Talk about terrible (or amazing?) timing. Two days after Alec Baldwin declared “Goodbye, Public Life” on the cover of New York Magazine — writing an article in which he skewered the media for ruining his ability to live like a normal famous person — NBC made an announcement: Baldwin would guest star on “Law & Order: SVU” … playing a member of the media.
More specifically, Baldwin would be playing a controversial New York tabloid reporter, the kind of person he has battled in real life for years. And on Wednesday’s episode, Baldwin didn’t disappoint in his role as a slimy tabloid columnist, who spoke with an exaggerated New-Yawk accent that came and went. The episode even had a very Baldwin-like ending, because the moral of the whole thing? The media ruins everything.
Baldwin played “legendary” New York Ledger reporter Jimmy MacArthur. “You mean, the legend in his own mind?” detective Olivia Benson asks snidely when told that MacArthur will be shadowing the SVU team for a profile on her. But MacArthur is granted full access from his friend, the police commissioner, so there’s nothing Benson can do.
Under the guise of “shadowing,” MacArthur proceeds to torpedo their newest investigation, a rape case that escalates to a hate crime against a young Muslim woman. MacArthur decides (thanks to some unnamed sources) that it was a hoax, and declares it so in his column. His paper’s headlines read: “IT’S ALL A LIE. NO RAPE. NO ATTACKERS. NO RACIAL SLURS.” and “RAPE, LIES & VIDEOTAPE.”
Benson and team are furious that he’s wrecking their case and the rapists might go free. It gets worse when it becomes clear the jury members have all read his stories and believe that it could be a hoax — even though some of his columns have factual inaccuracies and are wildly exaggerated.
“They all read your columns Jimmy, the way you crucified that girl,” Benson fumes. “She was discredited before she even took the stand.” Benson demands he run a retraction as a last-ditch effort to help the victim.
“Jimmy Mac don’t retract,” sneers MacArthur, giving us our new TV line of the year. “He don’t apologize, he don’t explain.”
Unfortunately for Jimmy Mac, it’s revealed that the rape did happen, and his sources lied to him as a favor to the rapist’s father, a prominent businessman who wanted his son’s name out of the paper. The tabloid runs a new story: “HOW JIMMY MAC GOT PLAYED.”
It doesn’t matter: The jury has already been poisoned, and since they all read the columns, the angry judge has no choice but to declare a mistrial. The evil media strikes again.
So, the rapists figure out a settlement and get a much lighter sentence, and the victim doesn’t get her justice. In “SVU’s” version of a happy ending, MacArthur sees the light about how horrible tabloids are and quits the paper in the blaze of anger.
“I’m 55-years-old, my profession is dying, my ex-wives all hate me, my credit cards are all maxed out ’cause I got three kids in college,” Jimmy Mac muses at the end of the episode, knocking back a drink with Olivia Benson. “And I’ve never felt better in my life.”
In conclusion? The media ruins trials and lives. And isn’t that what Alec Baldwin has been trying to tell us all along?
Here’s a clip from the episode, titled “Jimmy Mac Causes a Mistrial”: