Court TV makes its case for new shows

Times Staff Writer

AFTER winning fans as a director ("Pink Flamingos"), author ("Shock Value"), photographer and actor ("Seed of Chucky" and "The Simpsons"), John Waters said Wednesday he's thrilled to have a new audience on Court TV "without it being my own trial."

Looking funereally thin, with thinning hair and a pencil-thin mustache, Waters spoke to members of the Television Critics Assn. meeting this week in Pasadena, about his role as "The Groom Reaper" on the irreverent docudrama " 'Til Death Do Us Part," Court TV's first foray into original scripted series, scheduled to air in late summer into early fall.

The show guides viewers through the stories of low-profile marriages that ended in murder. Citing research statistics, executive producer Jeff Lieberman said 55% of such murders are committed by husbands, but by the end of the show, wives may close the gap.

As they spoke, Court TV had plates of doughnuts topped with a bride and a groom brought to the journalists.

The cases to be aired had little in common except that the perpetrators were often amazingly stupid, Waters said. One wife bought the murder weapon using her charge card, he said. There were usually few indications that trouble loomed. "But if your wife comes home with an ax," he said, "it's not a good sign."

Court TV also previewed a panel of mystery writers, including James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman and Lisa Scottoline, who will host a series called "America's Crime Writers: Murder They Wrote." The series, to air late summer and early fall, will also look at real cases that have intrigued the writers. Each will host an episode of particular meaning to him or her. Ellroy will trace the mystery of his mother's murder in 1958 when he was 10.

In separate news, Court TV also announced it would open a full-time news bureau in Washington to cover legal and judicial news in the nation's capital.

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