Talk meets high-tech court in CBS Television Distribution’s latest syndication offering, Swift Justice With Nancy Grace, which premieres in high-definition on stations across the country Sept. 13. The show feels like a modern spin on the traditional court show, with Grace often acting as judge, jury and litigator. Unlike most court shows, there’s no wooden stand, no gavel and no black robes.
“I created this show with the idea that people’s emotions in the midst of these disputes would come through,” says John Terenzio, Swift Justice’s executive producer, who’s also EP of CTD’s Judge Joe Brown. “The format was always built around the idea that this would be a much freer arena for people to express their opinions and feelings. For Nancy, it just comes naturally.”
“On this show, Nancy gets to address a wide range of topics, and that lets viewers really get the whole Nancy Grace,” adds Terry Wood, CTD’s president of development and creative affairs. “We’re not doing news stories; we’re talking about what happens to people in everyday life. Viewers will get to see so many more sides of Nancy, from her compassion and curiosity to her humor.”
Grace also won’t remain behind her podium. She walks all over the set, whether it’s to point something out on one of the set’s giant screens or give a crying litigant a much-needed hug. And there’s a lot of crying.
“Because of Nancy’s experience as a prosecutor, she took to the set as if it were a courtroom,” says Terenzio, who worked with designer Joe Stewart to create the high-tech red and blue backdrop.
The show also features plenty of expert criminology and technology. In one case, Grace brings in a blood-spatter expert to determine whether a woman was struck by her boyfriend or fell of her own accord. The show also is visited by experts in DNA analysis and lie detectors.
Videoconferencing pros and cons
Every half-hour show—and Swift Justice will run in a one-hour block comprised of two episodes—begins with two in-studio cases that feature two parties in a dispute. After those two cases, the show runs its “Nancy Across America” segment, in which disputing parties call in via the Polycom videoconferencing system. “We reach out to America and settle cases with people sitting in front of their computer screens,” Terenzio says.
Videoconferencing has its pros and cons. The show avoids the cost and hassle of bringing all parties to the studio, but frustrated participants can easily shut their laptops and walk away—and one does. Grace is the consummate improviser, however, so even the abrupt departure of a participant doesn’t faze her.
“When you have someone like Nancy who is that good at connecting with people, you have to let her go and do her thing,” Wood says. “You have to let her go with her instincts. It’s very dynamic and unpredictable, but you know that you are going to walk away with great moments.”
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