Lifetime aims for ratings gold with another true-crime movie

  • By David Hiltbrand The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Friday, January 18, 2013 2:11pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

On a Saturday night one year ago, Lifetime drew an astounding 5.8 million viewers for “Drew Peterson: Untouchable.” The fact-based film starred Rob Lowe as the notorious Illinois black widower who is currently awaiting sentencing for the murder of his third wife.

Now Lifetime repeats the formula, hoping to make ratings lightning strike twice.

“Prosecuting Casey Anthony” is a re-creation of the 2011 tabloid trial of the young Florida single mother acquitted in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter.

This time Lowe is on the right side of the law, portraying Jeff Ashton, the assistant state attorney who conducted the case against Anthony. (The film is based on Ashton’s book, “Imperfect Justice,” written with Lisa Pulitzer.)

The bland role of the veteran prosecutor doesn’t give Lowe much to work with. The film is stolen by “The Office’s” Oscar Nunez as Anthony’s relatively inexperienced but cagey attorney, Jose Baez.

The true appeal of th movie lies in our strong residual interest in finding out just how our criminal system could manage to be blinder than Mr. Magoo.

The film begins with Ashton (Lowe) promoting his book. The reporter asks him what went wrong with the case. “You mean other than the verdict?” he responds. “Not a thing.”

Ashton is convinced his case is “rock solid,” and indeed, the script does a thorough job of inventorying all the behaviors and omissions that made Anthony seem so abundantly guilty.

The narrative becomes lopsided as the script continues to loyally adhere to Ashton’s point of view, but about 90 minutes into the movie, one of the TV commentators asks if the state can possibly recover from all the prosecution blunders.

Up to that point you’re unaware that any have occurred.

The focus of “Prosecuting Casey Anthony” should have been on the vast disparity between how this case played on TV and how it played in the jury box.

So why no conviction? One theory is that it fell victim to the “CSI” effect. Jurors are so used to prime time’s high-tech procedurals, they expect to be presented with irrefutable forensic evidence.

Some analysts argue that the jury didn’t sufficiently grasp the principle of reasonable doubt.

Or maybe Ashton was pursuing the wrong strategy from the start. When he takes the case, Ashton vows, “When I get done with her, she’s going to be the most hated woman in America.”

‘Prosecuting Casey Anthony’

8 p.m. tonight on Lifetime.

More in Life

Julia Turner and her father, Ed, toast as they try out a flight of beer and cider at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. when it opened last year. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Now is the perfect time to design the garden of your dreams

Find inspiration in gardening magazines, on the internet, in your neighborhood and at nurseries.

‘Star Wars’ video game faces charges that it promotes gambling

By Gene Park / The Washington Post Imagine buying a new chess… Continue reading

Around Thanksgiving, gardeners give thanks for the garden

What are they most thankful for? The pleasure they receive from spending time in their yards.

Great Plant Pick: Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’

What: An exceptional selection of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis “Degroot’s Spire”… Continue reading

Teen idol David Cassidy remains in Florida hospital

The former pop star is dealing with multiple organ failure.

The pros’ snow: Lake Tahoe a big draw for skiers of all stripes

North Lake Tahoe is home to one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in North America.

How birds stay alive in winter and what you can do to help

When the weather turns chilly, columnist Sharon Wootton’s thoughts turn to birds coping with cold.

Our annual list of holiday events in Snohomish County and beyond

LIGHTS The Lights of Christmas: Open 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec.… Continue reading

Most Read