E! plans daily re-enactments of Jacko trial. Net says mood of half-hour primetime show will be ''deadly serious''

By Michael Slezak
Updated January 13, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

You can’t accuse E! Entertainment of not going all out in its efforts to cover the upcoming Michael Jackson child molestation trial. But you can’t exactly accuse the cable network of exhibiting good taste either.

E! announced yesterday its plans to air a daily, half-hour primetime series The Michael Jackson Trial, that will feature actors re-creating highlights of the previous day’s courtroom proceedings, as well as legal experts discussing how the case is proceeding. A weekly recap will air every Saturday.

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment that includes charges of giving alcohol to a minor and molesting him. Judge Rodney Melville is not allowing cameras in the courtroom during the trial.

While the idea of casting actors to deliver daily doses of what’s expected to be lurid and disturbing testimony sounds, well, fairly lurid and disturbing, E! president and CEO Ted Harbert defended the endeavor, produced in conjunction with British Sky Broadcasting, which will air the series in the U.K. ”Giving accurate depictions of testimony is nothing close to crossing any line that hasn’t been jumped over a thousand times by a lot of different outlets,” Harbert told reporters gathered for the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour. He added the broadcast’s tone would be ”deadly serious” and would attempt to capture the ”inflection, manner and tone” of the court proceedings.

Harbert told the New York Post that the network already knows who’ll be portraying the trial’s principal players — ”the judge, lawyers and, of course, Michael Jackson” — but added that the part of the King of Pop won’t be nearly as meaty as those of the prosecutor, the judge, or the defense attorney. And Harbert should know. E! broadcast a similar program, The O.J. Simpson Civil Trial back in 1996.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31. The series is expected to premiere the following day.