One of the TV shows Gail and I have liked to watch for years is Law & Order. In more recent years, we’ve also enjoyed its cousins, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. For those of you who don’t watch them, each of these shows occasionally has an episode they describe as being “Ripped from the headlines”, where they take a real-life high-profile news story, and write an episode about it. Of course, they change the names and some details and stuff, but it’s usually pretty obvious what story they’re talking about. For example, a few years ago, they did one about a man who was arrested and tried for several murders, including that of his wife’s sister. Later on, it was revealed that his wife was directly involved in the killings, and was just as evil as he was, if not more. This was the story of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. There was another one about a six-year-old beauty pageant winner who was murdered. For the most part, the stories had some obvious connections to the real-life stories, but diverged in some way as the story went on.
I think these “ripped from the headlines” episodes were fairly popular, since they began becoming more and more frequent, and then I think the writers just started getting lazy. In the last month or so, there was a L&O story about a female astronaut who suffered a mental breakdown, and drove across several states (wearing adult-sized diapers to avoid having to stop) to confront her lover and his wife. The other day, we started watching one (this was L&O:CI) involving a pudgy bleach-blonde former stripper who had become famous by marrying a 90-year-old billionaire and inheriting his estate on his death. Her 20-something son died of a drug overdose shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then she died mysteriously shortly after that. When the story started to deal with paternity issues, we got bored and turned it off.
Note to the L&O writers: enough of the “ripped from the headlines” stuff already. It’s been done. To death. Drop it. It’s one thing to write a story that vaguely resembles a news item, but when you take the news item, modify the names of the people involved, and that’s it, well, that’s hardly even worthy of the term “writing”, is it?