Thursday, November 19, 2009

Law and Order's shameless propaganda placement

Or, why you should never watch TV.

    Breitbart's Big Hollywood -

    NBC’s “Law and Order” is in its 20th season. The economy is weak, so they have devolved to converting White House talking points into weekly shows. Last week, “Doped” was a farcical equivalent of “Damien Thorn meets Karen Silkwood.” Pharmaceutical companies and Doctors are worse than drug cartels. The killers in the previous week’s episode on such cartels were more sympathetic than the health professionals.

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    In the opening scene, a woman with 4 children is driving the wrong way down the West Side Highway (like the Diane Schuler Taconic Parkway horror this summer). Speaking on her cell phone erratically (no “hands free!”), the kids get concerned. She decides it is time to use nasal spray for her allergies, which had been spiked without her knowledge. Flash forward and viewers see two mangled vehicles resulting in seven deaths.

    Detectives Barnard and Lupo scan the usual suspects; husband (nope, he seems too distraught), in-laws (no reason, plus their kids died), even the cancer stricken mother-in-law (too sincere). We discover the deceased woman and her boss (“Mad Men’s” Rich Sommer) have had secret late night meetings for weeks. They discovered their drug company has doctored marketing materials and bribed doctors to push a cancer medication which can extend terminal patients lives up to a few months, although most last at most a week. The medication is a $1000 a day. The episode makes it clear such life extending drugs exist for drug company profit only.

    Consumers are portrayed as morons and dupes. Doctor’s have magical (and evil) powers to persuade them to buy this drug against their own better judgment and economic interest. One middle aged son complains that his father lasted 30 days too long on the drug, thus wiping out his mother’s savings as she was forced to sell her house. Apparently the writers did not think it important to explore why the father and mother were willing to do this. But they were quite sure they should not have. Who needs death panels with kids like that?

    Insurance companies are also evil. Even though they stopped paying for a drug which the writers make clear should not exist, they still come in for criticism for discontinuing payments. In utter frustration, Jack McCoy blurts out, “This is why we need health care reform.” Why is that Jack? The drug company used misleading advertising and made bribes. Don’t we already have laws against that? Or do we need to force people not to take life-extending drugs? What does health-care reform have to do with any of this? When shows just follow talking points it is hard to stay coherent.

    Ultimately, we learn the deceased drunk mother, Brenda Sawyer, was working with the FDA to expose her company’s deceitful marketing representations and practices, including bribing doctors, about the life extending cancer drug, “Lextenda.” A “whistle-blower” law awards a large percent of the fine to those who come forward if their company is convicted. Sommer’s character, Zach Marshall was her boss. He was working with her under the impression they would be sharing the award. She informed him, as the official “whistle-blower,” she would giving the award to charity. Marshall realizes his big payday is gone and decides to murder her so he can collect the award. During an office party he spikes her soft drink with alcohol and her nasal spray with a drug which mixes poorly with alcohol. Marshall then discovers she’s picking up the children and calls 9-1-1, but too late. He thought killing her was fine (plus whoever she might hit) but had some qualms about children.

    While it is not made clear how Marshall communicated with his company, McCoy knew he had information proving their deceitful practices and was effectively blackmailing them. They erased his computer files, and paid for his legal defense, apparently all legal. The Chairman of Woodmore Pharmaceutical (a contributor to McCoy, who righteously gives him back his money) is shown as clearly caring only about covering up the illegal and deceitful marketing practices. The plot line makes it clear the company was willing to defend Sommer, regardless of what he did – including murder, to prevent the information from getting out. Sommer is convicted of murder. The exposure of Woodmore’s practices is not made explicit, but the viewer assumes they have been compromised.

    And that is why we need health care reform.