Tonight’s “SVU” promises one of those ‘ripped from the headlines’ tales with the episode “Funny Valentine.”
The official synopsis for tonight’s installment reads “When a rising star is beaten by her high-profile boyfriend, the SVU detectives work every angle to bring the manipulative, shameless abuser to justice."
While this episode is clearly influenced by the 2009 incident between singers Chris Brown and Rhianna, it’s key to remember that as with all ‘SVU” episodes this is a scripted drama and while a headline may inspire a jumping off point, the writers and producers only use that as the framework with which they construct the the story that they want to tell.
Sadly, there are far too many such headlines from which the creative powers at “SVU” can choose to feature on the show.
When I asked Executive Producer Julie Martin about the motivation for continuing to portray this type of narrative week after week, year after year, she responded with, “It’s hard to say it, but human behavior always seems to disappoint. Every single day there’s something unbelievable happening. Real people provide us with the best material. It’s really, really sad, but literally, we don’t have to make stuff up, we just have to keep an eye out for it.”
While not getting into specifics about the very public situation involving Chris Brown and Rhianna, it’s safe to say that the incident, and its continuing aftermath, has evoked varying opinions from virtually every segment of the population.
And, while the event that‘s opened the door for these frank discussions about domestic violence should never have happened, it did in fact occur and therefore merits these continued conversations. And, while the celebrity couple at the center of it all may not concern themselves with what the general population has to say, the fact is that if any of this dialogue helps even one victim extract him or herself from just such a situation, then something very valuable has indeed been gained.
In an interesting twist on this particular topic, when I asked several co-workers what they thought about the Chris Brown\Rhianna incident and the current status of their relationship, two themes emerged that seem to fit either party involved; the first being, ‘You can’t save people from themselves’ and the second stated as, ‘Love, or the perception of love, can make even the seemingly sanest person do incredibly stupid and harmful things.’
Sadly, it seems that these two themes emerge in virtually every episode of “SVU," but, it’s exactly this facet that makes the drama so believable.
Telling these difficult stories will always put viewers on one side or the other of an ethical dividing line, and that’s just as it should be. “SVU” is not now, nor has it ever purported to be, a ‘feel good’ show. It’s a complex drama for the ‘thinking’ observer that is sometimes difficult to watch and often even harder to fully digest.
But television is a medium that reaches millions of people, and what better way to get the masses to consider such topics not as taboo but widely open for discussion? And, if those discussions lead to action, then, as has been proven year after year, “SVU” is truthfully so much more than just a television show recounting stories on a screen.
The building blocks for “SVU” may come from those daily headlines, but it’s after the careful construction, when all of the pieces are finally put into place and the whole structure is revealed, that “SVU” accomplishes its goal of doing what it does best -- providing a platform for the underserved themes that so desperately need attention.
"SVU" stars Mariska Hargitay, Danny Pino, Ice-T, Kelli Giddish, Richard Belzer and Dann Florek. Guest stars for this episode include Raul Esparza, Roca, Tiffany Robinson, and Jeffrey Tambor, with special appearances by Perez Hilton, Dave Navarro and Wendy Williams.
“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesday at 9/8c on NBC.
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