Picks and Pans Review: Verdict
Throughout TV land, high concept all of a sudden means low overhead. In the new cost-cutting climate, everyone is looking for found comedy (America's Funniest Home Videos) or found drama (Cops).
This summer a new variety of point-and-shoot reality programming is showing up: actual criminal trials. NBC has TrialWatch; Court TV, a new cable channel devoted exclusively to trial coverage, launches next week; CBS is airing this limited-run series. The reasons for this proliferation are obvious. Jurisprudent docudrama is cheap (no scripts, no actors) and, in this land of the litigious, certainly plentiful. (Cameras are currently permitted in courtrooms in 45 states.)
This show combines trial footage with interviews conducted by Rita Braver, Meredith Vieira and correspondents from 48 Hours, including Bernard Goldberg, Erin Moriarity and Richard Schlesinger. Viewers enjoy a privileged vantage point. Even when the judge clears the court to lecture counsel, the camera stays. And because the show, at least in the first few of its eight installments, fixes on murder trials, the drama is heightened.
Still, as with 48 Hours, chop-chop editing means tone and pace are rarely sustained. What Verdict really needs is an anchor. How about Rusty, the bailiff from People's Court?
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