DARDEN: NEW DAY IN TV COURT

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Why would Christopher Darden, the guy who slammed the media's coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial (including in his 1997 bestseller "In Contempt"), jump on board as co-star of Twentieth Television's fall 2000 court entry "Power of Attorney"? No, the former Simpson-prosecutor-turned-Southwestern University associate professor of law isn't copping an insanity plea. Instead, Darden, relishes his next career move-duking it out with other high-profile lawyers, including feminist Gloria Allred; her daughter, Lisa Bloom; former counsel for Jack Kervorkian, Geoffrey Fieger; real-life boss of Erin Brockovich, Ed Masry; and Dominic Barbara, attorney for Joey Buttafuoco. Darden talked to Broadcasting and Cable's Susanne Ault about his new role.

First off, why did you want to get involved in Power of Attorney?

I think it's going to be fun, No. 1. And No. 2, I think it's going to be fun. My objective in life, quite frankly, is to have a good time. Every time I do [another taping of the show], I'm a little more intrigued by the whole thing.

Are you a fan of court TV court shows, either the classic People's Court or current leader Judge Judy?

Well, not really. Because as I sit there watching Judge Judy, I'm always saying to myself, "that guy needs representation!" So, no, but I've always been a fan of legal drama. Just not that other stuff. It detracts from the seriousness and real artistry of what it means to be a courtroom lawyer.

Are you looking to catch Judge Judy?

Well, when I'm there doing the show, I'm not concerned about ratings. I'm concerned about winning [the cases]. That's my objective. There'll be other people worrying about that. But I'd like to [catch her].

Which Power lawyers are you having the most fun battling?

All of them. But I was doing something with Gloria Allred the other day, and she was hammering my client-as she should have. And I was hammering her, too. Gloria was pointing at my client. And I was thinking that there was a time when, if a lawyer pointed at my client like that, I'd stand up and say "Your honor, tell her to stop pointing or to pull back a nub." The thought ran across my mind, but I didn't act on it.

You were pretty hard on the media's coverage of the Simpson case. Have you changed your mind now that you're stepping in front of the camera?

I haven't changed my mind. If I was charged with a felony, I wouldn't want that on television. And I don't think anybody else in their right mind would want that on TV. When you look at television covering heavy felony cases-they all turn out like crap.

These aren't the same kinds of cases on Power. And these can realistically be handled in a short period of time. But that's not to say that they aren't important. They're as important as hell to the people involved.

So you're able to give your all to small-claims cases? They're not the most high-profile problems.

I have people coming to me to help them with their small-claims cases. And they want to spend, sometimes $5,000, to fight a small-claims verdict rendered against them when the verdict was only $500. It's not that they're litigious, it's just the principle of the thing.

Did you feel a little déjàvu in terms of media hoopla during last month's syndication curtain-raiser Synditel? The TV critics went ballistic when they found out you would be late to Power's session.

At first I thought, "Ooh they love me." Then reality set in-oh, they're critics. Well, I did show up and was able to talk to a lot of people. But it didn't really all deal with me. It had to do with a number of people not showing up.

O.J. has been a lot in the news lately. Does it make you cringe a little bit?

You know what makes me cringe is the idea of [former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman] debating O.J. Simpson. That makes me cringe.

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