|Confession: I have probably seen more episodes of “Law & Order” than can be considered healthy, even for a New Yorker. This small obsession is easily fed, of course. There are about 700 episodes of the various “Law & Order” programs running and rerunning on at least four television outlets in New York City.|
This constant stream transports me into a better place, where the late Jerry Orbach is still snarling about real life. Reruns revive the old Fred Thompson in all his precampaign savvy. They elevate Sam Waterston to his ethical pedestal, even though he appears elsewhere pitching investments.
Despite these distractions, this program works because it feels so genuine. That, apparently, can also be a problem. When an auxiliary police officer turned out to be the bad guy in a recent episode, the real auxiliary officers at the New York Police Department took mighty offense. They felt belittled, as they often do in real life, apparently. And when one disgruntled lawyer on the show referred to the perpetrator as a “wannabe” police officer, that did it.
The auxiliaries have petitioned NBC to somehow undo this “slap in the face,” as one volunteer put it. They want another show that depicts an auxiliary policeman as the good guy. Such counter-programming could take a lot of work. In the 17 years that “Law & Order” has been in business, the villains have included doctors, lawyers, porn kings, psychiatrists, religious leaders, selfish parents (often rich ones) and even a journalist or two.
What’s more, the heroes on the show are almost always “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders,” as the introduction promises. So when the auxiliary officer was convicted of murder on an episode this month, it was more evidence that these volunteers were not really in the club. They had been shoved onto the wrong side of the “Law & Order” story line.
These part-time officers who wear uniforms but do not carry weapons certainly deserve more respect. They deserve it from the public and from the New York Police Department, which issued bulletproof vests only after two of the auxiliary officers were killed last year. But should they care about the “Law & Order” people?
When the line gets this fuzzy between the real world and the script, even one ripped from the headlines, it may be time to move to the cooking channel.