WASHINGTON, February 6, 2013 —Tonight on Law and Order: SVU, notorious comeback kid, Mike Tyson, plays the role of a murderous death row inmate. It’s a natural. Since he’s no stranger to jail or brushes with the law, this role should be as comfortable for Iron Mike as the fit and finish of the boxing gloves he has used so effectively against his past opponents.
The product of a broken home and deadly urban streets, Tyson had been arrested an astounding 38 times by the time he was 13. That career trajectory landed him in the Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York. This involuntary move proved fortuitous for Tyson, though. While there, his raw boxing talent caught the attention of Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer.
After training Tyson for a few months, Stewart was so impressed with Tyson’s skill that he introduced him to Cus D’Amato, the man Tyson credits with building his confidence, turning his life around, and becoming the only father figure in his life.
All his years on the street eventually served Tyson well in the ring. The lessons he learned there, combined with his brute strength and the Peek-a-Boo boxing style he learned from his mentor D’Amato, all led him to win the title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in 1988, dethroning reigning champ Michael Spinks by a knockout in just 91 seconds.
Spinks, previously unbeaten, would never fight professionally again. Tyson is still considered by many to have been the last great heavyweight champion in a sport that, in recent years, seems to have taken a back seat to “extreme” boxing and martial arts.
Unfortunately, all the bad behavior Tyson learned on the streets stuck with him outside the ring, eventually leading to his much publicized rape conviction for attacking 18-year-old Desiree Washington in 1992. After serving 3 years for this crime, Tyson attempted to regain his title, but was stopped short by Evander Holyfield. In a repeat bout, Tyson literally took a bite out of his opponent’s ear and was disqualified, leaving Holyfield the victor once again.
After yet another failed attempt at a comeback, Tyson slipped into relative obscurity, repeated brushes with the law, and ultimately, financial ruin. Given his history, the last thing one would expect is for Tyson to show up in feature films, but this is where his most recent comeback is taking place.
His role as himself in The Hangover series of films put Tyson back in the limelight for a positive reason, instead of the notoriety he had so thoroughly cultivated in the past. His casting as a caricature of himself, and the obvious enthusiasm Tyson displayed while playing the role prompted at least a partial pardon from some of his past critics, and created a lot of new fans in the process.
However, given his early years and the many violent incidents that have defined his public and private life–most notably the rape conviction–Mike Tyson will always be a controversial figure. He has a lot of bad behavior to make up for. But for now at least, the beast inside Tyson seems quiet. Only time will tell if he can overcome the negative baggage from his past, but refusing to throw in the towel will, at least, make Tyson a contender for national forgiveness.
Rape is a horrific crime that should never be taken lightly. But perhaps the creators of SVU are handing women an unintended gift. Maybe stirring up passionate debate about the issue of violence against women isn’t such a bad thing after all. Casting a real-life convicted rapist on a show that real-life victims of sexual violence have always considered to be in their corner may not be the purest way to do it, but it sure has people stirred up and talking, always a good thing for increasing viewership.
NBC has already achieved a ratings coup, intended or not, just by hiring Tyson. There’s nothing a petition and a Twitter campaign can do to stop it at this point. Tyson will stay, and people who normally would not tune in to SVU will do so because of Tyson’s appearance. NBC figures it will be the winner.
Perhaps a renewed dialogue and more passionate activism about violence against women is something unexpected and positive that might arise from the whole messy affair. That’s more than we have right now, so I’ll take it.
All times are EST:
ABC: The Middle: (New) Frankie and Mike worry that Axl may not get a sports scholarship; Sue’s school science project involves smiling; Brick wants an iPad.
CBS: Person of Interest: (Repeat) Reese is charged with protecting a Brazilian diplomat’s daughter.
FOX: American Idol: (New) The search for the next singing superstar moves to Hollywood.
NBC: Whitney: (New) Alex and Whitney go to couples therapy after Whitney catches Alex in a lie.
CW: Arrow: (New) Cyrus Vanch, a nefarious criminal, is recently released from prison and intends to re-secure his position as leader of the underworld. His first step is to take down his biggest opponent in the city – Arrow. Meanwhile, Oliver shows Moira his father’s notebook and questions her about the names on the list.
