I don’t, which is why I have not been commenting on the trial in any way. But with it drawing to a close now, I thought it was interesting that it took CNN until yesterday to ask whether or not anybody really cares what happens, and if not, why not.
CNN seemed to be lamenting the lack of public interest, and TV coverage. It said the absence of cameras from the courtroom has led to ridiculous things like trial reenactments using actors and even puppets (MSNBC’s “Michael Jackson Puppet Theater”). CNN argued that if only the trial had been televised, “the public would have gotten more civics and less circus.” Oh, you think so? Were you guys around for the O.J. Simpson trial? No circus there.
The poor media did not get nearly as much out of Michael Jackson’s self-destruction as it did from the O.J. or Scott Peterson trials. Expectations were high early on, especially when Jackson danced on top of an SUV outside the courtroom shortly after pleading not guilty. “I was saying to myself,” remembered a producer for Fox News, “‘Boy, oh boy,’ I can’t wait to see what the numbers are for this thing.” They sucked. “This turned out to be a story that didn’t even have enough traction to compete with the runaway bride,” complained Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television. (His scholarly monograph on the philosophical underpinnings of “Everybody Loves Raymond” is due out later this year.)
CourtTV representatives unsurprisingly said that televising the trial would have provided a needed public service, and the AP’s lawyer said that doing so would have provided a contrast to the “hoopla” outside. One effect of the lack of courtroom footage was an increased use of legal commentators, which attorney Rikki Klieman was quoted as saying was a real disservice to viewers. “Some of these wouldn’t even know where to stand in a courtroom . . . but the world thinks they know what they’re talking about,” she said. Klieman, who is a legal commentator for CourtTV, is probably an exception to that rule, I suppose.
I say the use of puppets should be required in all televised legal commentary. While we’re at it, let’s get puppets or monkeys on C-SPAN. They need something to liven that up.