Two Years Later in a Dallas Courtroom, the Lawsuit Over TV Junkie Fades to Black

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HBO/Deep Ellum Pictures
Rick Kirkham, the TV Junkie
As we mentioned in March 2007, two days before Michael Cain's Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary TV Junkie made its debut on HBO, Tammie Kirkham filed a temporary restraining order to keep the doc off the network. The documentary, as you may recall, was compiled from nearly 3,000 hours of video footage captured by Tammie's ex-husband Rick, a former Inside Edition reporter who obsessively documented what felt like every second of his rise and drug- and alcohol-fueled fall. Tammie, occasionally the subject of Rick's verbal and physical abuse shown on screen, claimed in the lawsuit she didn't know their children would be included in the film, which, in January 2006, won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. She also claimed she was entitled "a share of the profits" from the sale of the film to HBO.

A judge denied the TRO, and the film aired as scheduled on March 16, 2007. But the lawsuit lived on, till last week, as Tammie sought compensation for herself and her two children from Cain, Chris Smith (Cain's high school friend and business partner), Deep Ellum Pictures (the production company) and her ex-husband. John Helms, among the attorneys representing all four defendants, tells Unfair Park today that a jury in the 44th Civil District Court ruled on Friday that his clients were not liable for any further payments to Tammie Kirkham or the kids and that she had indeed consented to the family's inclusion in the film.

Which doesn't mean she walked away empty-handed: Tammie received $3,500 in January 2006, and she may have more on the way. She signed a contract shortly before Sundance that allowed for the immediate up-front payment as well as an "indirect percentage of any net profits." But Helms says the "the lawsuit prevented us from promoting and marketing [TV Junkie] the way we wanted to. People aren't as likely to be interested in a film in which the producers are being sued based on a claim that people in the film weren't been properly included in the film."

At present, TV Junkie's not available in stores; the film's Web site provides an e-mail for Michael Cain for those interested in purchasing the movie. And Cain's 3-year-old plan to sell the film to schools "and other educational institutions," as Helms puts it, never materialized -- again, because the lawsuit interfered with potential sales. "Now," the attorney says, "they're freed up to do that." The attorneys will also investigate whether Cain and Deep Ellum Pictures can sell the DVD in stores, depending upon their agreement with HBO.

"Chris and I are very thankful for the jury's decision," says Cain in a media release about to be sent out. "TV Junkie has gotten such a positive response from those who have seen it, and this verdict will allow us to promote the film and spread its message about the horrible effects of drug addiction."
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