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TV crime drama episode plot similar to Penn State scandal

November 11, 2011 |  2:10 pm

This season the NBC procedural crime drama, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," seems to have ripped a story from the headlines weeks before the story even broke.

In the episode "Personal Fouls," that aired Sept. 28, Dan Lauria, above, portrayed a successful coach, whose career and reputation were jeopardized by allegations of sexual misconduct with minors. Fast forward a few weeks and it's easy to see similarities (and a few differences) between that fictional episode and the real-life scandal that cost Penn State's legendary football coach Joe Paterno his job.

Ever since "Dragnet" moved from radio to television, TV crime dramas have looked to real-life cases for inspiration, but it's rare that an episode airs before the alleged crime comes to light.

The "Law & Order: SVU" story centered on a high school basketball coach who was accused by a former student of molestation. In the Penn State case it is former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky who has been charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Paterno and other university officials have been criticized for failing to notify law enforcement. 

The fictional case in "Law & Order:SVU" wrapped everything up with a dramatic press conference where the charges were made public and it was clear that the coach would face prosecution. The Penn State case is still unfolding. Sandusky is facing trial, Paterno and University President Graham Spanier have been fired, along with two other officials who also face charges for failing to alert police about the case.

--Ed Stockly

Photo: Virginia Sherwood / NBC