Law & Order Special Victims Unit

Eric Liebowitz/NBC

Earlier this afternoon I hit a Hollywood Radio & Television Society Newsmaker Luncheon Series on health care and medical insurance issues that was keynoted by the exceptional Sally Field and featured three very excellent TV bosses talking about health care issues on and around their shows: ER's John Wells, Scrubs' Bill Lawrence and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's Dr. Neal Baer.

More from Wells and Lawrence later, but for now I wanted to share the season-10 dish spilled by Baer on his show, which just so happens to the best-rated program on all of NBC, and Baer's take on how a crime show can make a positive impact on the public health.

Read on to find out about a major S10 arc for one of the two characters pictured above...

Neal Baer

Jean Baptiste Lacroix/

Secret Humanitarian Agenda: SVU show runner Neal Baer has a real life medical degree and is a licensed pediatrician, so he makes a point to stealthily include medical topics and health education in the show. He told me, "Because I'm a physician, I think medically. So when I came on SVU in 2000, the first thing I did was hire Tamara Tunie and B.D. Wong as doctors: a pathologist and a psychiatrist. It became a much more medically oriented show." (Does anyone else remember the episode where Tunie's character explained on the stand how adolescent alcohol abuse actually Swiss-cheeses your brain? I'm still a little freaked out!)

Topics of Note: The subject of the luncheon was the health care crisis at large (see for more on the topics discussed), but Baer tends to keep the show more specific. He said, "We're doing one this season about HIV deniers. There's a group of people in the country who deny that HIV exists." Wasn't Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss' pediatrician dad Dr. Paul Fleiss involved in something related to that? "I don't believe he's a denier, but he took care of a kid, he didn't know the kid had AIDS, because the mother didn't believe that HIV caused AIDS. So we're always looking for medical topics—[HIV deniers], transplantation awareness, or we did one on a genetic disease called Williams syndrome last year. We're always looking to tie the medicine in with the crime. It does work, because so much of our show is psychological."

Speaking of Psychology: You know how Elliot Stabler hates shrinks? Well, that's gonna be an issue this season, because Baer told me that he's planning something in that area that involves Stabler's character. According to Baer, "[We're working on] a major storyline for Chris Meloni—a mental-health issue—it'll be very big for our show." Does it involve his mental health? "Someone else's." His wife's? Or maybe one of the kids? "Can't say yet." Damn!

Character Shuffle: FWIW, other than the new ADA—whom they have not hired—there are no new characters expected for season 10.

Who Said TV Isn't Educational? Keep tuning in to SVU to have a little knowledge subtly stuffed into your brain. According to Baer, mixing in public-health info with a little whodunit works to get the message across. He said, "We know we have made a huge impact, because we've done studies. We did a study when I was on ER that looked at what people learned from the show. We did a pretest and posttest on human papilloma virus and cervical cancer. Nine percent knew before the showed aired that HPV caused cervical cancer, after the show, 30 percent. And we didn't tell them, 'watch the show to learn that.' "

As Johnny Drama would say...VICTOOORRRY!

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