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Just for curiosity, has anyone who follows "Law and Order" noticed a distinct change in the politics of the show in some of the newer episodes? I actually never used to watch it much before, but my roommates got me addicted to it (well, and the fact that there's endless reruns of it on TNT to watch when I want to), so I've watched a lot of it this year. The thing is, on all of the old episodes, Jack McCoy (the District Attorney) really seems like he's honestly interested in looking for the truth and doing the right thing. But I've noticed at least a few episodes from the past year or two (which are noticeable because Jerry Orbach isn't in them) where he instead looks like your stereotypical obnoxious, nasty, egotistical prosecutor who just wants to be able to say he did his job, even if that means ignoring the truth to make his job easier. And the thing is, the way it plays out, it's not intended just to make the show more interesting--it looks like the show is portraying that as how things are supposed to be. And because I generally have grown to really respect Jack McCoy's character, from watching all of the episodes where he is a good guy, it really pisses me off to see that. Can I blame Bush for that? (ie. the show decided that the country has become more conservative, so they need to follow the tide?) Of course, if this has really just happened in the last year or two, they're a little bit late on that, but I don't know.

This was brought on by an episode that I saw tonight, which was really bad with that. The premise is that this really prominent rap DJ/producer was killed, and a young rapper who he was mentoring was the suspect. This guy had never been in trouble before, though, and everyone said he was a good kid. It turns out that he has a close friend who goes by the name "Psycho", who had been a suspect in another murder, was a drug dealer, and generally seemed like someone who would be capable of murdering someone. But the specific evidence is stronger against the other kid, and when Serena (the assistant D.A.) tries to get the suspect to tell them that his friend did it to save himself, he won't. So Jack, and Arthur (the chief prosecutor, who has been clearly conservative on the show, and who's actually played by a former Republican senator) decide that if the kid won't tell them that his friend did it, they might as well go ahead with the trial, to put pressure on him, if nothing else. So they go through with the trial, but eventually, the friend ("Psycho") comes forward and wants to testify that he did it, which of course is what Serena thought all along. But here's where you start throwing things at the writers. Jack doesn't want to accept that, because the kid who was on trial apparently paid his friend a lot of money to testify, so in theory it could have been coerced. He refused to drop the charges against the kid, his friend testified, and the jury found him not guilty. But then, just to rub it in even more, immediately after the verdict is read, Jack asks the judge to rearrest him for tampering with the witness, for paying his friend to testify, and to force him to answer questions about the other murder that his friend was accused of and never charged with. (The thing is, on the older shows, I think when the friend came forward, Jack would have been perfectly fine to drop the charges, even if he thought the guy they were charging should have told them something earlier, because that's what would be just. But here, it seemed like he was just being vindictive and egotistical, and making the guy pay for not cooperating with him sooner.) Finally, at the end, Arthur asks to meet with Serena, and he tells her that she was wrong for trying to advocate for what turned out to actually be the truth, because she didn't have any facts, and she was investing too much passion in it, where to be a prosecutor, you have to be cold-blooded, rational, and objective. And so he fired her. Now I guess they needed some way to get her off the show, so that was what they came up with, but...it still really pisses me off that that's the direction they would take it in. And then, even more nonsensically, what seems to be out of the blue, the first thing she asks after he says she's fired is, "This isn't because I'm a lesbian, is it?," to which Arthur replied, "No, of course not," and she said "OK, that's good." And that was the end of the episode. Huh?? First of all, I never heard her being a lesbian mentioned on the show before...and either way, the way it played out, it was just stupid, and way beneath what I'd expect from Law and Order.

So yeah, of course it is just a TV show, and after writing this, I think a lot of what's bothered me is more from crappy/lazy writing more than any conscious political agenda... Still, I wouldn't be surprised if they are trying to make it more "realistic" to what prosecutors are really like, and trying to appeal to a more conservative audience. And either way...it's upsetting to see a (yeah, fictional) person who you generally really respect as good and honorable, and who does his job the way we'd hope real prosecutors do, all of a sudden become...less so, and be more vindictive and egotistical, and less truth-seeking. But just subtly enough that there's no real explanation for it, and nobody around him treats him any differently, so it just seems like an evolution in his personality, not something sudden that would have an expicit cause that can be analyzed. (Now Arthur did tell Serena, when Arthur was lecturing her, and she asked this, that Jack didn't feel as strongly as he did, but it was Arthur's decision to make. But there's no evidence that Jack disagreed with him, and everything that they did show earlier in the episode suggested that Jack generally agreed with Arthur here, which is what's out of character with what I would have expected from him in the past.) And I guess it's also upsetting to see a show that always was well-written, interesting, and idealistic to all of a sudden change like this. Well...I guess there's still plenty of old reruns out there...

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Michael

November 2010

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