[THE FINALE IN A SERIES OF "GREAT LINK" ESSAYS ABOUT ALTERNATE DIMENSIONS]
I wrote all of those blog entries about alternate dimensions in the TV Universe in order to finally come around to discussing the latest episode of 'Law & Order', "Gov Love".
In the episode, a politically connected businessman was charged with murdering the wife of the Connecticut governor in order to keep her from disclosing that the governor is gay and has been having an affair with another man. The best evidence against the guy was his own confession to his lover, but he tried getting the confession excluded from evidence on the basis that they were actually married in a New Paltz ceremony back in March of 2004.
Typical of the show's frequent boasts that it's "ripped from the headlines", "Gov Love" combined the recent problems faced by two real-life governors with the debate over whether same-sex marriages should get the same constitutional guarantees as a traditional form of marriage, between a man and a woman.
As for the governor who was the victim's husband, Governor Reardon was a combination of former Connecticut Governor John D. Rowland and New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who was to step down on November 15. On July 1, Rowland resigned amidst possible impeachment and indictment on corruption charges. On August 12, McGreevey announced that he would resign due to his having a homosexual affair and his desire to avoid having that affect his ability to govern; reports indicate that McGreevey had an affair with a man who had been hired in the state government and who had threatened to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment.
Having a character based on the combination of the two wouldn't have been a problem, if only the Powers That Be had left the governor's home state nebulous; if we had never learned its name. But they stated outright that it was Connecticut; that the governor's vacation home (a target of investigation because it was built for free in exchange for political favors) was located in Litchfield. And several scenes were identified as taking place in Hartford, Stamford and in Bridgeport.
Yeah, McGreevey's personal peccadilloes (adultery, homosexuality, and cronyism) were blended into the character, but it was Rowland's state that was used; thus tying it closer to Rowland himself. And the fact that the governor's name was Reardon certainly didn't help.
(Rowland/Reardon, Reardon/Rowland... let's call the whole thing off!)
Personally I don't care if Rowland does end up feeling like he was unfairly portrayed in the episode (although they did take allegations about his marriages past and present to the ultimate limit). My problem lies in the fact that the 'Law & Order' creative team felt it necessary to proclaim the state as being Connecticut. (And not just because it's my home state and near and dear to my heart.)
My objections are based on the assertion that in the main TV Universe, Connecticut already has a governor, Jody Rell, and that the governor before her was John Rowland.
The basic maxim is that whatever is broadcast on TV becomes part and parcel of the TV Universe. And that includes the news. For the past few years, Governor Rowland dominated the airwaves in the Constitution State, leading up to the day that he finally resigned from office in disgrace.
As for Jody Rell, she had her own public affairs program on Connecticut TV all the time while she was the Lt. Governor under Rowland. That should solidify her presence in the TV Universe as a member of the League of Themselves.
I've admitted in the past that I can't possibly keep up with every little detail from all of the TV shows out there, so how am I to know whether or not Governor Rowland (and/or his political difficulties) was ever mentioned on TV shows that were set in Connecticut, like the current 'My Wife And Kids', 'The Gilmore Girls' or 'Judging Amy'?
In the past, 'Law & Order' has solidified its link with the real version of New York City by having Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg appearing on the show as themselves. Aside from the conventional wisdom that you don't bleep where you eat so don't piss off your hosts, why should the Big Apple get such consideration but not the political leaders of its neighbors? The audiences viewing in those states deserve just as much adherence to the reality to which they can relate as do the audiences in New York.
Every so often on other shows, there have been characters who were congressional representatives that no more existed in the real world than Spongebob Squarepants. Or Dennis Rodman. But usually the states they represent are never mentioned. (An example that comes to mind is Senator Matheson, Mulder's congressional ally on 'The X-Files'.)
And if they are linked to a particular state, like Congressman 'Charlie Lawrence' of New Mexico, well, at least the number of congressmen is so varied from state to state that it can remain fluid.... There's always room for one more.
If only they just identified the victim as the wife of Governor Reardon and never got around to mentioning where they were from. If only all the towns they visited had either fictional names or generic names that could have been found in any state, like Portland, Middletown, or the ever-popular Springfield.
No, they had to irrevocably tie it into a Connecticut that cannot exist in the TV Universe because of preexisting conditions.
Therefore, as a Caretaker for the Television Universe, I feel there is no other option but to banish this one episode to an alternate universe.
We know Kirk and Bones and Scotty and Uhura had mirror images in an alternate universe. We know Hercules, Ares, Quinn Mallory, and Frasier Crane all had dimensional doppelgangers as well.
So why can't Jack McCoy and Detectives Fontana and Green have counterparts in another realm as well?
I don't think we have to worry very much about the characters from Earth Prime Time, the main TV Universe, ever mentioning this case again. In the fifteen plus years that this show has been on the air, each episode pretty much stands on its own. Rarely do cases come back to flavor a current case (not that it doesn't happen).
And they proved it with this episode. When ADA Serena Southerlyn brought up the issue of an underling feeling sexually harassed by a more powerful superior on the job, there wasn't even the legendary raised eyebrow from ADA Jack McCoy. Considering that he has a few skeletons in his own closet concerning this issue, I would have thought it might have brought out some kind of reaction from him.
In the end, I think it would be better for all concerned if the audience viewing at home came to regard this singular episode as having taken place in the evil mirror universe. The way that McCoy was hell-bent on making sure gays were relegated to second-class status by having those paltry few New Paltz marriages declared null and void just so he could get a murderer convicted brought new shadings to a tarnished hero. But it won't rank up there as his finest hour.
So that's why I laid the groundwork for this argument with all of those other essays about alternate TV dimensions. All of that sliding in and out (literally and figuratively, heh-heh, heh-heh!) helps us to put this particular episode in its proper place in the firmament.