Running Thoughts: ‘Law & Order’ and Late-Night TV


You know it’s got to be a good time to be a late-night host immediately after a popular presidential hopeful announces his candidacy on your program. For Jay Leno, this has got to be some sort of a coup–technically, he was the first to interview Fred Thompson as a candidate, before reporters could get a crack at him.  

Not bad for a comedian!

There has been some low-level buzz of late about TNT’s decision to continue airing past episodes of Law & Order in which Thompson appeared.  I’d call it a dull roar, though, nothing more. TNT as a cable network is not currently subject to the equal-time law, at least not as far the precedent has been set. Thompson’s character on the show isn’t a bad guy, so I will freely speculate that the candidate himself will not be upset about episodes continuing to be aired.

It sometimes seems as if you can’t turn on a TV without catching a rerun from the Law & Order franchise. I do wonder, though, what would his campaign have to say if his character had been an antagonist? Twenty-three episodes of a show a week is a lot of airtime, especially if you’re playing a bad guy, even if he’s not in every single one of them. Would they have complained then? Formally requested the episodes not be aired?

What’s more, how do you think Governor Schwarzenegger felt when the first Terminator aired while he was running for office? Or about the fact that the public could continue renting it whenever they wanted? Does the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” apply within the world of politics? I’d daresay not, given Senator Craig’s recent bouts with the media.  If Anthony Hopkins were to run for public office, do you think he’d demand that networks not air The Silence of the Lambs?

I wonder, too, if the public would have more to say if Thompson was a female, or a minority, or basically anyone outside of the traditional political old boys club? I pose the question because certain candidates are simply more recognizable because they do not fit a certain mold.

Or, what if Thompson were a younger, outstandingly good-looking candidate? Not that I have anything against his looks, but he’s no Jack Kennedy. Men don’t look at Fred Thompson giving an interview and want to play touch football with him in Hyannis. Women don’t look at Fred Thompson giving an interview and want to play touch football with him in Hyannis.

If George Clooney were running for public office, and ER reruns were as ubiquitous as Law & Order ones, would there be a greater outcry? Who’s to say?

For now, it’s got to be good to be Leno, and it’s probably pretty good to be Fred Thompson, too.