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Telemundo's 'Caso Cerrado' breaks ground with Daytime Emmy nomination

June 25, 2010 |  8:01 am

DraPolo
Ana Maria Polo has a hands-on approach in her courtroom.

Polo, who presides over the popular Telemundo court show “Caso Cerrado (“Case Closed”), is known for frequently leaving the bench to embrace defendants with troubled pasts. And she insists on examining all the evidence in a case herself, up close.

“If I have to ride a horse because I have to check out if it has problem in the hoof, I’m going to ride a horse,” she said.

That’s exactly what Polo did in an episode that Telemundo submitted for Emmy consideration this year. It centered on a couple who had purchased a Paso Fino horse for $150,000, only to discover that it had a hoof disease that made it unable to compete in equestrian events. Shortly afterward, the couple’s child was diagnosed with leukemia and they were faced with mounting medical bills. After hearing their plight in Polo’s court, the seller gave them another horse.

The show was compelling enough to garner “Caso Cerrado” a Daytime Emmy nomination for best legal program alongside “The People’s Court,” “Judge Judy,” “Cristina’s Court” and “Judge Pirro.”

It’s the first time a program from a Spanish-language network has been nominated for a daytime or prime-time Emmy. (The bilingual PBS show “A Place of Our Own” holds the honor of being the first Spanish-language show to get a Daytime Emmy nomination two years ago.)

Polo hopes that the Emmy nod marks a new level of acceptance of Spanish-language media as part of American culture.

“We are starting to realize as Americans that we must expand our cultural horizons, that speaking other languages will not limit us as a country or change our identity, but expand it to include better communication with the rest of the world,” she said during an interview at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks last week, dressed in a canary-yellow suit and pearl choker.

The Emmy nomination may introduce Polo to a new audience, but the Miami-based family law attorney already has a broad following. “Caso Cerrado” attracts an average audience of 1.3 million viewers in the U.S. and airs in 30 countries including Chile, which is so enamored of the straight-talking Cuban American that in 2008 officials there invited her to tape a Chilean version of the show that aired in prime time.
Walking down East 42nd Street on a recent afternoon, the 51-year-old was greeted with excitement by a half a dozen passersby, including two maintenance men who called out with delight, “Hola, Dra. Polo!”

Unlike her Emmy rivals, the Cuban-born Polo is not a judge but a veteran litigator who always longed to perform. When she was young, Polo wanted to be a singer, but her mother nixed the idea.

“She said: ‘Artists have to sleep with older producers. They’re terrible-looking people and they’re nasty, and I don’t want that for you, my dear,’“ Polo recalled with a grin.

Regular stints as a legal expert on television led to her Telemundo show in 2005. Polo, who still practices law, acts as a mediator on the program and participants agree to abide by her rulings.

The cases run the gamut: divorces, paternity, labor law, immigration. Polo hears out the battling parties with equanimity, a calmness she credits to her experience battling breast cancer in 2003.

“That changed my perspective a lot,” she said. “I think it made me more compassionate, less legal, more human.”

She does not hesitate to bring her personal experiences into the courtroom. During a 2006 episode of “Caso Cerrado,” she pulled down her shirt and showed her reconstructed breast to a young woman who was seeking to use the family savings to get a preemptive double mastectomy. In her earpiece, she could hear her executive producer shouting, “You are crazy!”

When the episode aired, Polo’s gesture been edited out. She complained to Telemundo President Don Browne and the network ultimately re-aired the episode in full.

As she prepares for the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy ceremony in Los Angeles on Friday, Polo said she is buoyed by the possibilities for the show.

“I hope ‘Caso Cerrado’ is like ‘The People’s Court,’“ she said. “I want it to become a brand, a staple.”

--Matea Gold

twitter.com/mateagold

Photo: “Caso Cerrado,” a court show presided over by Ana Maria Polo, is up for a Daytime Emmy. Credit: Telemundo


 




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