“Trial by Media” is a new 6-episode docu-series premiering this Monday May 11th on Netflix. Longtime collaborators (and Oscar winners) George Clooney and Grant Heslov are two of the executive producers. Each one-hour episode focuses on a different, high-profile case that the media (TV, radio, newspapers) extensively covered.
I screened two of the episodes. One centers on the trial of Jonathan Schmitz, who murdered Scott Amedure just a few days after they appeared on ’90s daytime talker “The Jenny Jones Show”. The other ep. is devoted to the Senate Seat scandal surrounding former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (which I remember living through).
There’s one clear thing you should know before watching any of the episodes: The title “Trial by Media” may mislead you into thinking that this series is an examination of the media and how the media directly influenced these trials. It’s not. “TBM” is a string of TV clips, newspaper clippings, with some reporters and key players telling you, but not dissecting or analyzing, what happened.
Overall “TBM” is fairly straightforward. It’s certainly interesting to learn about these crimes and trials. And interview snippets from camera-loving attorney Geoffrey Feiger and Blagojevich’s wife Patricia have the most substance. But at no point are these episodes truly compelling or riveting or shocking – in terms of the content and how it’s presented.
The “Jenny Jones” episode repeats clips and makes the same points about sensational ambush TV over and over again. The “Blago!” episode goes in basic, chronological order. What you get from “Trial by Media” is fine but not any different (or superior) to what you’d find on a version of this kind of program on a major network or cable channel. Frankly, the only “unique” element is the opening credits sequence in which the words “Trial by Media” are absorbed in the logos of various news outlets.