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Putting jurors center stage

Trying to sell a new court show in the crowded genre would have to be tough. Trying to sell it as an independent distributor sounds impossible.

Yet Telco Inc., best-known for syndicating weekly half-hours Animal Rescue
and State Police, is looking to clear We, the Jury, a cross between Judge Judy
and Politically Incorrect, for a 2002 rollout.

"It's a fresh approach to the current glut of court shows," asserts Telco founder Alex Paen, in explaining that the main focus will be put on jurors, rather than a judge, and fleshing out verdicts on real cases.

Former Mad About You
senior writer Bill Grundfest, an executive producer on the show, stresses that the episodes—four of which have already been completed—are funnier than a lot of stuff out there. To give you an idea, he says, one show is titled "Love, Doggy Style," in which a jury weighs whether a woman can collect damages from an owner of a mutt that got her purebred show dog pregnant.

With his network experience, Grundfest, who has also written for CBS's That's Life, could likely have placed a show with a larger distributor. But if We, the Jury, also executive-produced by Bill Nagy, "had gone to a bigger distributor, we would have lost ownership" and then revenues, he explains.

Paen does admit that "the biggest stumbling block with this is that we're a small company." But by using the same Oregon-based studio where State Police
is taped, he will be able to offer the show to stations at attractive prices.

"We feel that we can keep our budgets down, while maintaining high quality," he adds.

What also should be enticing to stations is that We, the Jury
can be ready to go this February as a mid-season replacement. Many top-market stations are already interested in the show, he says, with several saying, "I wish you'd had it in September."