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We are genre-busting this week, departing from convention and letting the dogs out. [Note to my aging editor: "Who Let the Dogs Out" is some hot new song on the air and a catch phrase of the moment. I'm trying to connect to the kids. Keeping it real.] The Judge just has to. Yes, he has, to date, confined himself strictly within the medium of film. But villainy knows no category. And evil simply doesn’t follow the Dewey Decimal System. (OK, it was all working until then.) Anyway, here’s the thing. As some of the four or five of you who read this column may have guessed (thanks again, Dad), the Judge does indeed have a Life. Along with going to movies, he spends an arbitrary and capricious amount of time watching television. And when he isn’t doing that, he’s gotta eat. To eat, he’s gotta work. To put it mildly, movie reviewing don’t feed the bulldog. Or even pay to feed the bulldog. Or take the bulldog to Applebee’s, which he has to do since his girlfriend split. That means dressing the bulldog up like a small child and … Wait. What were we talking about? Right. Life. Specifically, the Judge’s. Bottom line: The Judge has a job, a hassle, a mainstream gig. Said gig involves working as a mild-mannered reporter for this very periodical. This places him in a superior position to pass judgment on NBC’s new drama series “Deadline.” (See, it all comes together seamlessly like a tapestry. Watch the threads. Watch them intertwine.) “Deadline” promises to do for journalism what “Gilligan’s Island” did for marine safety. This thing’s a menace. As you might have picked up from the three billion or so promos NBC ran during that torturefest called the Olympics, “Deadline” stars Oliver Platt. You might remember him as the fat musketeer in “The Three Musketeers” or the fat campaign aide in “Bulworth” or the fat guy in about a dozen other movies that you probably haven’t seen. Platt plays Wallace Benton, the crusading columnist of the fictional New York Ledger. (Don’t you hate when reviewers tell you something is “fictional”? If you don’t know there isn’t a real New York Ledger, what are you doing reading this?) Benton rides herd over a group of scrappy young journalists played by the likes of independent film mainstays Hope Davis (“The Daytrippers”) and Lili Taylor (“I Shot Andy Warhol”). And you know what that means. It means independent film is dead. For a series that portends to be about journalists seeking truth, the show runs pretty fast and loose with the reporting game, falling victim to clich� upon newspaper clich�. In fact, the errors in “Deadline” are so grievous, so numerous, and so offensive to journalists of all creed and color that they must be listed in detail, in the manner of an indictment. Let’s puncture some myths: 1. Benton is a portly, arrogant, self-aggrandizing newspaper reporter with an ex-wife and a love for booze. OK, so they got one thing right. Free pass. 2. The reporters at the Ledger banter cavalierly about human misery, seeing life and death only as fodder for the daily grind. Mmmm. Well, moving right along … 3. Benton also is a bit of a dandy, dressing up in colorful suits. Stop. Look, journalists dress terribly. They are barely fit to interact with the regular public. Last month, the Judge bought some new pants — at Kmart. And they were from the clearance rack. And he’s worn them 20 times already. And he’s going back there this weekend. 4. Speaking of clothes, the paper’s editor (Bebe Neuwirth) frequently wears leather pants. Our editor here never wears leather pants. Well, except that one day, when he was feeling really sexy. 5. Young reporter Hope Davis lives in a spacious and stylish Manhattan apartment. Investment bankers don’t even live in roomy Manhattan apartments. Journalists, well, they are fortunate not to be cleaning your car windshield to make money on the side. The Judge, for instance, lives in an apartment near Dupont Circle so small that the rats, well, even the rats are paying a thousand bucks down the hall for an apartment that … oh, never mind. It’s just very small, OK? Tip your waitresses. 6. The Ledger’s offices are a brightly lit, gleaming corporate suite, filled with glass, steel, and state-of-the-art equipment. Apparently, the paper’s margins are off the scale. Most journalists don’t inhabit Class A office space. It’s more like Class D. The Judge’s office is so dark and dank that right around the corner from the Judge’s desk is a cask of Amontillado. Or maybe it’s just an old two-liter of Fresca. 7. Benton spends all his days talking to people and never, ever is seen taking notes. Maybe Platt’s character has a silicon chip in his brain, but most reporters have to write things down. True, they often do so in a completely unintelligible manner, forcing them to recreate the conversations anyway. But still, they make the effort. And don’t get me started about tape recorders. Tape recorders just make people nervous, particularly in Washington, a town that operates on the notion that when people speak, they aren’t actually talking. For example, you might be at a Defense Department briefing and you might know, by name, the person giving the briefing, but according to the rules of the game here, you don’t write the person’s name. You write “a senior Pentagon official.” That way, nobody is ever caught red-handed actually saying something. 8. Benton also spends much of his time talking directly to policemen, coroners, and other official types who freely share their findings with him. Please. The authorities are not helpful to reporters. They hate reporters. Reporters make their jobs harder. While Oliver Platt may be gleaning inside dope from investigating Officer Krupke on “Deadline,” this is the conversation most reporters have: POLICE: Public Information Office. Can I help you? REPORTER: Hi, I’m from the New York Ledger. Can I talk to someone about the Feinberg murder case? POLICE: (deep sigh) We don’t talk about pending cases. REPORTER: But do you have a suspect? POLICE: We are actively pursuing all leads. REPORTER: Have you recovered a weapon? POLICE: We are actively pursuing all leads. REPORTER: I am being kidnapped by space aliens who look amazingly similar to Dabney Coleman. POLICE: We are actively pursuing all leads. 9. While trying to free a man from death row, Benton helps the police interrogate a suspect and joins them on a raid. See No. 8. And then put an exclamation point after it. And then put your hand in the air like you just don’t care. 10. After Hope Davis sleeps with a source (a world-famous concert pianist suspected of murder), she ends up being trapped alone in the house with him, but manages to call her editor, Bebe Neuwirth, who immediately asks her: “Are you all right?” So, maybe it’s possible that a reporter could get mixed up with a source. Maybe she might even sleep with him. Actually, the most unrealistic event here is the editor asking the reporter, first-off, “Are you all right?” Editors don’t care how their reporters are. They barely know they’re human beings. More realistically, the editor would have asked the reporter, “Where the f— are you?” Followed by “Where is the g-damn story?” Probably followed by “Who is this again?” Maybe then, you’ll get an “Are you all right?” We could go on and on. I haven’t even mentioned this week’s plot, in which Benton must intervene when his “love-struck editor” (that’s NBC’s language, not mine) gives refuge to a city council candidate running from his criminal past. At least “Deadline” got that right. The Judge is really sick of bailing out his lovestruck editors, especially the ones harboring criminals. Sometimes, you know, you just gotta let them learn. Judge Dread presides over the toughest court of all: The Court of Public Opinion. His greatest journalistic moment to date remains his groundbreaking “Fake I.D.” story in The Arlingtonian , his high school newspaper.

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