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Law & Order episodes are often advertised as being "ripped from the headlines." Many people mistake this to mean that they are based on actual events. In reality, the slogan refers to the franchise's practice of conceiving stories that are partially inspired by recent headlines. However, with few exceptions, only a fairly small portion of the episode resembles the real incident or incidents that inspired it. There might be a few scenes that resemble a well-known headline, while the majority of the episode goes in a different direction, or there could be one character that is based on a famous individual, but the circumstances the person encounters are largely fictional.
Often the plot of an initial portion of an episode resembles a recognizable aspect of an actual case, such as the 1998 episode of the original series "Tabloid", wherein a woman is killed in a car crash after being chased by a gossip reporter, similarly to Princess Diana's death in August 1997. This "ripped from the headlines" theme is reflected in the opening credits sequence that evolves from newspaper halftones to high-resolution photos. The rest of the plot, however, usually diverges significantly from the actual events that may have inspired the episode.
Promotional advertisements of episodes with close real-life case parallels often use the "ripped from the headlines" phrase, although a textual disclaimer, within the actual episode, emphasizes that the story and characters are fictional. This format lends itself to exploring different outcomes or motives that similar events could have had under other circumstances.