Casey Kasem’s Death Inspired a Season 16 ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Episode

At the beginning of each episode of Law & Order: SVU, there’s a disclaimer. “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event,” it reads. But many episodes draw inspiration from real events. This includes the life of Casey Kasem, who had a long, successful career in broadcasting. But following his death, drama ensued, becoming the inspiration for an episode of the long-running crime drama. 

Who was Casey Kasem?

casey kasem
Top 40 radio host Casey Kasem poses by his studio at Premier Radio Network. | Ann Johansson/Corbis via Getty Images

Many people remember hearing Kasem on the radio, urging them to “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” He ended his radio show, American Top 40, with those words for almost four decades. 

According to NPR, Kasem was the child of immigrants from Lebanon. Born in Detroit in 1932, he was drafted into the Army 20 years later. He became a DJ for Armed Forces Radio during the Korean War, and working in radio became his passion.

After the war, he came home and worked for different radio stations around the country before settling in California. In 1970, he launched the radio show that made him famous, counting down the week’s Top 40 hits. Over the years, he added music trivia and long-distance song dedications to his program. He also worked as a voice actor, including his work as Shaggy in the cartoon Scooby Doo.

In 2009, Kasem turned his show over to Ryan Seacrest. Within five years, he retired fully. After a diagnosis of dementia, Kasem’s health began to suffer. Eventually, he was placed in conservatorship under his wife’s care.

The drama surrounding Casey Kasem’s death

Before he died in 2014, Kasem’s family became embroiled in a contentious legal battle. According to the Los Angeles Times, his three adult children from his first marriage accused his wife of medical neglect and abuse. Jean Kasem, his second wife of 34 years, countersued, accusing them of trying to manipulate him to get his money and causing him distress. 

The conflict continued to escalate after Kasem died, and law enforcement officials in both California and Washington opened up investigations into the accusations. In the end, they announced they found no evidence of wrongdoing, and closed investigations. The family members settled their lawsuits out of court, and the sad story ended. 

That is until it came back on prime-time television. 

‘Law & Order: SVU’ draws inspiration from real life

The drama of Kasem’s last years of life soon became a plot for SVU. In February 2015, the popular crime drama aired “December Solstice,” an episode about a family situation a lot like the Kasems’. E News reports that Marcia Cross played Charmaine Briggs, the sixth wife of a famous author, Walter (played by Robert Vaughn). Although the storyline was similar to what happened to Kasem, there were also significant differences.

This adaptation of a real-life battle isn’t the only time SVU borrowed a storyline from a celebrity scandal. The show has also featured episodes with plots that were very similar to big celebrity stories of the time. For instance, there have been episodes that mirrored the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the rape accusation against Kobe Bryant, JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, Chris Brown’s abuse of Rihanna, and more. As with the Kasem story, each plot was expanded with extra details and drama. 

After all, it’s important to make it clear that the series “does not depict any actual person or event.”

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