Wednesday, May 28, 2008

'The Peacemaker'

Daily Journal reporter Greg Katz did a terrific job today of describing the mediation-themed reality show pilot that TV producer Richard Klinger and I are shopping around. Here are some highlights of his story:

Lazar (left) and Klinger.
Photo by Robert Levins.

Two L.A. Mediators Are Shopping a TV Pilot That Would Showcase Their Art
By Greg Katz
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - Arbitration already has its own small-screen star in Judge Judy, the feisty former judge who arbitrates small claims cases to the hoots and hollers of a studio audience. Two Los Angeles mediators think it's about time mediation had its own television show, too.

Jerry Lazar and Richard Klinger recently have been shopping around a pilot for "The Peacemaker," a show that would spotlight mediation.

"Its time has really come," Klinger said.

The idea for the show took shape after a speech Lazar made to the Southern California Mediation Association.

Lazar, a former host and producer for the E! television network, went on his usual rant: "The American public has a glut of judge shows. Why aren't there any mediation shows?"

After the speech, Klinger, executive producer of the "Jane Fonda's Workout" video series, approached Lazar and asked whether he had ever tried to put together a mediation television show himself.

They shot the pilot in December.

It opens with a host in suit-and-tie describing the mediation process and explaining that mediation offers a way out of conflict "without the expense and heartache of litigation."

Lazar, who is not a lawyer, doesn't just want to see the show succeed for his own glory, he said. He has a very personal attachment to mediation's success.

He began mediating after he went through long and bitter child custody litigation at the turn of the millennium. When he found out about the alternative provided by mediation, he decided to dedicate himself to it.

After volunteering as a mediator on the Los Angeles County Superior Court's pro bono panel, he spent time as associate director of California Lawyers for the Arts' Santa Monica community mediation center and as program manager of the Los Angeles County Bar's Dispute Resolution Services.

"If there's any good I've done in this world, it's pointing people toward mediation," Lazar said.

Klinger, a former Montana assistant attorney general who recently started his own mediation practice, said he hopes the show will help private mediators get more business by increasing awareness of mediation's benefits.

"If this was on the air now ... it would promote mediation," Klinger said.

But the show has not proved an instant winner with television executives.

"Most TV executives have only the vaguest idea of what [mediation] is," Lazar said. "One guy said, 'I don't understand. Are we talking about the same thing here? Hostage negotiation?'"

Lazar said he tries to emphasize the personal drama of mediations - a combination, as he puts it, of "Jerry Springer" and "Dr. Phil" - but realizes it is difficult to explain. He said other attempts to develop mediation shows have failed. "You go in, you pitch, you sell them, and they say, 'You know, that sounds really great - but if you can come in with a judge show, we'd let you do it in a minute,'" he said. "I tell them, 'If you saw a real mediation, it's powerful stuff. People are transformed ..."

The producers ... are working out kinks in preparation to re-shoot the pilot. One important change they will make is using caucusing in the show's mediations, a term for separating the parties to different rooms and letting the mediator go back and forth between them. Then they plan to pitch the show to networks again.

"We know they're looking for something to break that judge show mold in that judge show time slot," Klinger said. Watch your back, Judge Judy.

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