In a rarity for a syndicator, Twentieth Television, which produces and distributes the seven-season-old Divorce Court and rookie Judge Alex, has publicly identified two first-run court strips in development for the 2006-07 season.
This comes on the heels of Sony Pictures Television’s recent announcement that it has cleared another court show, Judge Maria Lopez, in seven of the top 10 markets. Twentieth appears to be putting stations on notice that it will be adding one or both shows next season. The core launch group is likely to be the sister Fox-owned stations, which have performed well with popular court shows from Twentieth and other syndicators.
The first Twentieth program features Cristina Perez, host of Telemundo’s La Corte de Familia (Family Court). An English-language pilot is scheduled to shoot this month. The strip is being developed by court veteran and former A Current Affair executive producer Peter Brennan, who launched the revival of the court genre with Paramount’s Judge Judy and, later, Judge Joe Brown.
Twentieth’s second court show in development features Lynn Toler, the host of the syndicator’s 2001 court show Power of Attorney. A former Cleveland Heights, Ohio, municipal court judge and litigation attorney, she specializes in civil matters. There is no pilot or presentation tape completed yet for that show.
If the syndicator succeeds in bringing both series to market, it would bring to 10 the number of existing or planned court shows being sold so far for next season, with more in development elsewhere.
Bob Cook, president and COO of Twentieth Television, calls Perez and Toler “strong talent” that will “bring exceptional backgrounds and an on-air presence to the screen.”
Twentieth Programming President Paul Buccieri added, “You must keep two factors in mind when developing for court: superior on-air talent and the importance of storytelling. In Cristina, we have a legal expert with strong crossover appeal who’s already proven herself in the court genre through her work on Telemundo. Add the expertise of Peter Brennan, and you have a very solid foundation for a quality court strip.
“Lynn Toler is an amazing legal mind whose experience is tailor-made for court. Her broad array of expertise lends itself nicely to the demands of eloquently addressing and ruling on the multitude of cases we seek in our court shows.”
Perez is the first female television judge on Telemundo; La Corte de Familia, which airs as a strip on the Spanish-language network, is one of the highest rated Spanish-language programs in the U.S. Perez presides over cases related to divorce, physical and verbal abuse, custody, paternity claims, child and spousal support and infidelity. She also co-hosts a program on Radio Univision.
Born in New York and raised in both Mexico and the U.S., Perez owns her own law firm in Los Angeles with her husband, Christopher Gonzalez; they specialize in immigration and naturalization, and corporate and media law.
As executive producer, Brennan launched both the top-rated court show Judge Judy in 1996 and companion Judge Joe Brown a year later. His other credits include Paramount’s tabloid magazine Hard Copy, and he serves as creator of Good Day New York for WNYW New York, which laid the foundation for Fox’s successful Good Day franchise of local morning programs.
Toler earlier served as an arbitrator for CuyahogaCounty’s Common Pleas Court and was elected administrative judge in Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. There, she presided for eight years over hundreds of small claims, domestic violence, homicide, assault and stalking cases.