Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Dimora trial a nationwide hit, thanks to CNN and Ch. 19's Puppet's Court
At first, the Jimmy Dimora trial was our tawdry local affair. The opening day got a quick mention on NPR, and that's about it for national coverage. Chicago and Detroit scandals become nationwide stories, but Cleveland's not a big city anymore, so news directors on the coasts think our scandals are strictly small-town.
Well, that's sure changed. Thank 19 Action News and its puppets.
Yes, in a mere week and a half, Channel 19 has taken Dimora's Vegas romp and sexual appetite nationwide.
Last Tuesday, it debuted "The Puppet's Court," a daily reenactment of the trial's most salacious testimony and wiretaps. The Associated Press put out a story, and pretty much everyone with a web site has joined in on the fun. Eight days later, a Google search of "Dimora" and "puppets" generates 174,000 hits.
Monday night, Dimora and his cronies really broke out. Anderson Cooper featured 19's puppets on his "Ridiculist" segment, feigning shock that a TV news station would resort to felt to get around a courthouse camera ban.
19's stunt is borrowed -- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was doing courthouse puppets nine years ago. But within the genre, the folks at 19 are innovating.
Their puppets, provided by Natural Bridges Puppets of Parma Heights, improve on Olbermann's pix on a stick. They talk, shake, sleep. They're more muppety. The dunt-dunt-dunt theme song, borrowed from the '80s courtroom show The People's Court, amps up the kitschy drama. The backdrop of an actual photo of Delmonico's Steak House behind the J. Kevin Kelley puppet in the Day 4 video adds some nice local atmosphere.
In the end, Cooper, like most of us, got lured in by the hooker hook. How could he not? "Is there room for a lady of the evening in the court of puppet opinion?" he asked. His answer: A resounding yes.
Every other media outlet in Cleveland is shaking their heads, saying they'd never resort to such shenanigans. But when the daily paper's front-page story reads like this, and a web site called clevelandescortsnews.com is tenaciously aggregating the daily's coverage -- well, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I say, let Action News be Action News!
Update, 1/26: From the Plain Dealer this morning: "Judge Sara Lioi individually questioned six jurors about whether they had heard media reports about the trial. Despite the judge speaking in a low voice to the jurors, she could be heard mentioning the word 'puppet.' "