Jennifer Love Hewitt is being eyed as the new female lead on Law & Order: SVU as Mariska Hargitay has signed a deal to return for the 13th season in a reduced capacity, Deadline reports.
Fall 2011 TV Scorecard: Which shows are returning? Which aren't?
Hargitay, who had asked for her workload to be scaled back, will work fewer hours for the same salary of $385,000 an episode, according to the site. At midseason, her character, Detective Olivia Benson, will be promoted to a supervisor position, during which a new female detective, presumably played by Hewitt, will take her place.
Hewitt, who earned raves for her guest spot as a rape victim on SVU earlier this season, has not received an official offer yet, Deadline says.
As for Hargitay's partner-in-crime-fighting, Christopher Meloni is seeking a raise and has not yet locked in a deal, according to Deadline.
In a conference call with reporters Sunday, NBC chief Robert Greenblatt sounded confident that Meloni would close his deal to return and confirmed the impending addition of a new detective later in the season.
"I think creatively that will give both Mariska's and Chris' characters an interesting kind of new relationship. Jennifer is somebody that we've been circling. I don't know if that's going to ultimately come to pass or not but we just want to keep refreshing these concepts especially the older that they get," he said. "Mariska also just adopted a child and we're not sure beyond this next season where we'll be with her so we're looking at a lot of different options."
Reps for NBC and Dick Wolf had no comment. An e-mail to Hargitay's rep was not immediately returned.
What do you think? Is Hewitt a suitable replacement for Hargitay? Can any pairing top Benson and Stabler's?