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First, it was the “Southland” ad that caused a ruckus in the newsroom, back when the Los Angeles-based police drama still aired on NBC, by resembling a front-page news story.

Then it was the “King Kong” ad for the Universal Studios theme park, which not only outraged readers, but even drew a rebuke from the L.A. County supervisors for splashing a fake disaster across the newspaper’s pages.

Now it’s the “Law & Order: Los Angeles” ad that has Los Angeles Times readers fulminating and threatening to cancel subscriptions.

Common theme: NBC Universal properties taking out boundary-pushing ads in the LA Times, which, being a newspaper, simply can’t resist their money.

The question is what sadist over at NBC Universal — or group of sadists — persists in torturing the Times in this fashion?

Honestly, it’s almost like dating someone who’s really, really needy and then cruelly taking advantage of them. NBC keeps saying “Baby, trust me, it’ll be great” — then driving away laughing, leaving the Times sorting through the damage.

Is it worth it for NBC? Probably. At least the network gets extra publicity from all the inevitable hand-wringing that follows each of these ads. Besides, the ethical standards being stretched are for the newspaper to worry about, not the network, where all’s pretty much fair in the promotion game.

For the Times? Hey, money’s money these days, especially in print circles, and the publisher has made clear that he’s going to go for the gold wherever he can find it. Frankly, though, I think at a minimum NBC should start covering the laundry bills, too, because that stained blue dress is starting to look a little shoddy.