In 1992, Amy Fisher’s affair with auto mechanic Joey Buttafuocco and her attempted murder of his wife created a new paradigm for the American media. The combination of underaged sex, violence, and working-class mores turned this Long Island couple into celebrities, further dissolving barriers between news reporting, infotainmment, and plain old sleaze.
The burgeoning tabloid TV industry had a field day with the Fisher story, dragging more esteemed news sources along for the ride; one week in winter 1992-’93, three different networks aired “Long Island Lolita” TV movies, two starring authentic ingenues Drew Barrymore and Alyssa Milano.
Fisher was convicted and sentenced to 5 to 15 years; Joey did 6 months for statutory rape, but not before parlaying his fame into countless invitations to quasi-jet-set parties and one small film role. (He was fined in 1995 for soliciting an undercover policewoman in Hollywood.)
Amy and Joey were eventually forgotten, but… Continue reading
Legal-eagle cable TV channel that melds the American appetite for judicial drama, celebrity spectacle, and remote-control democracy. Court TV was formed in 1991 by Steven Brill (b. 1950), a former journalist and founder of American Lawyer magazine.
Brill ignored focus group recommendations that a network devoted to live court coverage would fail, but a spate of sensational trials in the network’s early years confounded naysayers, as millions of armchair barristers ingested this meatier variety of daytime drama, following with intense scrutiny the legal theater of Rodney King, the Menendez Brothers, Lorena Bobbitt, Jeffrey Dahmer, and of course, O.J. Simpson.
The latter provided the largest audiences (136,000 homes) and, later, a new host in defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran. While some legal commentators have criticized Court TV for highlighting tabloid subjects, the network insists that only a small percentage is devoted to the splashy stuff.
Available in 32 million homes by mid-1997,… Continue reading