Christopher Meloni leaves 'SVU' -- so who should take his place?

meloni-svu-replacements.jpgThe news that Christopher Meloni won't return to "Law & Order: SVU" next season blindsided fans of the long-running series. The question now is: Who fills Elliot Stabler's shoes?

NBC and "SVU's" producers are reportedly searching for a "big name" to take over for Meloni, who's been with the show since its debut in 1999. In addition to being well-known, though, the guy (and we're assuming it will be a guy, so as to preserve the male-female dynamic between the lead detectives) who takes over for Meloni will need to have chemistry with co-star Mariska Hargitay and, if not match the intensity Meloni brought to Stabler, at least command attention in a similar way.

We don't know if any of the six actors below are "big" enough for NBC, but we think they'd all do fine work on "SVU."

John C. McGinley: He's known more as a comedic actor thanks to "Scrubs," but he can do tightly wound and dramatic just as well as tightly wound and hilarious. (He's also a pal of Meloni's, for what that's worth.) If the show is looking for a character in the Stabler mold, he'd be an excellent choice.

Dean Winters: The former "Rescue Me" star and on-and-off Liz Lemon boyfriend has actually been an "SVU" regular in the past. He was written off midway through Season 1 with the explanation with his young detective wasn't up to handling the rigors of the Special Victims Unit (he also had a one-night stand with Hargitay's Olivia Benson). More than a decade later, he's presumably a much tougher detective -- maybe a transfer back into SVU is in order?

Dominic West: The cameo by Richard Belzer in Season 5 of "The Wire" continued his streak of playing John Munch on a record number of shows but also establishing that "SVU" and "The Wire" exist in the same universe. We don't think West should reprise Jimmy McNulty on "SVU," but we do think there would be fantastic sparks between him and Hargitay.

Seth Gilliam: On the other hand, we'd be perfectly happy if Gilliam could bring his "Wire" character, Ellis Carver, back to life in the "Law & Order" universe. Carver was the epitome of what that show called "good police." (He's also an "L&O" veteran, having guested on several episodes of the original show, "Criminal Intent" and "Trial by Jury.")

Donal Logue: He'd be a slightly outside-the-box choice, but Logue is an excellent actor. We'd love to see how he'd handle interaction with his fellow detectives (particularly Belzer as Munch), victims and suspects.

Boris Kodjoe: The "Undercovers" star has typically played more suave characters, but he could handle the grittier world of "SVU" as well. At 38, he's also somewhat younger than the current regulars, which could bring a different shade to the relationship between the two lead detectives. The older-younger dynamic worked well for many years on the "L&O" mothership, and it would be worth a try here as well.

Who would you cast to replace Meloni on "SVU"?

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images, NBC