Monday, October 08, 2007

Chancelucky SVU Couch Potato Edition(Law and Order)

My daughter’s gotten into Law and Order SVU lately. Thanks to Netflix, we have access to the first six seasons through their experiment with direct online distribution on our home computer. btw All tv is far better without the commercials. Now when the three of us want to relax as a family, we turn down the living room lights, get comfortable, fire up windows explorer 7.0, and then watch 45 minutes of investigations and prosecutions of gruesome sex crimes. If you have a 17 year old still at home, this is not most people's idea of "family time" but it has worked.

Seventeen years ago, before Law and Order became the Network Primetime crime franchise that it is, I got a letter from Dick Wolf productions trolling for writers who had attended boarding schools in New England. It happened that Sam Waterston, one of the stars of the original Law and Order (also the even better series Fly Away Home) which had either just started airing or was about to air and wasn’t any kind of primetime institution yet, went to my high school. In any case, my alumni office had me listed as someone who wrote. I called the assistant producer whose name was on the letter and started off by telling her that I wasn’t a member of the screenwriter’s guild.

I have a bad habit of being up front about things like that instead of pitching my strengths in these situations. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted to write for the movies. They first told me to send some of my prep school stories, then changed their mind before I sent anything. The movie turned out to be “School Ties” with Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon, which was vaguely about anti-semitism at a school vaguely like the one I went to. It didn’t do especially well, nor did I really hit myself over the head afterwards and say “Damn, if only I had helped to write that movie about ringers and anti-semitism.”

Who knows what might have happened had I pitched myself a bit harder. Little did I know that the Dick Wolf ‘s other project would turn into this crime/courtroom juggernaut. I often wonder if I had begged a little harder, if they might have needed a screenwriter/scriptwriter who happened to have a law degree. Of course, if any of this had happened and I had gotten into the world of helping with Law and Order scripts, my daughter surely would have had no interest in the program. Teenagers are just oppositional like that. When I worked for George Lucas, the rest of my family refused to take any interest in Star Wars and none of them even visited Skywalker Ranch during my year there. I did get my wife to go to the Christmas party at least. Anyway, it could have been Law and Order Reality TV Unit.

You think, I’m projecting maybe a little too much ? It was , after all, a single letter looking for screenwriters who knew boarding schools firsthand a mere seventeen years ago.

Now that the family has watched something like 20 episodes together, I’ve discovered that I rather like the show. It’s well written. It raises serious social issues and appreciates the complexities. It manages to stay entertaining from a what next who dunnit standpoint, though the writers love red herring evidence and suspects. It’s not the best tv show ever even of the crime and punishment variety (Hill St. for one was better), but I’m fine with my kid watching this instead of Flava of Love or Six and a Half Charlie Sheens,

It happened that in one of the episodes we watched last week, Fred Thompson showed up in his recurring role as the District Attorney of the New York-based Law and Order shows. No one ever seems to mention that if Thompson’s TV Character were real, he was likely working under Rudy Giuliani and the US Senator for the state was Hillary Clinton. Instead of a debate, a primary, or even an election, they could just have a very special episode of Law and Order. Perhaps they could have another US Senator who got arrested at an airport for disturbing the peace in a bathroom stall. The matter comes to a senator whose husband was once accused of having sex with an intern. In the meantime, the mayor of New York is having affairs with two different women. Benson and Stabler show up at DA Thompson’s office to discuss the matter while parts of his wife pop into the office minutes before the camera finds her face.

Instead, the actual episode I saw was a complex look at abortion rights, spousal rape, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Fred Thompson’s bit was to cut his SVU deputy DA out of the deal (my family agrees that they liked the tall-slender- model like -blonde, DA’s better than the tall-slender Red Haird DA (sorry Bella) ) and agree to pursue a court order that would monitor an alcoholic mother’s drinking during the term of the pregnancy. I suppose that was more than mildly political. In fact, the episode had a great deal to say about the actual needs of the baby and the mother having little to do with the fight. In the episode, various groups jump in to posture for legal positions that favored whatever they were advocating. The actual psychological impact on the people involved barely mattered.

I suppose that was the oddest thing. Law and Order SVU actually had a more nuanced and humanistic view of the abortion question than our public political discourse. Saddest of all, Fred Thompson, the character on the tv show, came off as way wiser, better informed, and much more sophisticated on the abortion issue than Fred Thompson the candidate.

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At 10/09/2007 05:06:00 PM, Blogger benny06 said...

After listening to parts of the Republican debate (SPOILER alert), I would have to agree Grandpa Fred on a fictional show was better than the politician I saw today. I would have thought Freddy would be more polished and have his campaign together. He doesn't.

I like that show. I've watched many episodes of it, although I haven't seen it recently. I like the detective who has an Ivy League brain and knows all kinds of historical or scientific facts to use for cases.

Too bad you didn't try out, CL. You write very well, and I still believe you could put that talent to use somewhere in Hollywood or in a novel. But at least I get to read you on the internet. I promise if you write a book, I will buy it.

Speaking of bloggers who are novelists, check out David Mizner's book, Hartsburg, USA, which is about a school board election in a fictional small town in OH. I'm not finished with it yet but it is pretty entertaining. It is available through many public libraries if you don't have the cash at hand.

At 10/09/2007 07:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm waiting on the next Lucky Tang installment, by the way. I go there every day I'm online. Let's put the pedal to the metal, cl.

I'm not sure all Fred's krispies go snap, crackle, or pop . . .

At 10/11/2007 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I just saw my first episode of SVU, okay, the last 20 minutes of an episode and I was interested by the subject matter (teen rapes teacher and the ensuing horror and fallout - I won't mention the rest of the plot because you'll get to it) and the way it was handled.

I was a little horrified by some of the things that happened but intrigued by the power of the piece and how quickly they got to the core of some of the issues. I'm still mulling over the ending and how it made me feel.

Potent stuff and I agree, better a show like this with the family that might encourage discussion of issues rather than Two and Half Out of Court Divorce Settlements or whatever Charlie's show is called.

How is the writing going? Are you famous yet?

At 10/14/2007 08:43:00 PM, Blogger Sunny said...

It's a damnably addictive show and like your comparisons.

At 10/17/2007 07:04:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Okay, a very rough version of chapter 2 is up on my other blog.

At 8/12/2009 11:16:00 PM, Blogger I'm Back! said...

I watch all episodes of this show. i like it. It's become my fav show when i watch this show first time.if anyone want to Download Law and Order Episodes then click here...


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