Advertisement

TELEVISION

Court TV hopes `Speeders' is just the ticket

`Cops' for the commuter set, the show hopes to drive home safety. It's just one way that the network is evolving.

June 10, 2007|Lynn Smith | Times Staff Writer

ON a warm afternoon, deep in a shady, floral-scented section of Beverly Hills, officer Dave Rudy parked his car near a stop sign and lay in wait for someone to run it. Sure enough, within minutes, a mom in a black Range Rover -- who later said she was going to pick up a child at Beverly Hills High School -- cruised through. Compounding the crime, she then ran another one, as she turned from Charleville Boulevard to Linden Drive. A "California roll," Rudy called it.

Not a dramatic "Cops"-style infraction, to be sure, but just the ticket for "Speeders," a new Court TV offering that attempts to add humor and public service to unscripted TV.

Immediately after Rudy pulled her over, the woman was surrounded by two cameramen and a producer from Court TV, a newspaper reporter and photographer, and media relations representatives from the network and the Beverly Hills Police Department. A crowd of neighbors and rubberneckers began to grow. The driver, in jewels and sunglasses, appeared taken aback.

Many speeders and scofflaws in other communities around the country who have been taped for the show that began Thursday signed waivers to use their images. The Beverly Hills motorist did not sign the form. She argued that she had, in fact, stopped.

This is the point in the ticketing process at which the network hopes to wring some humor. Some excuses heard on the show: "I washed my car and didn't have time to hand-dry it." "I'm trying to get home in time to take fertility pills." "I had a bad day at work." And the ever popular, "I have to go to the bathroom."

A woman who once gave Rudy that excuse had actually removed all her clothing below her waist. She had been speeding 60 mph on Wilshire Boulevard and was eventually cited for driving under the influence.

"We thought it's a great way to show what is an important side to law enforcement but with humorous elements we can all relate to," said Mark Juris, general manager of Court TV Networks. Segments of the series showcase speeders in several California communities, including Glendale, Altadena, Palm Springs and Laguna Beach.

Juris is in charge of the network's rebranding efforts, announced this year by Time Warner (parent company to TBS, TNT, HBO and Court TV). The overhaul will feature a new name, logo and programming designed to appeal to "real engagers," mostly young males drawn to "real-life stories and true characters." "Speeders" -- airing at 8 p.m. on Thursdays over the next seven weeks -- represents a bridge between the old and new programming and joins shows such as "Beach Patrol" in the network's "R.E.D." (Real. Exciting. Dramatic.) prime-time programming. Upcoming shows include "The Room" (police interrogations), "The Real Hustle" (con artists) and "Tiger Team" (high-end security experts).

Star Jones Reynolds (formerly of "The View") is scheduled to host a daytime talk show on high-profile court cases, and the controversial Nancy Grace has migrated to CNN. The daily show featuring former judge Catherine Crier has been dropped.

On Internet blogs, fans have bitterly bemoaned the change. Switching Jones Reynolds for Crier is "the beginning of the end to Court TV," wrote one. "I will not be wasting my TiVo space on the new programming in 2008 if it is as predicted," wrote another. In fact, Juris said, "Our courtroom coverage is going nowhere. We're here, better than ever. We are the same network, with the same heritage and the same commitment to provide the best legal coverage and analysis in the country." Afternoon court coverage, however, will be moving to the Web, he said, "where it works better for people and viewers."

"Speeders" is also intended to educate viewers about the law and the reasons they ought to drive safely. In Beverly Hills, more motorists are killed because of unsafe driving practices than murders, robberies or other crimes, said Beverly Hills Police Department spokesman Lt. Mitchel McCann. The city turned down a filming request by "Cops" but accepted "Speeders," he said, because the Court TV show was more educational.

One of the more useful insights it offers viewers concerns the decision-making process that determines whether officers give a ticket or a warning.

The driver of the Range Rover, in addition to missing two stops, did not have proof of up-to-date insurance, Rudy said. He wound up citing her for only one violation, failing to stop. He said he might have let her go completely if she had been honest about the infraction.

"She immediately had an 'I can't be bothered' attitude with me," he said. "If she said, 'Yes, I did this and that,' I probably wouldn't have cited her."

As the camera was recording him speaking, two more cars ran the stop sign behind him.

While there are no lawful exceptions to driving code infractions, police officers can use their discretion in minor cases or if, say, someone is rushing to a hospital because they are hurt, having a baby, or is needed on staff. However, Rudy said 99.9% have no legitimate excuse.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|