Monday, May 16, 2016

"Is It Possible To Get Your Dramatic License Revoked?"

I spoke not long ago about how anyone will inevitably scoff mightily – possibly through their noses – at how their particular line of work is portrayed in movies and on television.

REAL LIFE SERIAL KILLER:  “Oh, give me a break!”

… to pick an example randomly out of the air.

Writers change stuff for the benefit of the story, to make it move faster, to make it more dramatically effective, to make a character understandable.

REAL LIFE SERIAL KILLER:  “Yeah, like my dog ran away explains my pathological proclivities.  Hey, I was bored and I enjoy cutting them up.”

… to pick an example randomly out of the air.  Wait, it’s the same example.  Could I have possibly chosen it for dramatic effect?  What am I, a writer?

The thing is…

Sometimes, writers go annoyingly too far. 

Or so it seems in this humble viewing audience member’s opinion.

Exhibit “A” – Law & Order.  (Of which I have seen virtually every episode, including when Michael Moriarty preceded Sam Waterston.  Hold on, I just checked the Internet.  The Moriarty character was on the show for four seasons and I saw maybe a handful of those episodes.  Damn that Wikipedia.  I just hate it when I’m wrong!)

(Maybe they kept the earlier episodes out of syndication, so as to stiff Michael Moriarty – who abruptly abandoned the show – out of his residuals.  He hypothesized, clinging to the hope that he might still, in fact, be correct.)

They had this one Law & Order episode, which I shall employ as an example of like, “What?  The law allows you to do that?”  I’m not a lawyer.  Maybe it’s legit.  But it felt more like an artificial plot point used to energize the story.  And when they as blatantly as it appears they did here, somebody needs to consider yanking their “dramatic license”.  Or at least suspending it till they vow solemnly never to do it again.  

Okay, so there’s this murder victim who during World War II sold insurance policies to incipient Holocaust victims, knowing that their beneficiaries would be incapable of collecting because they would likely become Holocaust victims themselves.  How’s that for using genocide as a “profit center”?

Anyway, it turns out, that this sleazy insurance salesman – I happen to know one who isn’t so the term is not entirely redundant – kept a book where he’d assiduously recorded all of his transactions, a book that would incriminate the (it happened to be an Italian) insurance company’s American “parent” insurance company, placing them in serious difficulty.  Being labeled “The Holocaust Guys” is unlikely to be good for their business.  (Unless they had a strictly “former Nazi” clientele.)

So there’s this incriminating book, and the attorney for the “parent” American insurance company, who are the defendants in this trial, assures the court that they have no idea where that incriminating piece of evidence is.

Later, however, when it looks like they’re in trouble, that same attorney offers to produce that incriminating book in exchange for a less punitive sentence. 


They assured the court earlier that they had no idea where the book was, and now, when it is expedient for them to do so, they are willing to produce it in exchange for a deal?

Lawyers – help me out here. 

You can actually do that?  (In which case, who voted to make that legal?)

Or is this simply a bogus plot point introduced for dramatic effect, an outrageous incredulity that would have attorneys watching at home slapping their foreheads?

If it’s the latter, the question then is, “Is it okay to bamboozle ignorant viewers like myself with legalistic bushwa?” 

I honestly do not know which is the more egregious offense:  Lying to the court or manipulating me?

Wait, it’s manipulating me.  Because in this case, there is no court. 

It’s just a television show.

Which apparently entitles them to play me – and others of my trusting and uneducated ilk – for suckers.

I hate that!  I put in a whole hour watching Law & Order.  And that’s how they treat me!?!

Come to think of it, the whole show is a manipulation.  Law & Order’s suspense is predicated on getting the audience caught up in which way the jury is going to vote, when in fact, it’s the writers who vote and they tell the fictional jury what to say.

When the foreperson reads the verdict from the paper?  That’s not a jury’s decision.  A writer wrote down what is written on it.

And writers can do anything they want.  Even if no actual jury would ever vote that way.

A FORMER JUROR:  “Principle, shminsiple.  Our objective was to get out of that Jury Room as quickly as possible.  After hopefully getting ‘Juror Eleven’s’ phone number.”

How do those writers decide on the verdict?

For all I know, its,

“‘Heads’, they’re guilty, ‘Tails’, they go home.  The coin rolls under the sofa, it’s a ‘Hung Jury’.”

They have to come to a verdict somehow.

Because there is no actual jury to decide!


The dramatic content – manipulated.  The jury’s decision – manipulated.

What the heck am I watching?

“Dramatic license” is one thing. 

But pulling the wool over my eyes?

We are definitely

Not amused.

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