Empty1 a.m. Mondays
KCAL (Los Angeles)
It doesn't get much more low-rent than this: a syndicated half-hour court series strip that argues real-life small claims cases, decided by a trio of B-list and C-list celebrity jurors, created and executive produced by a TV newcomer named Vincent Dymon -- a Chicago-born showbiz neophyte who answers his own phone at the office and clearly hasn't a clue that he's supposed to act slightly arrogant and removed.
Oh, and it's airing a double-run at 1 a.m. weeknights/mornings, though Dymon insists that it will be moved to a more godly hour soon. One last thing: Dymon sued Warner Bros. last year for ripping off his idea with its show "Celebrity Jury," which subsequently was pulled from the air. The man has balls.
He's also got a show that's shockingly watchable, an entertaining blend of the grass-roots judicial and the broadly camp. The fact that such folks as Todd Bridges, Charlene Tilton, Bruce Jenner and Dr. Ava Cadell (founder of something called Loveology University) are among the celebs featured on the rotating jury panel not only doesn't detract from the goofily earnest vibe but indeed helps to fuel it.
I mean, you've just got to love a show that opens by "serving" each of that broadcast's jurors with a summons to do their televised duty. The judge steering the proceedings is Bruce Cutler, a criminal defense lawyer who once defended mob boss John Gotti and has worked off and on as Phil Spector's lead attorney in his murder trial. Cutler is charismatic and full of bluster, and his old-school charm plays nicely on camera.
He starts off by reading the complaint -- typically involving a few thousand dollars -- and we're introduced to the litigants. In one episode, the plaintiff and defendant nearly come to blows, treating their case involving $2,700 or so in unpaid rent as if it were about their very manhood. In the other, a wheelchair-bound chiropractor and his patient battle it out, and it's ultimately decided that both are more or less con artists.
The jurors get to fire questions before concluding with a truncated deliberation and verdict. But it isn't for its legal wisdom that we're tuning to the quaintly off-kilter "Jury Duty." We're flocking for the voyeuristic thrill of watching small sums of money come between former friends while the head of Loveology University sits in judgment. That, and we can't sleep.