Night Court TV

WRITING - Joe Bob's America


I'm already hooked on this new cable network called Court TV.

They show the same goldang trials over and over again, all day long, like MTV for lawyers, so you can watch two hours of the Christian Brando sentencing hearing (I love the part where Marlon Brando speaks in French to the bereaved family from Tahiti),

and then you can watch Pam Smart try to convince a New Hampshire jury that she did NOT ask her 17-year-old boyfriend to kill her husband (this woman gives a new meaning to the word "cold"), and then you can settle into this Robert Scott Hill trial from Florida, the kindly guy with the grey beard who's accused of killing his mother-in-law 25 years ago (the best part is the snide, whiny young defense attorney, who starts every question with "Are you telling me that . . .").

This stuff is GREAT. I can't believe these trials won't bump the soap operas off the air inside of three years. And if you think these murder trials are bloody, wait till they start doing DIVORCE trails.

If you kinda tune in and out of these trials all day, you start to develop these relationships with the characters--JUST LIKE ON SOAP OPERAS! Like there's this chubby little girl in the Pam Smart trial who let the cops tap her phone so she could call up Pam and get her to say incriminating things. She's the one who first testified that Pam wouldn't allow her husband to be killed in front of the dog, "because it might traumatize him." I'm telling you, Stephen King couldn't make up that plot detail.

But as soon as this Court TV went on the air, there were articles in newspapers and magazines everywhere saying stuff like "Is this going TOO FAR? I mean, we're all for cameras in the courtroom, but we don't think they should be used for the crass exploitation of the miseries of other people . . . blah blah blah . . . questions of invading people's privacy . . . possible intimidation of witnesses . . . blah blah blah . . . attorneys grandstanding for the cameras . . . blah blah blah blah blah."

Where have these people been all their lives? Go to any criminal courtroom on any weekday, and look at the spectators gallery. Who comes to watch the murder trials? Wall Street bankers? Marketing directors? Secretaries? Baseball players? NO! It's SCARY OLD LADIES WITH FUNGUS GROWING ON THEIR FACE. It's the same people who read THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS and THE STAR and THE NEW YORK POST. We're not talking Professors of Jurisprudence out there in the church pews.

So all Court TV does is make the legal process more widely available to those who TRULY want it--those of us who, in our hearts, are gossipy nosy old ladies with fungus growing on our face.

And as to this business about lawyers "grandstanding for the cameras," this is another point that could only be made by somebody who has never been to a real live trial. Lawyers don't need a TV audience to grandstand. Most of them ALREADY think the jury is some kind of Academy Award screening committee. They'll turn somersaults and stand on their heads for one deaf, dumb and blind midget who's sitting with his BACK to them. So when you're watching these televised trials and you're tempted to say, "Oh, look, he's PERFORMING--he must be AWARE of the camera," think of it another way--that guy is AWARE of every blow-dryed strand of hair on his eighty-dollar haircut. He doesn't need YOU to be a jerk. He's a LAWYER. He was BORN a jerk, and then he was TRAINED to act like a jerk. Do you understand this?

Finally, there are already people saying, "Well, as long as Court TV treats it as an educational service . . . blah blah blah . . . teaches us about our legal heritage . . . blah blah blah . . ."

Two comments here:

One, Court TV is run by Steven Brill, author of "The Teamsters," publisher of "The American Lawyer" newspaper, and all-around tough-guy "Mr. Macho" journalist. If Steven Brill's mother was arrested for selling crack, he would want to know how fast he could get his cameras to the first preliminary hearing.

Two, Court TV is financed by Time-Warner, the largest media conglomerate of them all, owners of a whole slew of cable TV properties, part of the inner circle of "Honey, sweetie, cookie, baby" cigar-chomping moguls. These guys use words like "box office," "ratings" and "demographics." It ain't PBS.

And that's okay with me, because one of these days, Marla Maples will sue Donald Trump for divorce. I want Court TV to have its cameras there when it happens. And I know that THESE GUYS would NEVER let me down.