- Families of Pennsylvania crime victims are in an uproar over a new VH1 documentary series that spotlights prison music bands–outfits made up of murderers, rapists and other unsavory inmates who are serving out their sentences in various lockups.
Called Music Behind Bars, the program is hosted by The Practice’s Dylan McDermott and produced by Arnold Shapiro–the man behind CBS’ Big Brother and Rescue 911 and a Oscar winner for his 1979 prison doc Scared Straight. Shapiro bills the series as an unglamorous look at life in the clink and the power of music as a means of rehabilitation.
However, families of the victims say the program is an affront to the memory of those whose lives were forever altered, and in some cases ended, by the criminal musicians. The families also say the show demonstrates an extreme lack of sensitivity and taste on VH1’s part.
“I couldn’t believe it…it was like slapping me in the face,” an angry Mary Orlando told the Philadelphia Inquirer after seeing the cable channel’s advertisements promoting the show.
The first episode of Music Behind Bars is set at Pennsylvania’s Graterford State Corrections Facility and focuses on a heavy metal band called Dark Mischief, one of whose members, Christopher Bissey, gunned down Orlando’s 15-year-old daughter and a friend at Lehigh University in 1995.
For Orlando, watching Bissey prancing around with other band members on prime-time was sickening–especially given her daughter loved music and dreamed of one day becoming a dancer.
….After protests by victims’ families, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling on VH1 to donate profits from Music Behind Bars to the state’s Office of the Victim Advocate.
Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker also joined the fray, announcing that the state’s department of corrections will from now on notify families of victims on whenever the incarcerated end up on the tube.
“We need to ensure that crime victims are never again caught off-guard by turning on their televisions and unexpectedly seeing the inmate who has caused them so much pain,” Schweiker tells the Associated Press.
Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the department of corrects, also issued a mea culpa, saying officials would seriously reconsider granting any similar requests in the future. McNaughton says could sympathize with people like Mary Orlando who might be hurt “watching VH1 and seeing people sent to prison playing guitars.”
Reps for the cable channel did not return phone calls seeking comment on the resolution.
What TV people seem to forget is that real crimes equal real victims: this is yet another step down the road to televised blood sport. Can Running Man be far off?