Top TV judge courts view­ers

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY FREE TV -

SIX­TEEN years into her ca­reer as tele­vi­sion’s chief jus­tice, Judy Sheindlin is as com­fort­able in her role as the US ap­pears to be with her. With­out her black robe, Sheindlin can walk down a Man­hat­tan street undis­turbed. Just try that with Dr Phil, Ellen DeGeneres, Dr Oz or Katie Couric. Each have day­time shows with an au­di­ence less than half of what Judge Judy draws each day in the US.

Those who choose to have their dis­putes set­tled on cam­era by Sheindlin know to ex­pect a sharp tongue and sharp judg­ments. She be­lieves most peo­ple take com­fort in or­der.

‘‘They want to do the right thing, most peo­ple. For that lit­tle core that doesn’t want to do the right thing and gets away with it rou­tinely, most peo­ple want to see them get a good whup­ping. I’m your girl,’’ she says.

Cases have changed over the years – she ap­peared a lit­tle be­fud­dled dur­ing a re­cent dis­cus­sion about an Xbox hard drive – but Judge Judy doesn’t. It’s in­struc­tive to watch Mor­ley Safer’s 1993 fea­ture on 60 Min­utes about Judge Sheindlin of Man­hat­tan’s Fam­ily Court to see how sim­i­lar it is to the Judge Judy court­room to­day. Same Brook­lyn at­ti­tude and im­pa­tience. Same steam­rolled plain­tiffs (or lawyers or de­fen­dants) mut­ter­ing un­der their breaths.

That report caught the at­ten­tion of Hol­ly­wood syn­di­ca­tors, who turned Sheindlin into a celebrity earn­ing a re­ported $US45 mil­lion a year with homes in New York, Con­necti­cut, Florida and Wy­oming.

Self-cer­tainty and the will­ing­ness to say things oth­ers sup­press drives her ap­peal.

‘‘I don’t mind get­ting my hands dirty and I don’t mind get­ting to the truth of a sit­u­a­tion and say­ing, ‘you’re right, you’re wrong, next case’,’’ she says.

‘‘If I wasn’t right most of the time, we wouldn’t be hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion to­day.’’

Sheindlin has signed to con­tinue Judge Judy 2015, but that’s not a dead­line.

‘‘I’m not tired,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m still young – 70 is the new 50. I hope I’ll know when to say good­bye. Right now I’m not there yet.’’

Her tran­si­tion to TV felt com­plete one day a few years ago when she stopped at a bagel restau­rant with her hus­band Jerry, a re­tired jus­tice on New York state’s Supreme Court. They over­heard two women ar­gu­ing about Judge Judy. One watched and hated her; the other loved her. Sheindlin re­alised she could take it ei­ther way.

‘‘I like it a lot bet­ter if you like me,’’ says Sheindlin. ‘‘But if you don’t like me and watch me ev­ery day, what’s the dif­fer­ence?’’

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