We’ve all been there, scrolling down Netflix’s almost endless catalog of phenomenal series and some lousy originals, to find something we’re in the mood for and escape reality for an hour (or six). Almost everyone has watched Joe Exotic’s wild story, so this quarantine has once again become an endless drag. Enters: Trial By Media – a documentary series that reflects on some of the most dramatic and memorable trials in recent history.
All six episodes discuss cases that have somehow kept the American public in a choke hold, while forming a new way of sensationalism. Since voyeurism is clearly the way to success, tv-watching audiences see the lines between fame and shame blurred when talk shows such as the Jenny Jones Show and Ricki Lake start to rely on ambush television. In the first part, “Talk Show Murder”, a man gets killed for something that happened two days earlier during the taping of one of Jenny Jones’ episodes, to which Court TV starts covering every single thing that happens during the murder trial, catching audiences’ attention as if they were in that courtroom themselves.
Not only do we get all the facts by witnessing the original footage from at the time; it’s the prosecutors, defense attorneys, reporters and relatives who give testimonies, and analyse and discuss the cases they were involved with, so many years later. Every single case in Trial By Media has affected the media one way or another. They’ve also changed the way we look at journalism forever. Especially during a time in which a world leader blames reporters for false news, this series shows we have only moved on to newer platforms, such as social media.
Chapters “Subway Vigilante” and “Big Dan’s” both also inspired films such as Joker – in which a man takes justice in his own hands when he tries to defend himself on the subway, and the latter being completely made into the 1988-film The Accused, starring Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster, in which a young woman suffers a brutal gang rape in a bar one night. Fear, hysteria and hype become common denominators throughout the docuseries, which exposes the ways the criminal justice system has failed in the past. Especially in “41 Shots”, the case of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant who was shot 41 times by police in New York City, it all becomes crystal clear there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to equal rights and police-related violence.
As far as all previously mentioned chapters work perfectly in awakening certain emotions and even in a way sensationalising aforementioned sensationalism, it’s the remaining two chapters that don’t work at all. The “King Richard”-chapter, about the money laundering Healthsouth CEO, Richard Scrushy, turned religious talk-show co-host, is directionless and seems to drag for far too long. Final chapter “Blago!,” about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial, isn’t necessarily boring, but it feels too recent with too many twists and turns cramped into a one hour-episode.
Many of these episodes could easily be used for a limited series of their own. Trial By Media is certainly interesting to those who don’t have any knowledge on any of the subject matters whatsoever and thus providing them with another six hours of American court history, through the eyes of the media and cancel culture.
Trial by Media is a Supper Club production, in association with Smokehouse Pictures, and is directed by Skye Borgman (Abducted in Plain Sight), Garrett Bradley (Time), Academy Award nominee Yance Ford (Strong Island), Emmy nominee Brian McGinn (Amanda Knox), Sierra Pettengill (The Reagan Show), and Tony Yacenda (American Vandal). Executive producers are author and lawyer Jeffrey Toobin (The People vs. O.J. Simpson); journalist, author and Court TV founder Steven Brill; Smokehouse Pictures’ George Clooney and Grant Heslov; and Supper Club’s Brian McGinn, Jason Sterman and David Gelb.
Trial by Media debuts exclusively on Netflix May 11, 2020.
Seth was born and raised in the city of diamonds, Antwerp (Belgium), has been passionate about film, from a young age. His never ending wanderlust has moved him all over the planet, which made him create intoscreens.com, and share his thoughts on film. Whenever he’s not inside a theatre or on the couch (re-watching his number one feel-good-movie ‘Scream’ for the hundredth time), you can assume he went for a hike or is on another road trip.