John Oliver took a critical look at Law & Order franchise on Sunday Last week Tonight.
He started by noting that creator Dick Wolf is a huge fan of Dragnet As a young boy, this inspired him to create his own brand of television series as an adult (after he created a series of airline commercials now considered sexist). count).
After expressing caution that some real-life legal officers have said they have learned to do their jobs by watching Law & Order and its spin-off, Oliver shifts the focus to Wolf. Oliver noted that Wolf had “a close, behind-the-scenes relationship with the NYPD, using officers as consultants, and bragging about the accessibility he has.”
He cited an interview with an unnamed writer on the show noting that there was a feeling that if police were portrayed in a negative light, the NYPD “could make it very difficult for us to shoot in New York.” .”
This “makes sense, doesn’t it?” Oliver sarcastically. “The NYPD has a reputation for being anti-shooting unless they are the ones doing it.”
Due to close cooperation with the police, the franchise gets some precise details, Oliver noted, “like specific laws, jargon, and crime scene procedures. But importantly, it also presents many choices that significantly distort the picture of the police.” That includes always catching the right culprit half way through the episode and always seeing justice done at the end of the episode. But in reality, Oliver notes, not every case is resolved, and 97% of cases never go to trial, due to plea agreements.
“Clear, Law & Order cannot reflect that reality,” Oliver said. “It won’t be found. No one wants to watch a show where 97 percent of the episodes end with two lawyers reaching an agreement in a windowless room and then you have to watch the defendant serve a six-month sentence and fight to get it. get a job at their local Jiffy Lube. “
Oliver cited a story showing that the show’s defendants were “disproportionately white, male, older, and middle or upper class,” Wolf explained by saying ” there’s no white-rich pressure group. You can do anything to want rich white guys and nobody cares.”
However, Oliver argued, Wolf “wants people to like” the “nice cop” and therefore disproportionately targeting people of color by defendants will not achieve that.
But the result of this, he argues, is that “instead of portraying a flawed system with a racist structure, the program presents exceptionally competent policemen working within a fair framework.” mostly blame whites.”
Oliver referenced an interview that Law & Order: SVU’s years ago presenter Warren Leight made The Hollywood Reporter’s Lesley Goldberg and Daniel Fienberg for Top 5 TVs podcast after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police two years ago.
When asked if Leight thinks police are portrayed as “too active” on TV, Leight replied, “Personally, I’m… making the wrong contribution to society? I don’t know. We’re generally… ? YES.” He went on to say that it is unlikely that any Law & Order the show will do an episode based on “police behaving illegally. It’s not part of… Dick Wolf’s trademark. “
Oliver said: “Law & Order will never grapple with the reality of policy in a meaningful way. … Because basically, the person in charge Law & Order and its brand is Dick Wolf, and he knows exactly what he wants his shows to do and, importantly, not do.”
He showed part of a classic interview in which Wolf said “we weren’t there to do Abner Louima” – referring to the Black man who had been beaten and dominated by police officers. NYPD in 1997. “It’s a terrible thing that happened, but that represents one or two bad apples in the 35,000-strong police force,” Wolf said, adding that the show was a tool. good recruiters for the police force, Oliver replied that such tools are often “a propaganda, heroic version of the truth – a truth, which is often not, very ugly”.
He ends by reminding viewers that a TV show and does not represent reality, like Grey’s Anatomy not an accurate representation of what goes on inside the hospital.
Law & Order is “presenting a world where the police can always find out who did it, defense lawyers are nasty obstacles to overcome, and even when the police attack a suspect, it’s all about pursue a fair outcome.”
He summed it up by noting that the show is essentially an ad for the police — “but it’s an ad for a defective product.”
The Hollywood Reporter have reached out to NBC and a representative for Wolf for comment.