As I'm sure most of the regular blog readers have realized, I'm a fan of pop culture. I'm endlessly fascinated with the media and how it spreads knowledge - or misinformation.
The new ABC show Eli Stone, which I have quite been looking forward to - the premiere has George Michael as prophet singing Faith - is by the same producer who's given us Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money. So I was thinking "how in the world could this go wrong, it'll be fabulous!"
Well, apparently the world likes to make a point sometimes. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants the first show either pulled or substantially re-edited, because the opening scene involves a woman suing a pharmaceutical company over the supposed autism/vaccine link, saying that it's the reason her child is autistic. The link we know doesn't exist. Where the lead researcher involved was charged with misconduct in an effort to put the link/controversy to rest. The lawyers settle, after the woman makes your typical heartwarming by a wronged mother speech.
Given the description, you would think that the pharma companies would be going after ABC, but instead it's the pediatricians. They're worried that the heavy promotion ABC has been giving Eli Stone (a new show in a sea of repeats due to the writer's strike), and the likelihood of high viewership, will result in frightening more parents away from vaccinating.
The sad thing is, it's clear from the entire set-up that the scenario is supposed to make us dislike Eli, the main character, so that at his redemption we feel something for him. But it would have been completely possible to make him an utter bastard of a lawyer - and not propagate medical misinformation in the process.
ABC's response, to run a website for the CDC at the end of the show, isn't going to alleviate fears - it's not even going to address them. It's the difference between using scare tactics to get a message across versus a mass mailed flyer. And ultimately, they're counting on popular misconception and fear to tell their story for them, which is plain lazy writing.
But don't take my word for it, make your own decision. You can see for yourself. The first seven minutes of the show are available at ABC. Just select Eli Stone from the left side menu, and then select the sneak peak episode.