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How The L.A. Riots Got Written Into TV Plots In Fall 1992

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Twenty years ago the city erupted into riots after four police officers were found not guilty in the beating of Rodney King. By fall networks had worked to incorporate the riots into the plots of their television shows—even their fall premieres. Some TV execs argued that it was difficult for shows set in Los Angeles not to address the riots somehow, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times from August 1992.

The show "Knots Landing" used their show as a platform to put out the message that private businesses needed to get involved in the effort to rebuild the city but one of the executive producers Barbara Corday told the Times that they were treading lightly and they weren't just milking the unrest for ratings.

"You just can't use people's lives and tragedies as fodder unless you have a point to make," she said. "There's a certain responsibility when we speak to millions of people each week to be about something."

Here are a few clips and full episodes that we were able to round up on YouTube and Hulu. We'd love to include episodes from the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" when the Banks return to their South Los Angeles roots, but we could only find it on Amazon. We'd love to see the L.A. Law episode dedicated to it, too. Hit us up in the comments if you find them or if you have any TV clips we missed.

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In "A Different World" the Los Angeles honeymoon of characters Dwayne and Whitley coincides with the riots. Gilbert Gottfried plays an incompetent cop, and Roseanne and Tom Arnold make an appearance as as a couple taking advantage of the riots to do some looting:

In a sketch from "In Living Color," Benita sits on a bus bench and makes wisecracks about the riots going on around her:

Here's another one, because we couldn't limit ourselves to only one "In Living Color" skit. Rodney King and Reginald Denny have a take-home message for the people of Los Angeles: stay in your car:

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Doogie Howser, M.D. might have been a prodigy in medicine but he sure had a lot to learn about race relations in the city. The story of the riots is told from the perspective of the ER:

Related:
20 Years Later: 28 B&W Photos of 1992 L.A. Riots
Cultural touchstones of the LA Riots