Horrible Death Imminent, According to TV

by Alex Leo


In the entire history of the United States there have been 183 identified serial killers and 25 unidentified. Meanwhile, the Criminal Minds team has managed to identify and/or catch more than 150 of them in just seven years. This is terrifying; if this trend continues, there will be several thousand psychokillers qu’est-ce que c’est-ing around, hanging, stabbing, torturing, and enslaving us in the coming decades. On the plus side, TV serial killers tend to be a lot better looking than their real-life counterparts; I’d rather be abducted by James Van Der Beek or Eddie Cibrian than John Wayne Gacy, even if Eddie was cutting the hearts out of his victims’ chests while they were still alive.


NCIS, which stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is so popular it’s been on for nine seasons and spawned NCIS: Los Angeles (because we all know LA is America’s seat of democracy and military power). I attribute this success to general hatred of French and Arab people, in that order, combined with insanely good-looking women who wear overly tight clothing. At least one person has died in each of the show’s 274 episodes, and even if we account for episodes in which the teams get called in for marine deaths or bizarre reasons that have nothing to do with the military, there are several episodes in which more than one naval officer is killed, so let’s just say there have been around 200 naval deaths thus far. According to the Washington Post, 193 U.S. service members from the Navy have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, total. This means CBS is responsible for more (fictional) naval deaths than the real casualties in the Afghan and Iraq wars combined. I know it’s wrong, but I want to blame this on Chris O’Donnell, mostly because he did an episode of Two and a Half Men.


The law part of the original Law and Order was based in the fictional 27th Precinct, and considering that each Manhattan precinct only covers a few square miles, the fact that they caught more than 500 murderers in their time on air is pretty incredible. The good news for New Yorkers is that crime has gone down dramatically this past decade. I hate to credit Mayor Giuliani, but he was a large part of it, as is Mayor Bloomberg. According to the New York Times, there were 68 homicides in Manhattan in 2007, 62 in 2008, 53 in 2009, 48 in 2001, and 27 in 2011. And I think the number was low in 2011 because Law and Order went off the air in 2010. There are 22 precincts in Manhattan, yet a single fake one caught more than 20 murderers a year. At that rate there’d be more than 400 murders in Manhattan alone per annum. (This doesn’t even include Law and Order: Criminal Intent or Law and Order: SVU, which would bring it into the thousands — unless of course we were dealing with an unexplained I Am Legend situation.) My favorite part of the show is its “ripped from the headlines” tagline, because they rip things from the headlines and then add murders that never happened. Examples: Mel Gibson’s drunk driving, the Valerie Plame affair, a guy suing a dry-cleaner for $54 million because they lost his pants, et al. As far as I know, the first and third are jerks but have never killed anyone.


Eh, whatever, Las Vegas and Miami seem to be pretty screwed up places.

Alex Leo is the director of news product for Thomson Reuters Digital. Before that she was a senior editor at The Huffington Post and an associate producer at ABC News.