“The world is a stage, the stage is a world... of entertainment,” sang the cast of The Bandwagon in Vincente Minnelli’s 1953 musical. Five decades later, even if the quality is a touch dubious, he’s as right as ever. Illusion is still the norm, albeit a slightly less believable illusion. In this day and age, the actors of that odd Hollywood production are more likely to blurt out a farcical: “The world is a wig, the wig is a world,” plastic hair and fake lashes aflutter. All that because they might have seen the stunning pop, TV, legal and conceptual happening of the moment. Namely, the daily broadcast of the re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s trial for paedophilia on the E! channel in the US, already renowned for its inimitably trashy Hollywood Stories.
We could have watched the tribulations of Jacko live and in real time, but the judge banned cameras in the courtroom out of an understandable concern for decency. Exit Court TV and other specialists of legal broadcasting and enter the overactive imagination of the kings of entertainment. Kevin McLellan, E! Entertainment’s president, is quick to point out that “[t]his is not the first time a trial has been re-enacted. We’d already done this for OJ Simpson’s trial in 1996. Once the judge banned cameras, it seemed like the only way to go.” E!’s set-up has been some- what complicated by the various constraints included in the judge’s ban. However, the network took advantage of a bizarre loophole in the American legal system that allows the court reporter to sell his or her transcript of the trial. Minutes after the daily adjournment, the channel receives the transcripts. An editorial board selects the most dramatic moments that are then re-enacted and broadcast the following day.