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Season Is a Success for Everyone Except NBC

"What was appealing to us when we saw those shows was that they were different, and from a marketing standpoint that allowed us to craft campaigns that set them apart.

"I also think there was a departure from the kind of sameness that was on the air," McPherson said. "Shows as different as . . . 'Lost,' 'Desperate Housewives,' 'House,' 'Medium' -- they were all very different shows than what was represented on the air with all the crime dramas. The audience responded."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has shot off a letter to NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker complaining about a line in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" in which a detective suggests sarcastically that in searching for someone who killed two judges "maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."

"This manipulation of my name and trivializing of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies and a great disservice to public discourse," he wrote.

In the episode, which aired Wednesday, a judge who is overseeing a case against a group of men described as "ultra-conservatives" who are charged with stockpiling military-grade weapons is shot dead in her home. Soon thereafter, an appellate judge is shot in public.

Detective Alex Eames (played by Kathryn Erbe): Looks like the same shooters. CSU found the slug in a post, matched it to the one that killed Judge Barton. Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt.

In his letter, DeLay wrote, "I can only assume last night's slur was in response to comments I have made in the past about the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary, as prescribed in our constitutional system of checks and balances."

Last month, DeLay said he planned to ask the Judiciary Committee to examine the "failure" of the state and federal courts to protect Terri Schiavo, who died 13 days after a court ordered removal of her feeding tube, and issued a statement saying "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." In front of TV cameras he said he wanted to "look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president."

Some perceived the comments as threatening, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that "at a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone."

The congressman said in his letter to Zucker that he has "explained all such comments -- even those inartfully made and taken out of context" and that when "a responsible journalist like [Fox News Channel's] Brit Hume made an inquiry into such comments, he quickly understood them to be limited to Congress's oversight responsibilities and nothing more."

He accuses "Law & Order" of equating "legitimate constitutional inquiry into the role of our courts with a threat of violence against our judges" and says that "is to equate the First Amendment with terrorism."

Series creator Dick Wolf responded in a statement:

"Up until today, it was my impression that all of our viewers understood that these shows are works of fiction, as is stated in each episode. But I do congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show."

(Wolf is, no doubt, referring to the fact that DeLay has been under the gun for alleged ethics issues involving overseas travel, his dealings with lobbyists and fundraising.)

NBC also weighed in, but it was Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly, not Zucker:

"The script line involved an exasperated detective, bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed," Reilly said in a statement.

"This isolated piece of gritty cop talk was neither a political comment, nor an accusation," he continued, adding that it is not unusual for one of the "Law & Order" shows to mention real names.

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