Syndicated (check local listings)
On Trial is yet another courtroom show, like The People’s Court, Divorce Court, Superior Court and The Judge. Yes, that’s just what TV needs—another one. But this one’s different. Since television cameras are now allowed into many courtrooms across the country, On Trial can use footage from real trials. That means, by the way, that no script has to be written and no actors hired. Yes, reality is cost efficient. Reality is destined to be the hot commodity of the ’90s. But here’s the problem: When TV news shows (and newspapers and magazines) take their cameras and notebooks into the courtroom, it is to cover news—to report on trials worthy of our attention. When this show takes its cameras in, it is to entertain—to use the crimes and suffering of real people for cheap voyeurism and easy bucks. The trial I saw was of a man accused of killing another in an auto accident. While witnesses and lawyers spoke about this tragedy, the camera stared at the dead man’s widow and then at the driver. Watching this is sad. It is sick. And, for the record, it is boring.