Television: Copy-Cat Crimes of the Heart

Television movies rarely win both high ratings and critical acclaim, but NBC's The Burning Bed managed to do so last week. Starring Farrah Fawcett, the gritty film was based on a 1977 case in which a battered Michigan housewife set her sleeping husband on fire but was acquitted of murder by a jury. During the program, some stations flashed telephone numbers of local shelters and hot lines for battered women. Thousands of viewers called in: abused wives seeking relief and, in some cases, battering husbands seeking counseling.

Unfortunately, a few reactions were horrifyingly different. Less than an hour after watching the...

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