Was Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law Based on Barack Obama?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law was based, at least in part, on a young Barack Obama.

In 1987, the hit television series L.A. Law introduced a brand new character, a brilliant, young and charismatic African-American lawyer named Jonathan Rollins, played by Blair Underwood. The character was created by the show’s co-creator, Stephen Bochco.

The character would become a major part of the series, staying on the show for the rest of the series’ run (all the way to the finale in 1994) and the character would become more and more of a central figure as the show went on (as other stars, like Jimmy Smits and Harry Hamlin, left the series).

An interesting facet of Rollins’ back story on the show was that he was the first African-America President of the Harvard Law Review.

This has led people, looking back, to wonder if the character was based, even in part, on former United States President Barack Obama, who was the ACTUAL first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review.

After all, Obama’s history-making success at Harvard was big news at the time, with the “New York Times” even doing an article on the topic, “First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review.”

So it is certainly feasible that Bochko would hear about it. And it would be pretty cool if true, right? So IS it true?
Continue reading “Was Jonathan Rollins on L.A. Law Based on Barack Obama?”

How Did Jon Polito Getting Angry Get His Character Killed on Homicide: Life on the Street?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Jon Polito’s public complaints about the direction of Homicide: Life on the Street got his character killed off in an ignominious manner.

Homicide: Life on the Street debuted in 1993. Based on David Simon’s non-fiction book of roughly the same name (Simon’s book was called Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, as he followed the Baltimore Homicide Department around for a year), the series was a critical smash hit. It is still remarkable the high level of quality that the show (particularly writers Tom Fontana and James Yoshimura and producer Barry Levinson in those early days) were able to achieve with Homicide on network television in the mid-1990s. Homicide would not look out of place on HBO in 2016, that’s how ahead of its time was (okay, the 1990s fashion would probably need to be updated a bit).

One area where the show was very faithful initially was in the cops who worked in Homicide. In real life, the mix tended to be older male white detectives and younger male black detectives. That’s what they did on the show, with Ned Beatty and Jon Polito playing two of the older cops on the show, Stan “Big Man” Bolander (based on one of the major characters in the Simon book) and Steve Crosetti, respectively…

The problem, however, was that NBC was not exactly a fan of this approach…
Continue reading “How Did Jon Polito Getting Angry Get His Character Killed on Homicide: Life on the Street?”