Could there be a bigger blow to a celebrity news channel than being shut out of the celebrity trial? When cameras were barred from Michael Jackson's courtroom, E! producers must have wanted to die. So give them credit for not quite backing down.
No, they've got gumption at E!: They're grabbing transcripts of the trial and doing reenactments. Every single day. If we can't watch the Michael Jackson trial itself, we can watch ''The Michael Jackson Trial: An E! News Presentation." And given that E! knows how to make a red-carpet show that's far more entertaining than the Oscars, this seemed an opportunity for grand entertainment.
So why, oh why, did they decide to play it so straight?
Alas, E! has taken the campiest scenario imaginable and chosen to do it deadpan. The reenactments, like the ones E! did during the O.J. Simpson civil trial, are devoid of Jackson-caliber glitz; it's a group of C-list TV actors aiming for verisimilitude, on a generic courtroom set that appears to be made of cardboard. And then we have to sit through the serious part: a panel of legal experts, perky but straightforward, moderated by host James Curtis, who takes his role deadly seriously.
Curtis, a Court TV veteran, keeps trying to pepper us with legal stuff: what's a ''huge, huge hill for the prosecution to climb," whether this or that might backfire with the jury. But we don't care about legal stuff! What was Jermaine wearing?
Why isn't anyone playing Jermaine?
That's the reason anyone cares about this trial, after all. It's not about lawyers, however strange their hair or mannerisms. It's about Corey Feldman and Gary Coleman, clawing at the sides of the courthouse to get attention. It's about the oddball throngs of Jackson supporters. If we wanted legalese, we'd turn to Greta.
It's not as if the legal experts have much to say, anyway; how much play-by-play can you do on day one? Last night, analyst Rikki Kleiman explained that ''the hand has two sides. We've seen the prosecution side. Now we're seeing the defense side." Thanks.
As for the actors, well, they're acting. With vigor. Particularly Rigg Kennedy, as defense attorney Thomas Mesereau. Last night, he paused. Dramatically. He gesticulated, at one point making the motion of squeezing a breast. He drew out Jay Leno's name -- ''Lennnn-eeeauuu" -- looking proud, as if he'd done research on Mesereau's accent.
Then there was Jack Donner, most recently known as a Vulcan in ''Star Trek: Enterprise," hovering emotionless in the background as Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville. And poor, poor Edward Moss, the Michael Jackson impersonator plucked for his most visible role yet.
Last night, he was sadly limited to emoting in silence. He made a point of moving his head back and forth, shifting his eyes dramatically, letting us know that he felt Michael's pain.
If it keeps going this way, we'll all be feeling it, too.