‘Celebrity Justice’ has that ‘Extra’ something

Apr 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Some insiders are calling it television’s “anti-Enquirer.”
Telepictures’ upcoming newsmagazine strip “Celebrity Justice” has already garnered the kind of national attention that most upcoming shows drool over.
Currently a regular segment on fellow Telepictures series “Extra,” “Celebrity Justice” found and aired videotape of Winona Ryder’s infamous shopping trip that ended in her arrest for allegedly shoplifting. The videotape showed nothing of what the actress was accused of doing.
Last week, the segment broke news that Russell Crowe was due in an Australian court for a bar brawl and that police were closing in on an arrest in the murder of Robert Blake’s wife.
“The Beverly Hills cops had already tried [Winona Ryder], but we were able to get the tape and show what actually happened,” said Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, senior executive producer, reality programming, for Telepictures Productions. “In this post-O.J. world of news coverage, we’re proud to be able to represent a fair, balanced and accurate account of celebrities and the legal system.”
Innovative strategies
Syndicators have had difficulty in recent years launching newsmagazines due to the high cost of start-ups, which require access clearances. MGM attempted the most recent national show with “National Enquirer Uncovered,” a rumor-propelled strip based on the tabloid magazine. The series was pulled two years later.
Now, however, syndicators are finding ways to make the genre affordable and profitable. Twentieth Television gave a slow rollout to “Good Day Live,” a spinoff of the L.A.-based morning talk show/ newsmagazine hybrid “Good Day L.A.,” before announcing a national launch later in the year. Meanwhile, Telepictures discovered that its “Celebrity Justice” segments often spiked ratings for “Extra.”
“Celebrity Justice” now boasts an 89 percent clearance level across the country, including 91 of the top 100 markets and the WB 100+ Station Group. Early clearances place the day-and-date show anywhere from daytime to access to late fringe.
The series will cover breaking and current legal issues involving celebrities from movies and the television, sports and music realms, to name a few. Company executives brush off any worries that there might not be enough material to fill a year’s worth of shows.
“Audiences love this kind of information,” said Jim Paratore, executive VP of distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “I admit, when we first started this project, I wasn’t sure we would be able to find enough information to sustain the show five days a week. But after doing some test research, we found that we could come up with enough material to easily fill six weeks’ worth of shows without trouble. It’s clear that there truly was enough content.”
Although criminal matters will clearly play a role on the show, executive producers and program creators Harvey Levin and Ms. Gregorisch-Dempsey will also place the spotlight on topics such as real estate lawsuits and deal-making.
Interactive component
The series will feature recurring segments, such as “You Be the Judge,” where viewers will hear legal arguments in a mock trial, then vote online as an interactive jury panel to decide the case.
In “Equal Justice” the show will explore whether the celebrity was treated more or less fairly than an ordinary citizen faced with the same situation. The strip will also examine the fashion sense of stars at their court dates in “Court Appearances.” So far, no host has been named for the series.
“This is not a show about celebrities in trouble,” said Mr. Levin, a legal analyst. “It’s going to be about getting to the real information and hopefully become a show of record, because we’re talking to lawyers and private investigators who don’t talk to anyone.”