Revenge of the Show Runner

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The Wall Street Journal reports on the tendency of TV writers to get revenge on their real-life enemies by eviscerating them on their shows:

After several seasons of disappointing reviews, writers on the USA network’s mystery series “Psych” decided to get revenge. They crafted an episode involving a psychotic killer doctor. The deranged murderer’s name? Ken Tucker, who in real life is the mild-mannered, 57-year-old TV critic for Entertainment Weekly magazine.

“It was never ‘Dr. Tucker’ or just ‘Ken.’ It was always ‘Did Ken Tucker eviscerate the body?'” says USA original programming chief Jeff Wachtel.

….When the lead detective wants to discuss a serious matter with his partner in the drama “Detroit 1-8-7,” which premieres on ABC Sept. 21, he will only talk via cellphone, even when the two men are in the same car or sitting together at a coffee shop. “That’s a reference to a passive-aggressive Hollywood producer who will go unnamed,” says executive producer Jason Richman, referring to a power player who goes to great lengths to avoid face-to-face confrontations.

Some gestures are more casual. Before he created “Mad Men,” Matthew Weiner worked as a writer on “The Sopranos,” where he put the name of a former employer who had wronged him on a gravestone in the background of a cemetery scene.

This is pretty disappointing. I think it would be kind of cool to be eviscerated on a TV show, and I figured my only real problem is that no one dislikes me quite enough to bother. I could always work on that, though. But why bother, if “evisceration” just means having one of my quirks silently mocked or my name showing up on a gravestone in the background of a single scene? Hell, without Tivo I might miss that it even happened. Is this really the best that TV writers can do?

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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