Ripped From Which Headlines?

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 19 2009 11:06 AM

Ripped From Which Headlines?

We all know that Law & Order rips its stories from the headlines—but which headlines? Every week, Brow Beat matches L&O 's plot points to the events that inspired them.

Oct. 16, 2009: "Reality Bites"

These Are Their Stories:
Larry Johnson, the father of 10 adopted special-needs kids, comes home to discover his wife, Joy, dead in the living room. On the afternoon of the murder, a "bouncy Hispanic woman" was seen leaving the house; she is Belinda Alvarez, the mother of 10 children—three singles and a set of septuplets—and the Johnsons' main rival in the competition to star in a reality TV series about large families. Helped by the publicity surrounding the murder, Johnson gets the show, Larry Plus 8 . But after the police discover that Larry was having an affair with one of his babysitters and that Joy had refused to sign the TV release forms, he becomes a suspect in the murder case.

This Is the Real Story:
If you need to be told what inspired this episode, your television, if you own one, must be stuck on C-SPAN. Indeed, America's most famous megaparents were name-checked in the episode. Belinda Alvarez (Nina Lisandrello), who bears a striking physical resemblance to Nadya Suleman, says the show she hopes to star in will be "like Jon and Kate , you know, only less depressing." She also confesses, "I was hoping for octuplets, but God decided to bestow that blessing on Nadya Suleman."

As of this writing, Jon and Kate Gosselin are both alive and well, though after revelations about extramarital affairs, their marriage is coming to an end . On Sept. 29, the Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Jon & Kate Plus 8 was also a thing of the past, to be replaced by Kate Plus 8 . Late last week, however, the New York Times reported that Jon had "banned the camera crews from his property, effectively halting production."

Unlike the fictional Belinda Alvarez, Suleman got her reality show (check out the promotional materials for My Life as the OctoMom ), though filming is currently on hold, pending court approval of the contracts .

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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