For more than a decade, Christopher Meloni was the top-billed star of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit". He played Detective Elliot Stabler of the New York Police Department. For the role, Meloni was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in 2006.

Meloni departed from the series in 2011. The move came after negotiations failed to result in a new contract. Mariska Hargitay, who plays the now-Captain Olivia Benson, would take over the top billing of "SVU". Now, it appears that Meloni is set to return to the franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Meloni is to star in a new "Law & Order" series

Christopher Meloni is to reprise his role as Elliot Stabler in a new "Law & Order" spin-off on NBC. Entertainment Weekly reports that Meloni confirmed the news over on Facebook. A title for the upcoming series hasn't yet been announced to the public.

In the new series, Stabler is supposed to be leading an organized crime unit of the NYPD. Speculation has already begun about the possibility of an on-screen reunion between Meloni's Stabler and Hargitay's Benson. Some explanation would likely have to be given as to Eliot Stabler's return to the NYPD. His character was supposed to have resigned from the force amidst controversy. However, it wouldn't necessarily be a huge surprise if his return isn't explained in detail.

There is precedent for this in "Law & Order" history.

One needs only to look to "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Detectives Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames left the NYPD in a very dramatic fashion. Later, actor Vincent D'Onofrio and actress Kathryn Erbe agreed to return to the series. Goren and Eames were given back their former positions with the department.

Other than somebody briefly welcoming them back, their absence was largely ignored. As to how the characters got their old jobs back after such climactic departures, fans were left guessing.

Since leaving "SVU", Meloni has taken on roles on various other projects. They include parts on the HBO series "True Blood" and the movies "Man of Steel" and "42".

Part of a massive franchise

Six different series have already debuted on NBC since 1990. Three of the series would reach double-digits in terms of seasons on the air. "SVU" continues on today. It holds the record as the longest-running American primetime live-action scripted drama. The other two to reach double digits were the original "Law & Order" and "Criminal Intent". A number of foreign versions of "Law & Order" have also been made in other countries. Arguably the most notable of them has been "Law & Order: UK". A made-for-television movie, "Law & Order: Exiled", debuted in 1998.

The "Law & Order" franchise has also been connected with multiple other television series over the years. Including NBC's "Chicago" franchise, made up of four different series. They are "Chicago Fire", "Chicago P.D.", "Chicago Med" and "Chicago Justice".