Tuned In

Justice Is Served—Or Is It?

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My experience of jury duty went like this. I sat in a big room for a long time. I sat in a smaller room for a short time. Somewhere in another room, somebody accused of something copped a plea. And they sent me home. So I cannot report to you as to whether the experience of a trial in Brooklyn criminal court matches what you see on TV. I can report that (1) the jury pool is apparently selected by taking a random sample of every adult in Brooklyn with a severe cold (if I didn’t contract ebola or bird flu in that hack-and-wheeze-filled room, it’s a miracle) and (2) even though Brooklyn comprises natives and immigrants from hundreds of national and ethnic backgrounds, my surname is still capable of flustering the jury administrator who has to read it over the loudspeaker ("James Pah… Oh, my goodness… Poh… [hopeful pause]… Pony?…") It’s Pah-nuh-WAH-zick, for your reference next time you leave a complaint on my editor’s voicemail.

But speaking of rough justice, while I was out, the saga of Isaiah Washington, a.k.a., McHomophobey from Grey’s Anatomy, continued with reports that ABC is thinking it might, just might, have to can Washington for making an anti-gay slur against one of his own co-stars on set, then lying about it to the press, repeating the slur for good measure into a live mic. Under ABC diversity policy, apparently, the act may constitute a firing offense.

Um, ya think? The fact that, at this juncture, ABC, Shonda Rhimes and company have to even think about what’s an appropriate course of action is mind-boggling and a little depressing. If, sadly, not surprising. A while back, I theorized as to why Washington was getting off so lightly compared with Michael Richards: (1) because no one caught him on video or (2) because our society does not consider homophobia to be as bad as racism. But now I’m starting to think that I overthought the matter. It’s time to consider, simply, (3) that Richards, unlike Washington, was not currently starring in a top-ten show for a network that needs every hit it can get.

If that’s the consideration at work here, it’s sad and ironic coming from the network with maybe the most gay-inclusive new show of the 2006-07 season, Ugly Betty. Then again, as that show tells us, when dollars are on the line, the media business is not pretty.

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