When you think about it, getting involved in criminal activities is a lot like playing the board game Monopoly. No, I don’t mean the fact that real life monopolies in the business world is a crime from which Americans may never fully recover–that much is obvious–I mean that you can always find a Get out of Jail Free card if you look hard enough. In the real world of criminal activity that card appears in the guise of witness protection. If you have big enough secrets to spill and don’t mind dishing it, you can wash your hands of everything you ever did. TV writers have not appreciated this beautifully ironic part of the judicial system to the point that they could. But every once in a while some writer gets it enough to stick it into an episode or two of a weekly series.
Perhaps the funniest take on the witness protection system that will ever grace the small screen is that which occurred in “The Simpson.” After Bart’s attempted killer, Sideshow Bob, is released from prison following the sending of threatening letters, the entire Simpson family is put into witness protection, complete with complimentary T-shirts emblazoned with Witness Protection across the front. Part of the process of the witness protection is the creation of brand new identities that start with a brand new name. One of the highlights of “Cape Feare” is this scene in which the Feds try to get Homer to learn his new name . Incidentally, the witness protection episode is also the one featuring the infamous scene of Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake that hits him in the face again and again and again and again and again.
If Homer Simpson is too dumb to even remember his new name, just imagine how he’d handle a brand new face! An early season episode of “Castle” depends upon getting cooperation from the Feds in charge of witness protection to investigate the murder of a plastic surgeon who, it just so happens, surgically altered the appeared of a person who was put into the witness protection program.
“Knots Landing” was one of those glossy soap operas about self-involved very white people that were all the rage in the late 70s and early 80s. This one allegedly set itself apart from its dad “Dallas” and distant cousin “Dynasty” by being about normal everyday Americans living in a cul-de-sac in suburbia. Apparently the only way that a black family could work their way into this little slice of suburbia was by being in the witness protection program!
P.S. I Luv You
He’s a cop. She’s a con artist. They’re both detectives. Now you might think that after taking part in an undercover sting operation for the NYPD against the Mob that the last thing you would think to do after going into the witness protection program would be to open a private detection. If that is your way of thinking, you will never make it as TV writer, kid. “P.S. I Luv You” took that very premise to create one of the few TV shows in history actually constructed on the foundation of witness protection. The show itself went into the witness protection not long after premiering. Which may be why other shows focusing on the effects of living in witness protection have been few and far between.