's departure is not the only big change for the hit show. Mariska Hargitay, who had played Stabler's partner Olivia Benson for the entire run of the show, negotiated a scaled-back role so she can spend more time with her family, and Jennifer Love Hewitt is rumored to be in the running for a lead role.

You tell us: Will you still watch Law & Order: SVU without Benson and Stabler?

Image courtesy WENN