Thursday, February 24, 2005

NBC claims episode not based on Sawyer County incident

File this one under "How Stupid Do They Think We Are?"

Last night, the NBC series "Law and Order" aired an episode with a plot eerily similar to the massacre in Sawyer County last November. (See my earlier entries here and here.)

Yesterday an NBC spokesperson claimed that the episode had no connection at all with the incident.

A “Law & Order” episode airing tonight might hit a nerve for people in northwestern Wisconsin, but an NBC spokeswoman said it’s not based on the Sawyer County tragedy.

“ ‘Law & Order’ is totally fictional,” spokeswoman Jeannette Ketoen said. “It’s ripped from the headlines, but it’s not based on what has happened in your area.”

If it's "ripped from the headlines," I'd like to see the headlines to which she's referring.

Let's compare:

In Sawyer County, one hunter assaulted a hunting party after he was discovered in their tree stand. He killed 5 men and 1 woman and injured two others. Law enforcement officials describing the scene said that the killer "chased them down." The killer used a semi-automatic rifle, and there has been some discussion as to whether such a rifle is even fit for deer-hunting. The hunting party was a group of friends and family that hunted in that area every year.

In the Law and Order episode, one hunter assaulted a hunting party, in an apparent dispute over a tree stand. He killed 4 men and one woman. He is described as having chased them down. The killed used a semi-automatic rifle, and at the hearing a character comments that it's not suitable for deer-hunting. The hunting party was a group of friends and family that were said to have hunted in that area every year.

So again, what headlines is she referring to, if not the local headlines regarding last November's hunting massacre?

Barron County Sheriff Thomas Richie said the episode hits too close to home.

. . .

Richie said it made him sick to see previews for tonight’s hauntingly familiar “Law & Order” episode.

“This isn’t TV material, this is real life for the people up here,” he said.

But Ketoen said the plot has nothing to do with the shootings in Sawyer County.

“If you watch the show you’ll see it’s totally fictional,” Ketoen said. “Perhaps the same thing has happened somewhere else.”

Hey, you're the one who says it's "ripped from the headlines." Show us the headlines and you can dispense with the "perhaps."

I was going to give NBC a pass because, although I figured people from the area would find the episode too unsettling (particularly the scenes of blaze orange-clad bodies sprawled on the snow in the woods), at least the episode didn't toss in the racial angle of the actual incident or try to paint hunters as racist northwoods hillbillies with guns as many media commentators did.

But for them to make this startling claim that there's no connection just boggles the mind. I'd be more impressed if they admitted it and apologized for the effect the episode would have on people who live up here. But they'd rather play CYA and dive for the bunker. (A common media theme these days.)

The Leader-Telegram article linked above also mentions this aspect of the episode that I hadn't thought of.

Eau Claire attorney Harry Hertel said potential jurors in Sawyer County who see the episode might wonder about the facts of the real case and be tainted.

“You certainly hope that people will decipher that,” Hertel said. “A substantial risk in airing the show is that they will lose potential jurors in Sawyer County if that is where the case is held.”

(Cross-posted to Badger Blog Alliance)


At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You cynic you! It was a coincidence!


At 8:26 PM, Blogger Kerry said...

I liked the sequential listing of the seven posts, rather itlike a Greek Chorus. Isn't the Lawn Order
slogan 'ripped off from the headlines'? They should subscribe to l940's True Crime Magazine; surely it is available on the net. The stories would be better, and western Wisconsin wouldn't have its community grief rubbed into the dirt on national TV to sell ads. And bad acting to boot.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Not only were there seven copies of that post, there was one draft as well. I've deleted all but this one now. Sheesh! I love when Blogger does that.


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