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Executive Producer of TV's "Law and Order" on crime/justice

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Published on Oct 31, 2006

TV producer, Rene Balcer, says defending his show's "real estate" on American prime time television has been like "herding cats" (he has got through 93 episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and about 400 episodes of Law and Order regardless). LA-based but Canadian-born Balcer says anxiety and fear help creativity so he doesn't shy away from the battle (afterall, he began his career as a combat camera man during the 1973 Yom Kippur war so he has been inured to stress from the start).

In this interview Balcer talks about how his shows tackle the fallout of 9/11 and how "fear" has become big business in America. Balcer says themes reminiscent of the detention at Guantanamo Bay of Australian David Hicks have found a place in some of the plots he has explored throughout Law and Order's long life. He talks about how the show has tackled legal issues such as the Material Witness Warrant that is part of the police powers provided by America's Patriot Act. The actual boundaries of freedom for screenwriters in the USA are explored as well as the interplay between real-life law makers and the fictional plots.

Balcer also talks about the Fox series, 24, contrasting the way Balcer's own TV series deal with issues of terrorism and politics. Balcer's view is that the way 24 appears to condone torture as an effective way to produce valuable intelligence results is offensive to him. He describes the repercussions this may have for Americans in an increasingly troubled "real life" world. Finally he talks about the troubling role of the screenwriter in an era when people may vote for a politician or take action in real life, because his or her views or behavior are aligned with those of someone like 24's hero, Jack Bauer.

Rene Balcer's awards include the Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Teleplay, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, the Peabody Award, two Silver Gavel Awards from the American Bar Association, and the Golden Laurel Award from the Producers Guild of America. He has many other television credits apart from Law and Order, ranging from ground breaking (and Award winning) pilots through to writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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