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Juris Lights Court TV’s Fuse With 2 New Shows

Nov 29, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Just three weeks into Marc Juris’ gig as general manager of programming and marketing for Court TV, he’s already put into the pipeline new shows bearing his stamp.

Court TV is placing a bet on “Takedown,” its take on the growing casino program genre. While other shows feature people trying to win money gambling, Court TV’s new series will focus on catching people who steal money playing poker and other games.

The show is designed to fit in with Court TV in prime time, when the network becomes The Investigation Channel, filled with mysteries and forensic programming. “What’s great about this is you can’t just spend five minutes with this,” Mr. Juris said.

When Mr. Juris was head of Fuse, the upstart music channel competitor to MTV, he used slogans like “FU**” to attract attention. While he wants to attract younger viewers to Court TV, he said the radical ideas he employed at Fuse aren’t necessary to do that.

“This is a very successful network and a great platform to build off,” Mr. Juris said in his new office overlooking Manhattan’s Third Avenue. The new casino-based show is “quite opposite of the Fuse and MTV format,” he said. “Once we hook you in, you have to stick around to get the payoffs. The payoffs don’t come in eight minutes or 12 minutes. They come at the end of the show.”

That will work for younger viewers, no matter how one defines “young,” said Mr. Juris, who hears himself being described as young at the ripe age of 42. “Even if you look at 18-year-olds, they don’t walk out of movie theaters. When the story is good and the format is good, they stick around,” he said. “The beauty of investigation/mystery is that it makes it really hard to walk away, because you want to see how the story unfolds. … That doesn’t mean we don’t have to tell our stories with a slightly faster pace, slightly more youthful storytelling techniques.”

But tweaks to current shows, such as “Forensic Files,” will be gentle, to avoid alienating current viewers. So don’t expect to see a show in which mysteries are solved in under five minutes.

In “Takedown,” teams of cardsharps and con artists are hired by casinos to see whether their defenses can withstand state-of-the-art attempts to cheat.

“You’d be surprised,” Mr. Juris said. “Whatever the casino comes up with, [the cheaters] come up with something else the next day. It’s a real cat-and-mouse game.”

Mr. Juris sees the show as “a great way to leverage the enormous appeal and attention that `Celebrity Poker’ and all these casinos are getting.”

The pilot episode, being shot now, is about poker cheaters and “the ways they signal each other and ways you can tell if they are cheating,” Mr. Juris said. “If you’re really interested in this kind of stuff, you’re really going to find out what professional cheaters do and what to look for.”

No airdate has been set for “Takedown.”

Mr. Juris also is planning “Parco P.I.,” a show about a well-known New York-area private detective. Like A&E’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and HBO’s “Family Bonds,” “Parco P.I.” will follow the family of its reality show star. In this case, it’s Vinny Parco.

“Parco P.I.” combines reality with docudrama as Mr. Parco reviews some of his more famous cases. “This is about storytelling about real cases,” Mr. Juris said. “It’s got an overlay of a dysfunctional family and all the things you’ve come to expect from this type of format.”

“Parco P.I.” is in production and is scheduled to premiere in the first quarter.

Mr. Juris said Court TV’s format is broad enough to encompass most reality and nonfiction programming. “Real life does provide an opportunity to see that old axiom: Truth is stranger than fiction,” he said. “And I think it does create an urgency and an immediacy in this category that brings you really up close and personal.”

Over the long term, Mr. Juris said, “I’d like to see scripted series on the air.” From “CSI” to “Monk,” investigation shows are finding success across the dial. “All of those shows could have a home on Court TV,” he said.

He could even see a “Barney Miller”-style sitcom fitting someday on the Court TV prime-time schedule.

Mr. Juris said he would prefer to create an original show rather than buy one in syndication. “Original programming is the best way to define yourself,” he said. “Once you have someone else’s stuff, you become a little bit of someone else.”

Court TV has been doing a lot of work persuading advertisers to sponsor blocks of programming and has become a leader in giving advertisers on-screen graphics during shows. But in-show integration is new to the channel. One of the first programs involved in integrated advertising is “Impossible Heists.”

Mr. Juris said he’s looking to see whether “there are ways to work together and create a partnership with advertisers where there is editorial integrity for them to platform their product the right way and the programming is better for our audience.”

Another area that interests Mr. Juris is interactivity. As the Scott Peterson trial wound down, Court TV offered viewers a verdict alert, and 200,000 people registered to be notified by e-mail or text messaging.

As head of marketing for the network, Mr. Juris is pondering ways to put the network top-of-mind and on the cutting edge of the culture.

“We’re doing a brand study and, again, looking at how to evolve the network to continue its success and growth,” he said. “You need to keep [the audience] thinking your brand is culturally relevant and important to them, especially in the face of all other competition. So I think it’s really incumbent on us to stay ahead of trends.”