To convince backers and stations about the potential for these two syndie strip series, which are both new entries in the talkshow circuit, the producers might have used the one-sentence pitch that their show is “People’s Court” meets “Geraldo” with help from the “Love Connection.”
And armchair jurists and talkshow junkies may find these hybrids have the expected friction of chat shows, while adding a new element: Both series tout their ability to go beyond the talkshow and offer some sort of closure.
Star Jones, a former New York assistant district attorney and NBC legal correspondent, guides “Jones & Jury”– which is like “Oprah” in the courtroom.
While asking the litigants her barely probing questions, Jones adds street-speak to the legalese, turning the court format on its ear in favor of offering something easily understandable to the average viewer. She also at times lets the “jury” members chime in with their own inquiries, which are often just slightly less thought out than Jones’ questions.
Jurors are then asked to vote and, as in civil court where only a preponderance of evidence is required, a majority vote decides the fate of the plaintiff or defendant.
In the debut episode of the half-hour show, 51% of the “jury” decided in favor of the plaintiff, who claimed she was stiffed to the tune of $ 2,000 by an ex-boyfriend who thought the cashier’s check was a reward for his sexual prowess.
By contrast, “Judge for Yourself” takes an hour to resolve a conflict that is only interesting enough for half the time.
Host Bill Handel is an L.A. radio personality who claims to be too busy to watch TV; in addition to the combatants, he brings in peripherally involved parties and an assortment of experts to pad the show’s running time.
Handel has no control over the participants as he attempts to elicit cogent testimony from them. The show often erupts into a shouting match between the parties, as the gregarious host unsucessfully tries to calm them.
An interesting twist to an otherwise lethargic offering is the use of man on the street interviews, with passers-by offering their take on the show’s dispute as bumpers for the commercials.
It’s fun to watch as the series eavesdrops on the jury members as they deliberate, since some of their insights are among the show’s funniest moments, however unintentional.
“Jones” has been cleared in 87 markets; “Judge” is cleared in 95% of the U.S. But if these debuts are any indication, both are likely to quickly lose their respective appeals and face the death penalty.