The Los Angeles Times has a fun story today about two real-estate agents suing “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for using names that sound suspiciously like theirs (or so the couple alleges) in an episode depicting those characters as “dirty-dealing, S&M-loving real-estate agents.”
Lawsuits always make these things sound unusual, but the truth is writers do this all the time. Watch enough television and if you know the players, you’ll hear plenty of references (some tongue in cheek, some genuinely hostile) to names that sound a lot like former bosses, high school classmates, ex-girlfriends and such.
Personally, my name has surfaced as a murder victim in scripts for the pilot of ABC’s since-defunct “The Women’s Murder Club” and in the episode of “Entourage” where the Johnny Drama character waltzes into the Variety office to tell the TV critic to go screw himself. In each instance, the name was changed before air, in the first case because they were afraid that it wouldn’t clear legal. As for the latter, “Entourage” producer Doug Ellin told me he went with “Paul Schneider” because that’s a friend of his and the name was going to be repeated over and over again. (Actually, I thought it might be the bastard child of myself and Variety TV reporter Michael Schneider, but no such luck.)
Producers can be sneaky about these things. As I recall, Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Flint’s name turned up as a mere placard (as in “Judge Joe Flint”) on “Law & Order.” Former NBC exec Perry Simon was a corpse covered with maggots (his name, not him) on “The X-Files.” And so on.
So since I have this semi-public forum, I would like to offer all writers dispensation to use my name however they see fit within their programs. After all, I kill your series and movies on a regular basis. If you want to engage in a slightly juvenile act of revenge by returning the favor fictionally, I have no problem with that. In fact, it seems only fair.
Besides, I have a feeling the fictional versions of me would have far more exciting lives than the real one does.