PBS: Nature: (New) Conclusion. David Attenborough reflects on the impact of humans on the natural world during his lifetime, which includes diminishing numbers of rain forests and coral reefs; and increasing numbers of endangered species, such as the blue whale.
ABC: The Neighbors: (New) The relationship advice Debbie gives Reggie backfires, making things harder for Jackie and Larry; Amber doesn’t want to discuss her boyfriend with Debbie.
NBC: Guys With Kids: (New) Gary’s near-death experience sets off a crisis with Nick and Emily. Mark Consuelos guest stars.
ABC: Modern Family: (New) When the lead in the school’s production of “Phantom of the Opera” gets sick, Manny is willing to do anything to land the lead; Phil and Jay wind up in a golf-off with Mitch and Pepper; Gloria and Alex visit a psychic.
CBS: Criminal Minds: (New) When the daughters of Bruce Morrison (Ken Olin), a writer whose wife mysteriously vanished a year ago, go missing on the anniversary of their mother’s disappearance, the BAU is brought in to study Morrison as a possible suspect.
NBC: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: (New) When a gymnastics coach is assaulted, the SVU squad must dig through the secrets to uncover the truth. Mike Tyson guest stars.
CW: Supernatural: (New) Sam and Dean investigate the death of Rabbi Bass (guest star Hal Linden, “Barney Miller”), who spontaneously combusted. The case becomes ever more confusing when they learn that the Rabbi was researching Nazi Necromancers. Sam and Dean are attacked by a Golem (guest star John DeSantis) who turns out to belong to the Rabbi’s grandson, Aaron.
PBS: Nova: (New) Experts build and test two replicas of ancient Egyptian chariots to learn whether, as some historians claim, the chariot revolutionized warfare and enabled Egypt’s greatest era of conquest, the New Kingdom.
ABC: Suburgatory: (New) When Dallas learns part of her property is in East Chatswin, the country club kicks her out and Dalia must switch schools; Tessa becomes a producer on the Chatswin High TV show.
ABC: Nashville: (New) As Rayna settles into the tour, she learns that Deacon has joined Juliette’s band; Juliette wants to make a change but her team disagrees; Scarlett receives an offer from Gunnar.
CBS: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: (New) When CSI Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) decides to surprise his girlfriend in Vegas, he discovers she’s missing and asks his friend D.B. Russell for help. Meanwhile, the CSIs investigate the loss of a local wine collector on part one of a two-part crossover with CSI: NY.
NBC: Chicago Fire: (New) Tensions rise when Severide crosses paths with someone from his past. Dawson lets Shay in on her secret affair, while Shay and Clarice juggle some problems of their own.
PBS: Life on Fire: (New) The series finale travels to the Tonga archipelago in the South Pacific, where tectonic movements can construct or swallow islands. Included: how the sooty tern and Alvin shrimp have adapted to life around such ephemeral lands.
New episodes of:
Moonshiners: Outlaw Cuts at 9 p.m. on DSC
Ghost Hunters at 9 p.m. on Syfy
Toddlers & Tiaras at 9 p.m. on TLC
Baggage Battles at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Full Throttle Saloon at 9 p.m. on truTV
Property Brothers at 9 p.m. on HGTV
Barter Kings at 10 p.m. on A&E
Top Chef at 10 p.m. on BRAVO
Moonshiners at 10 p.m. on DSC
Bobby’s Dinner Battle at 10 p.m. on Food Channel
The Americans at 10 p.m. on FX
House Hunters at 10 p.m. on HGTV
Highway Thru Hell at 10 p.m. on NGC
Street Eats at 10 p.m. on Travel Channel
Hot in Cleveland at 10 p.m. on TVLAND
House Hunters International at 10 p.m. on HGTV
For movie lovers:
The Shawshank Redemption on AMC
North and South on ENC
Eye See You on FLIX
The Devil Wears Prada on FMC
Charlie Wilson’s War on IFC
The Spy Who Loved Me on REELZ
Everything is Illuminated on SUND
All Quiet on the Western Front on TCM
The Pelican Brief on ION
The Silence of the Lambs on CINEMAX
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
Click on STARZ
The English Patient at 9:45 p.m. on SHO
Margaret at 10 p.m. on HBO
Suicide Kings at 10 p.m. on IFC
Imitation of Life at 10:30 p.m. on TCM
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