HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured a lengthy segment criticizing the “Law & Order” brand for pushing what he considered a “fantasy” of law enforcement.
The “Law & Order” franchise was created by Dick Wolf in 1990 with the debut of its original show. Since then, the series has spawned several spinoffs which have produced more than 1000 episodes of television.
While the fictional law enforcement series has been seen as a staple of television, Oliver blasted the franchise for being openly “pro-law enforcement.”
“For as much as Dick Wolf brags about how the show is written in shades of gray or how it’ll show both sides of an issue, there is one side that it is always on and that’s the police,” Oliver said.
He particularly focused on the shows’ habit of portraying upper class White men as the criminals a majority of the time in an effort to cover police’s “structural racism.”
“You can see what he might not want to make a show in which his good-guy cops are disproportionally targeting communities of color. He wants people to like them. But the result of all of these creative decisions is that instead of depicting a flawed system riddled with structural racism, the show presents exceptionally competent cops working within a largely fair framework that mostly convicts White people,” Oliver said.
He added, “In general, police reforms are often portrayed by the main characters as at best a nuisance to them and at worst a threat to public safety.”
Oliver has frequently attacked police officers and Republican figures on his show, often with profanity-laced tirades. In 2021, he blasted police officers who refused to comply with vaccine mandates.
“The constant refrain we hear from cops every time they kill an unarmed, Black person is, ‘They should have complied with commands,’” Oliver said. “Because as long as you comply, things will supposedly go well. But that only seems to work one way. Because when officers are asked to follow simple rules or face consequences, a not insignificant amount of them flip their s–t.”
Regarding “Law & Order,” Oliver remarked how “if a medical show was giving us inaccurate information, we would say it’s dangerous” yet “that’s essentially what ‘Law & Order’ is doing.”
Oliver concluded, “Underneath it all, it is a commercial, a commercial produced by a man who in his own words ‘unabashedly pro-law enforcement’ and he is very good at selling things. In this instance he is selling a complete fantasy that many people in this country are only too willing to buy. Which is fine as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s an ad for a defective product.”