Judge Larry Seidlin plans meetings with producers
Judge Larry Seidlin, the colorful Florida jurist at the center of the recent media frenzy over the burial of Anna Nicole Smith, will be holding his first spate of face-to-face meetings with prospective court-show producers this week during a planned spring-break family visit to Los Angeles.
Although Seidlin's wife, Belinda, would confirm only that the couple was planning to take its young daughter to Disneyland, the 56-year-old judge lined up meetings with a variety of syndicators and networks.
According to reports following the Smith trial last month, he had been inundated with at least 200 phone inquiries from TV recruiters, including CBS' weekend Early Show, and publishers.
Overwhelmed by the sudden attention, say industry executives, Seidlin is being "advised" during his foray into Hollywood by two well-known industry figures: investigative reporter/producer Art Harris, a familiar face on CNN and Entertainment Tonight's Website, who has known Seidlin for years and covered the Smith trial extensively; and Judge Joe Brown Executive Producer John Terenzio. Neither could be reached for comment at press time.
According to industry executives, CBS Television Distribution (CTD), Warner Bros.' Telepictures unit and Fox's Twentieth Television, all of which are heavily into the court genre, have the best chances of landing Seidlin. They say Sony Pictures Television, which has three court shows, could also make a run.
In recent years, CTD has occasionally looked at expanding its court portfolio beyond Judge Judy and Joe Brown, which are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively. But those projects never went ahead. Executives have said that they were waiting to grab a big name that would allow them to secure strong time periods. Twentieth also steered clear of the court this past year, and Warner Bros. abandoned a project called Celebrity Jury.
Studios have been in hot pursuit of Seidlin since the surreal trial ended in late February, when he awarded Smith's remains to her 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. Seidlin's oversize personality, one-liners, emotional outbursts and pleas to end the squabbling among the warring parties during the televised proceedings turned the probate judge into a household name. The dramatics, which those close to him say were nothing new, became a cable news staple for days, earning the judge adulation from the public and condemnation from legal experts.
The Website TMZ.com, which is co-owned by Time Warner's AOL and Telepictures, had reported that Seidlin was shopping an audition tape, fueling widespread speculation that he had been hamming it up on the bench to fetch his own show. But others say there never was a tape and blame the report on a local producer who had unsuccessfully sought to represent Seidlin. The producer had considered the idea of compiling footage of him from cameras in the courtroom, but those familiar with the matter say he never followed through.