If you can believe it, “Judge Judy” has been on the air for a quarter-century. In my mind, I always thought she was the successor to Judge Wapner on “The People’s Court,” but a quick spin around Wikipedia, the lazy journalist’s best friend, reveals that isn’t exactly the case.
According to the website, tough-as-nails New York Family Court judge Judy Sheindlin offered to replace Wapner after he decided to hang up his gavel in 1993, but was shot down by the executive producer of “The People’s Court.”
In 1996, after some good press and a book, two former producers from that show developed a show for Sheindlin and the rest is, as they say, history.
The former Manhattan family court judge has adjudicated for television thousands of cases involving bad deals, busted promises and the occasional broken heart.
I’ve been a fan on and off, watching the diminutive and sharp-tongued judge rain down justice (and sometimes humiliation) on the doomed and dimwitted alike.
Alas, “Judge Judy’s” reign appears to be nearing its end. During an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” earlier this year, Sheindlin announced her show would conclude after its 25th season. While her current show may be adjourning, the sassy 77-year-old television icon doesn’t seem ready to retire. She hinted at a new venture during her same appearance on “Ellen.”
Twenty-five years on television translates to a lot of “Judge Judy” episodes, and I’ll admit I haven’t even watched half. Regardless, I am convinced the best episode ever aired in 1997, when Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols incomprehensibly went on the show to settle a beef with a drummer.
The gist of the case was that the drummer felt cheated out of some wages and may have been assaulted by the aging punk “singer.” In some fractured universe, I suppose it made sense to take the case before a television judge rather than hire a good lawyer and trust the actual legal system.
The details of how the case came to be tried in Sheindlin’s make-believe courtroom, were of little concern, though, because when the episode came on, I was all-in.
I’ve always been a Sex Pistols fan, except when I actually listen to their music.
In punk layman’s terms, I would have been what is called “a poser.” I had a couple of cassettes and kept a Syd and Nancy poster on the wall of my college dorm room. I even wore a black Sex Pistols T-shirt … until my Mom told me to stop.
Anyway, seeing Johnny Rotten on daytime television was just about the weirdest piece of TV I’d ever seen — and this was back during the height of “The X-Files,” which routinely served up a big heaping slice of strange every single week.
Rotten (a.k.a. John Lydon), not unlike the GEICO Gecko, burst onto the screen bug-eyed with bleached hair, and carrying a sizeable chip on his narrow shoulders. He was abrasive and obnoxious, but Judge Judy apparently loved him and even told him to shut up because he was winning.
He did win. I didn’t necessarily agree with the verdict, but if you take your case to television, you get what you get, I suppose. In the end, though, the viewers were the real winners.