Friday, March 7, 2008


The main Toobworld, Earth Prime-Time, is a reflection of the real world, the Trueniverse, in all the major facets. Same President of the United States, same Pope, same monarch of the British Empire. If they're different - as happened with shows like '24', 'The West Wing', 'Prison Break', 'The Dead Zone', etc. which had different Presidents from Clinton and Bush - off they go to an alternate dimension. But otherwise, Toobworld can absorb the changes from the reality of our world without being too radically different.

And the people watching at home have no problem with these differences from the life they know back in the real world... for the most part. They know there are no chains of Buy More and Work Bench stores, no Oceanic Airways, no WJM-TV. Their maps won't have Fernwood, Hooterville, Hollyoaks, Dante's Cove, Frostbite Falls, or the Isle of Mypos. They know that androids don't really walk among us; we haven't been subjected to countless alien invasions; Valencia, California, didn't go up in a ball of nuclear fire; and there is no secret lunar colony. (Then again, if it's secret, maybe there is one up there!)
But every so often people forget they're watching a TV show. In Great Britain, complaints have been made against 'The Bill' for making up the name of a drug which could alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Apparently, the MS Society in Great Britain has been getting calls from people who saw Wednesday's episode, during which an MS patient was told about Plavitron. Plavitron doesn't exist and at present there is no drug that can make that claim.

The MS Society called 'The Bill' "grossly irresponsible" for creating this fictional drug because it raised the hopes of those with the disease. But ITV claims that it "told the story responsibly and sensitively".

A spokeswoman for ITV countered that "We researched both the condition and possible treatments - existing and proposed - before and during the writing process. It was certainly not our intention to offend or mislead."

She added that fictional places, names and products were featured in storylines "often for legal reasons".

According to Chris Bentley, the spokesman for the MS Society, "There are few effective treatments for MS and any mention of a new drug generates a lot of hope and excitement in people living with and affected by the condition. People with MS have a tough enough time as it is without being misled over treatments."

So in this case, I guess I can understand why people would have confused the fiction with the reality. If they're stricken with the disease, or they have loved ones afflicted with MS, they'll reach out for any possible hope.

What the writers of 'The Bill' probably should have done would have been to talk about a possible treatment being researched, as I'm sure there must be, rather than state that the drug already exists. Or maybe they should have claimed that the drug puts alien larvae into your bloodstream, a la the "Reset" episode of 'Torchwood'; that would have kept people from calling. Because technically, that one bit o' trivia about Plavitron now makes this soap opera with the trappings of a cop show (Thanks, Rob!) a science fiction show just as much as 'Torchwood' is.

And I'll bet nobody called in looking to get hold of that miracle cure.....
Toby OB

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