Who judges the judges? Well, I do. Of course, I’m talking about the television show judges. There’s a plethora of judge shows on American television these days, but the genre started out with Judge Joseph Wapner and the original The People’s Court which had its debut in 1981. I feel the show was the inspiration for the Court TV network today.
Judge Wapner had retired from the California bench and the entire concept was new and fresh in daytime television. He retired from the show in 1993 to be eventually succeeded by several judges including the ex-Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch. Now, I was a Wapner purist when Koch came aboard. I wanted Wapner’s ways. I didn’t want “How am I doing?” Koch. He wasn’t doing well on the show and never clicked with it at all, in my opinion. He was followed by Judge Jerry Sheindlin (husband of Judge Judy) and in that time, I found the show even more lackluster.
As a matter of fact, the genre itself was in a slump until Judge Judy revived it with a more brash approach to the bench in 1997. Her personality took the genre in a new direction and breathed new life into things. I don’t know how her approach worked in the actual municipal courthouse, but it was good television. Alas, it opened the door for numerous judge shows as the networks sought another cash cow courtroom. So, where do we stand today on the judge scene? Here are my quick thoughts…
Right now, I have to list Judge Judy Sheindlin as the epitome of the successful television court judge. She’s quick-witted, clever, brash, sometimes rude, usually acid-tongued, but always entertaining and well, quite judicial. She’s become a successful author, as well as a household name even for those who really don’t watch daytime courtroom fiascos. Um…cases, not fiascos, of course! Hands down, she’s had the most effect on the genre since its inception with Wapner. She took the genre a new direction, said things we’d like to say but are often too polite to do so. She’s the Simon Cowell of the television courtroom genre.