It’s not just show runners

IT’S NOT JUST SHOW RUNNERS…. Kevin Drum flags an interesting Wall Street Journal article about television writers who get even with their detractors in their scripts. For example, Entertainment Weekly TV critic Ken Tucker was frequently critical of USA Network’s “Psych.” After a number of negative reviews, “Ken Tucker” became the name of a psychotic killer.

“It was never ‘Dr. Tucker’ or just ‘Ken.’ It was always ‘Did Ken Tucker eviscerate the body?'” USA original programming chief Jeff Wachtel said.

But it’s worth noting that this method of revenge isn’t limited to TV writers. The article reminded me of a story from a few years ago, in which Mike Crowley at The New Republic wrote a terrific-but-scathing cover story, blasting novelist Michael Crichton for his climate-change denials, partisanship, anti-intellectualism, and general hackery. (This was in 2006, a couple of years before Crichton died.)

Several months later, Crowley picked up a new Crichton novel and found a character named Mick Crowley. Here’s what Crichton wrote (warning: this is awful, graphic content):

Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers. Crowley was a wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate and heir to a pharmaceutical fortune….

It turned out Crowley’s taste in love objects was well known in Washington, but [his lawyer] — as was his custom — tried the case vigorously in the press months before the trial, repeatedly characterizing Alex and the child’s mother as “fantasizing feminist fundamentalists” who had made up the whole thing from “their sick, twisted imaginations.” This, despite a well-documented hospital examination of the child. (Crowley’s penis was small, but he had still caused significant tears to the toddler’s rectum.)

Crichton went on to describe the Mick Crowley character as a “weasel” and a “dickhead,” and, later, “that political reporter who likes little boys.”

The author wasn’t subtle. Mike Crowley (real person) is a political reporter; Mick Crowley (Crichton’s character) is a political reporter. Mike Crowley went to Yale; Mick Crowley went to Yale. Mike Crowley wrote a scathing criticism of Crichton, Mick Crowley is a child rapist in Crichton’s book written just months after the TNR article was published.

All things being equal, Ken Tucker had it easy.