27 June 2016

TV Top 9: Judges

It's summertime, and as I spend most of my days before 3 PM within the confines of my apartment, I've taken to courtroom TV shows. No, I'm not ashamed. Though I don't think you should refer to any of these shows for legal counsel, I'm taking to the blahg to name the top 9 TV judges of all time with a little help from Arielle and Dana! -- bryce

9. Judge Elizabeth Donnelly (Law & Order: SVU)

There have been plenty of judges on the many incarnations of Law and Order throughout the years but few have made the same impression as Judith Light's Judge Elizabeth Donnelly. Maybe there was something exciting about seeing Angela Bower reincarnated as an attractive, older judge, but the episodes where Judge Donnelly presided are the ones I tend to remember. She's lied to detectives about issuing a warrant in order to convict a child molester. She's stepped in for the D.A. and argued cases on the other side of the bench. And, most importantly, she's shown the difficulties of being a female judge. She was recently poisoned by a CSI intern gone insane, but we SVU fanatics expect her to make a full recovery in time for the next season.

8. Judge Mills Lane
Triply eligible for this list of TV judges, Mills Lane is both an iconic boxing referee and a (maybe forgettable) courtroom TV judge. After throwing Mike Tyson out of the highly publicized Tyson-Holyfield fight in 1997, Mills Bee Lane III hosted Judge Mills Lane for three seasons in syndication. Known for his stuttering stupefying utterances, Lane was fair but impatient. Though Lane also voiced the referee for Celebrity Death Match, he needed to stop after a stroke paralyzed him in 2002. All in all, the best judging Lane possibly did was what contracts to sign, as he seemed to get more of his fifteen minutes than a referee should possibly get.

7. Judge Zoey Hiller (The Practice)

One-of-a-kind Academy Award-winning actress Linda Hunt brought cache and originality to her role as Judge Zoey Hiller on David E. Kelley's preposterous (most of the time) legal drama The Practice. Whenever Judge Hiller was featured in an episode, excellent dialogue between the main characters, surprising conflicts, and the most interesting cases were sure to follow. With a panache for keeping the kooky lawyers of Robert Donnell and Associates in check with biting, sarcastic (but legally binding) comments, Judge Hiller usually ended up (often begrudgingly) siding with their arguments. Many of the show's cases were morally problematic and many of the characters' dilemmas controversial, and Judge Hiller was the perfect foil. One of the great secondary television characters in primetime drama's history.

6. Judge Mablean Ephriam (Divorce Court)

Though she never served as a judge in the "real world," Judge Mablean Ephriam was the presiding "judge" of Divorce Court where she, more often than not, sat flabbergasted at the feuding wife and husband in front of her. She demanded too much $$ for hair, make-up, and her salary, and her contract was not renewed. Lynn Toler, a former judge, took over, and ratings plummeted. (Could that be because they're now pulling stunts like "Before the Vows" week? Huh?! I recently watched an episode of a married couple who, after the episode, wasn't sure whether they were going to get divorced afterwards.) This shouldn't affect her standings on this list but she did star in many a Tyler Perry film a-judging Madea.

5. Judge Joseph Wapner (The People's Court)

The man who brought small-claims court to the small screen deserves a spot somewhere on this list right? Sure! Judge Joseph Wapner, though a Hollywood High School graduate, was certainly not as full of panache as she-who-solidified-the-trend Judge Judy but his trailblazing efforts gained him twelve years behind The People's Court bench and two seasons on a worthless little Animal Planet show called Judge Wapner's Animal Court.

4. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds (Family Court with Judge Penny)

New to the courtroom TV show game, Judge Penny Brown Reynolds is from the same Atlanta court system as Nancy Grace and Judge Hatchett. Like her two famous colleagues, her compassion is more important than her verdict. Reynolds is the most level-headed of her Atlanta cohorts. Though all three focus on children and families, Judge Penny is the first to name her show after the people she is trying to help. You could call this "practicing what she preaches," because Reynolds is a recently ordained Baptist priest. Come August, I wouldn't be surprised if Judge Reynolds takes away the second-ever Courtroom TV show Emmy.

3. Judge Marilyn Milian (The People's Court)

For the last eight years, Judge Marilyn Milian has presided over The People's Court. When insanely popular Judge Joseph Albert Wapner resigned the post he'd held for twelve years, there was little positive buzz that any replacement could retain the show's momentum (and a couple interim judges did indeed fail pretty miserably); however, Judge Milian blew away audiences right from the get-go in 2001. Though (unfortunately) often overshadowed in the press by Judge Judy Sheindlin of Judge Judy (whose husband is, coincidentally, one of the failed hosts of the revamped People's Court), Judge Milian is notorious for having the hardest edge of any judge on daytime television--and for occasionally flipping out. She never misses a beat: under her reign the program has been nominated for two Daytime Emmys. Oh, and she was on As the World Turns--bonus!

2. Judge Harry T. Stone (Night Court)

One of the most popular American sitcoms of the eighties and early nineties (remember when NBC had it in the bag for three decades?), Night Court featured a cast of incredibly talented character actors (namely John Larroquette in his career-making and unforgettable role as well as Markie Post as his foil) anchored by Harry Anderson's "straight" Judge Harry Stone. But "straight" is such a relative term, isn't it (wink, wink)? Harry was a Mel Torme fan, a prankster, a magician, and (most importantly) fairly frustrated by his job and coworkers; a fine and "time served" was his tpyical sentence for criminals dragged into all-night proceedings in downtown Manhattan. Anyway, sincere and genuinely funny, Judge Stone was an interesting and original character at a time when there were too many Sam Malones on television.

1. Judge Judy
She's loud, she's sassy, and since her premiere in 1996 she's been the top rated TV judge. With eleven Daytime Emmy nominations under her belt, it's no wonder that Judge Judy has been renewed for a seventeenth season. Her attitude made take notice (anyone that gets joy out of embarrassing people in front of 10 million people is alright with me) but her catchphrases aka "Judyisms" are what made her a household favorite. And, lest we forget, behind every loud mouthed judge there must be a straight man bailiff and it doesn't get any better than Petri Hawkins-Byrd, Judy's loyal bailiff since the show's inception. Her one liners are golden but watching her make the ever stoic Hawkins-Byrd crack up makes them all the better.

-- bryce, arielle, and dana c. gravesen


Butch377 said...

Judge Judy making 40 million dollars a year is absurd. How much money did the pioneer of People's
Court, Judge Wapner make. I would
be surprised if he made a million dollars a year.

I am a person that says "um" at times when I try to collect my thoughts, so I can answer a question. Judge Judy riducules people who say "um" on her show,
and tells them "um" is not an
answer. I think that it is very
ignorant of her to make the already nervous people more un-easy, by embarrassing them while they are trying to come up with an answer. Mike

Jasminerules said...

Remember, this "real" judge had 25 years on the bench with all walks of people. I know its irritating sometimes but, then you have to remember this. 25 years you get to know and be the one in the know.