Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, October 23, 2003


Page 15



16 TV Courtroom Shows Preceded ‘Judge Judy,’ 13 Have Come Since




There have been, as I count them, 30 courtroom shows aired on U.S. television from 1949 to the present on the networks (including cable channels) and in syndication.

This doesn’t include shows with plots, like crime dramas “Perry Mason” and “Matlock” and the sitcom “Night Court.” “Celebrity Justice,” which airs locally on Channel 9, isn’t listed; it’s a magazine-type show. I’m talking about programs with simulated court proceedings.

Well, the ones in English, that is. I have no idea how many there have been in other languages. I only know of one, “Sala de Parejas” (“Relationship Court”), broadcast locally at 2 p.m. on Channel 52, a Spanish-language station. Litigants have been known to get into bloody fistfights on that show.

There are seven simulated courtroom shows (in English) currently on the air, all in syndication, all shown five days a week, and all quite bad (as discussed here previously). The shows, and the dates they went on the air, are “Judge Judy,” 1996; “People’s Court” (revival), 1998; “Divorce Court” (third version), 1999; “Judge Joe Brown,” 1998; “Judge Mathis,” 1999; “Judge Hatchett, 2000; and “Texas Justice,” 2001.

In the aftermath of “Judge Judy”’s emergence as a ratings-winner, a total of 13 courtroom shows were launched, six of which are no longer on the air. All of the six were syndicated except “Animal Court,” carried on Animal Planet. The shows (and their starting dates) were:

Judge Mills Lane,” 1998. The former boxing referee (he disqualified Mike Tyson when he bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear) had been a Las Vegas judge. The series ended in 2000. Lane now touts an attorney referral service in TV commercials and on placards on the backs of buses.

•“Judge Wapner’s Animal Court,” 1998. This was the worthiest of the recent series, with former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Wapner dispensing justice, as he did on the original version of “People’s Court.”

•“Curtis Court,” 2000. The show was presided over by former Riverside Deputy District Attorney James E. Curtis III. It had a one-year run. Curtis is now living in Nevada. He’s been suspended from the State Bar of California for non-payment of bar dues.

•“Moral Court,” 2000. The show, devised by Stu Billett, was unique. Commentator Larry Elder played the judge on a show which did not examine which party was legally right  but, rather, which disputant was morally right. If Elder adjudged a defendant  to be merely “wrong,” he assessed damages at $500; if he deemed the conduct “offensive,” he awarded $1,000; if he concluded the behavior to be “outrageous,” the plaintiff received $2,000. As on “People’s Court,” Ralph Edwards-Stu Billett Productions paid the judgments. Taping of episodes halted in 2001, but re-runs are being aired in some markets, not including Los Angeles.

•“Power of Attorney,” 2000. Rather than parties arguing their own cases, litigants were lent the services of well known lawyers, such as O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden, feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, and Erin Brockovich’s employer, attorney Ed Masry. Apparently, the public prefers seeing “real people” battle it out, rather than lawyers; the show ended Jan. 4, 2002.

•“We the Jury,” 2002. Portland, Ore. attorney Chris Kitchel presided, billed as a “a kinder, gentler judge.” It would seem that audiences today want meaner, rougher judges; the show lasted a single season. It wasn’t aired in Los Angeles. There were mock deliberations by eight jurors, and viewers could vote by e-mail for their favorite juror. Cases were based on actual ones in the headlines.

The 16 courtroom shows pre-dating “Judge Judy” were:

•“Famous Jury Trials,” 1949, Du Mont (weekly).

•“Your Witness,” 1949, ABC (weekly).

•“They Stand Accused,” 1950, revived 1954, Du Mont (weekly). Aired as “Cross Question,” a local show in Chicago in 1948, then a CBS “network” show starting Jan. 18, 1949, with the network consisting of the linked Chicago and New York stations.

•“Verdict Is Yours,” 1957, CBS (daily; also weekly, summer of 1958).

•“Traffic Court,” 1958, ABC (weekly). Began as a local show on KABC, Channel 7, in 1957.

•“Divorce Court,” 1958, syn. (weekly).

•“Day in Court,” 1958, ABC (daily).

•“Accused,” 1958, ABC (weekly).

•“People’s Court of Small Claims,” 1959, syn. (weekly).

•“Night Court, USA,” 1960, syn. (weekly). Began as a local show on KTLA, Channel 5.

•“Morning Court,” 1960, ABC (weekly).

•“People’s Court,” 1981, syn. (daily).

•“Divorce Court,” revived 1984, syn. (daily).

•“Superior Court,” 1986, syn. (daily).

•“The Judge,” 1986, syn. (daily).

•“Trial by Jury,” 1987, syn. (daily).

Monday through Friday shows with courtroom themes were “On Trial,” 1988, a syndicated show with clips from actual proceedings; “Sex Court,” 1998, a Playboy Channel parody of courtroom shows with a centerfold model as “Judge Julie,” adjudicating sexual squabbles; “Blame Game,” 1999, an MTV dating show on which the audience, the “jury,” decided which party was responsible for the break-up of their relationship; and “Arrest and Trial,” 2000, which included clips from trials.


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