Nets courting big auds with celebrity trials
Look out, “Law & Order.”Real-life alleged perps ranging from star athletes (Kobe Bryant, Jayson Williams), pop icons (Michael Jackson) and storied record producers (Phil Spector) to well-known actors (Robert Blake) and domestic divas (Martha Stewart) are filling news nets, Court TV and channels around the dial with an eclectic mix of hearings and trials on charges ranging from murder, rape and pedophilia to an insider trading coverup. Harried homemaker Stewart, who sold a chunk of stock under suspicious circumstances two years ago, is up first in court. Her trial starts next week in Gotham. “Fortunately, the timing doesn’t look like there’s any overlap of actual trials,” says CNN senior legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin — although dozens of pretrial hearings and motions make it feel that way. The only hindrance to the nation’s celebrity courtroom addiction: TV access. Martha’s a no-go on camera coverage, while Williams is a go. The others are still up in the air, says Marlene Dann, senior VP of daytime programming at Court TV, where celeb trials can be a real ratings boon. “I don’t remember this many at the same time — but all of them combined don’t equal the energy and level of interest of O.J.,” Toobin says.