I’m getting the distinct feeling that the “Law & Order” franchise doesn’t particularly like Jayson Blair or The New York Times. Seven weeks after we were the first to report that Dick Wolf’s signature show was putting its own unique spin on one of the saddest chapters in the Grey Lady’s history, another of the franchise’s serials, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” is now piling on the Times with an installment that began shooting last Tuesday in New York. In the episode, entitled “Pravda,” a journalist is accused of murder after being charged with plagiarism and lying to his editors.
According to FilmJerk.com sources, the episode centers on a young African-American journalist and ladies man named Gerald Hines. After being praised by his editor as an intern, he goes on to work full-time for the well-respected, fictional New York City-based paper The Sentinel. (Interestingly, in casting sheets we have obtained from a source, the production even goes so far as to refer to the fictional paper at the center of the episode as the “liberal New York Times-like newspaper.”)
Unknown to everyone around him, except for his girlfriend and father, Hines is a plagiarist who has stolen words from other journalists, and with the help of his girlfriend Katya, he steals visual images taken from pre-published photos taken by The Sentinel staff photographers to enhance his fictional stories. As his charade begins to unfold, he starts to spiral out of control by using recreational drugs, going to strip clubs and drinking too much and becomes a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. Part of the reason, the episode suggests, is that he has tried to please his father his whole life.
In fact, we find out in the closing minutes that it was Gerald’s father Roy who commits the crime. Suffering from sciatica (irritation of the leg’s main nerve), Roy is a journalism teacher at a New York high school who holds some resentment over when he tried to get a job as a journalist in the 1960’s; the doors to leading newspapers were not open to him. After seeing his son graduate from a good school and secure a job at a respectable newspaper, he feels that nothing is going to taint his or his son’s reputation. When he realizes his son is guilty of plagiarism, and that his son’s girlfriend may reveal the truth, he tries to cover it up and winds up murdering his son’s girlfriend.
Other characters in the episode bear a likeness to those involved in the New York Times scandal as well. Ben Elgin, described as the “powerful and arrogant editor of the paper,” seems to be painted after Howell Raines, who subsequently resigned his position in June. According to those who have read the script, Elgin comes across as a very liberal-minded editor “who is a champion of equal opportunity employment, along with being a devoted family man. In reality, he has cheated on his wife and his idea of loyalty means knowing your place and staying.” The ill-fated girlfriend of the younger Hines, named Katya Jalenka, looks to be modeled after Zuza Glowacka, a member of the Times photo department, who was also Blair’s galpal. Also playing a role in the episode are two members of the fictional paper’s accounting department, who question the younger Hines’ lack of travel expenses.
Blair resigned from his post at the Times on May 1 after being accused of plagiarism and fraud for dozens of embellished stories. The episode was first mentioned as happening in Entertainment Weekly a week ago.
“Law & Order: Criminal Intent” debuts September 28, and stars Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe. Sources suggest this could be the sixth or seventh episode of the season, which puts it as a November episode.
Executive Producers: Dick Wolf, Rene Balcer, Fred Berner
Director: Alex Zakrzewski
Casting Directors: Lynn Kressel and Gayle Keller
Shooting: September 16 to September 25
Location: New York City