Editor’s Note: This could be the greatest year ever for couch potatoes who like to watch courtroom drama at home. There were so many celebrity arrests to choose from that some potentially good cases — Enron’s Ken Lay (yeah, right, like that’ll ever happen), James Brown, R. Kelly and pro-life Olympic Bomber Eric Robert Rudolf come to mind — had to be omitted. For those of you who don’t live in New England, William Rowland is the corrupt governor of Connecticut, who should resign, but probably won’t, despite being a self-confessed crook. Like any good politician’s wife, Mrs. Rowland has publicly blamed his problems on the press.

2004 Will Be a Trial

Is it possible to buy stock in Court TV? Martha Stewart probably has inside information on this, but her expertise involves selling, rather than purchasing. I’d like to “buy low” and get in on the ground floor, because 2004 looks like a bullish year for high-profile cases.

With apologies to David Letterman, here are the Top-10 reasons to invest in Court TV this year:

No. 10. Joey Buttafuco. His latest arrest, for insurance fraud, probably won’t be conducive to gripping trial television, but what would a year in celebrity justice be without Joey Buttafuco? The tragedy of his criminal life might be considered Shakespearean only by a Jerry Springer audience, but it’s an audience sizable enough to generate some healthy ratings. This is a guy who was greeted by cheering crowds when his limousine brought him home following a jail term served for statutory rape.

No. 9. Martha Stewart. This season’s opening act. Lying about insider trading doesn’t portend exciting courtroom drama, but the same people who are willing to watch Martha fold linen napkins into graceful swans are tuning in for her testimony. And, like Leona Helmsley, Stewart fulfills our desire to see the privileged who’ve taken advantage of their positions get their comeuppance. Besides, she’s probably developing a few good ideas about interior decorating using vertical bars.

No. 8. Jayson Williams. These days, crime stories fill more column inches on the sports page than the box scores do. After recklessly killing his limo driver with a shotgun, Williams allegedly asked witnesses to tell police it was a suicide. As with the Watergate and Lewinsky scandals, the cover-up has made a bad situation worse and a sleazy story more TV-worthy.

No. 7. Pete Rose. Okay, gambling on baseball isn’t a crime, so he won’t be prosecuted, but who wouldn’t love to see this clueless liar cross-examined by someone sharper than a sportscaster? Rose is sorry he got caught, but can’t convince anyone he’s sorry he did it. He knows he should pretend to apologize, but he really just can’t do it — “I’m just not built that way.” Evidently, Pete thinks all his singles put him above mere mortals, but the Hall of Fame is an honor, and men without any shouldn’t get in until the Cubs beat the Red Sox in The Series.

No. 6. Rush Limbaugh. Must-see TV in the “blue states” and anywhere else viewers enjoy seeing the hot air drained from a self-righteous gasbag. Poetic justice for a pious hypocrite who accused Bill Clinton of inhaling and ridiculed late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia for his addictions. Will Rush ask to be sent “up the river,” as he once recommended for his fellow junkies? And how many of Limbaugh’s ditto-heads will make compassionately conservative alibis for his problems with “medication”?

No. 5. William Rowland. This could be just wishful thinking — he may not even come to trial — but, in the words of Brian Wilson, wouldn’t it be nice. Actually, I’d like to see the Governor’s wife indicted on a charge of gross obnoxiousness for reading that poem blaming her husband’s corruption on the media:

’Twas the time before impeachment, and all through his house,
No politico came clean, not even his spouse.

The Rowlands can’t even do a good job pretending to be sorry (see Pete Rose).

No. 4. Robert Blake. A less-sensational redux of the O.J. Simpson case. One of the last living members of The Little Rascals, Blake has gotten himself into more trouble than Alfalfa and Stymie put together. This sordid Hollywood tragedy features a pathetic defendant, an unsympathetic victim and an implausible alibi (he couldn’t have killed her because he busy at the time inside a restaurant retrieving his gun). Will Blake’s prospects (and his ratings) be helped by his impromptu rendition of “Over the Rainbow” outside the courthouse?

No. 3. Scott Peterson. The suspense here revolves around attorney Mark Geragos and what defense he’ll finally settle on. He floats a different set of killers every couple weeks and manages to keep a straight face while doing so. If acquitted, perhaps Scott will join O.J. on the trail of “the real killers.” With a movie already in the can, television isn’t even waiting for the trial to cash in on this heinous crime.

No. 2. Kobe Bryant. This trial will allow us to watch the trashing of an alleged victim by lawyers with millions of dollars at their disposal. And, inevitably, the race card will be played. Regardless of Kobe’s guilt or innocence, no one will come through this circus untainted, including Kobe’s lawyer, who’s “accidentally” revealed the name of the victim repeatedly in court … but then, when do lawyers ever come out of these cases unsoiled ... and since when has a lawyer ever cared if he or she was soiled, just so long as he or she was paid?

… And the No. 1 reason to buy Court TV stock in 2004:

Michael Jackson. The potential of seeing a tough prosecutor cross-examine a 45-year-old man who calls sleeping with young boys “sweet” and dances on top of his limousine at his arraignment should make this a ratings coup. Once Al Sharpton becomes unemployed again, Geragos can hire him to play the race card, which will be breathtaking chutzpah for a defendant who’s become so Caucasian he makes Justin Timberlake seem like Isaac Hayes. Add the Nation of Islam into the mix, and you’ve got sweeps week material.

Quick, get me my broker. I need to buy low before Janet’s arrested for indecent exposure.

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