'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THERE IS MORON TV BESIDES JUDGE JUDY
During the past year both of my parents experienced lengthy stays in the hospital. I tried to visit them as much as possible, and my work schedule occasionally allowed me to swing by the hospital in the late afternoon. Since there’s not a lot to do in a hospital room—besides having foul-shooting contests by tossing pieces of inedible hospital food across the room at a bedpan—I often passed the time with my parents by watching TV. I became fascinated by one particular show: “Morons On Parade.” No wait, that’s not the name of the show. It’s “Judge Judy.” (Although “Morons On Parade” is much more accurate.)
The star of the show, Judge Judith Sheindlin, is a real judge, having worked for many years in the New York Family Court. In the early 1990s her outspoken courtroom style (read: brash New Yorker personality) was featured on “60 Minutes,” which brought her national recognition. In 1996 she retired from the bench and began her award-winning syndicated television show. (Many thanks to my research assistant, Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge in the Universe, some of it even accurate!)
If you’ve never seen Judge Judy in action, just imagine a combination of Joan Rivers and Don Rickles in a black robe. The cases Judy hears are usually small-claims types—he owes me money; she borrowed my car and never returned it; when we split up he took my dog; etc. Both parties sign a waiver agreeing to abide by Judy’s decision in the case.
Judy rules her courtroom with an iron fist and a tart tongue. The success of the show is the way she runs rhetorical circles around the defendants and plaintiffs standing before her. The most prominent traits of these hapless folks include: a multitude of tattoos, an inability to hold a steady job, a proclivity for shacking up, and the notion that the more overweight you are the more cleavage you ought to display in court (this goes for the women, too).
Every time I watch the show, at least once someone says, “So then I loaned him the money…” which prompts the other person to interrupt, “No way! It was a gift!” and then a big ol’ shouting match ensues until Judy shuts everybody up.
I suppose the show is fascinating to watch in the same way a train wreck is fascinating to watch: you’re amazed something could be so terribly out-of-whack, and at the same time you’re thankful you’re not a part of it. Personally, I’m intrigued by the fact that there are no lawyers allowed (my dream come true for America). It’s just the two parties pleading their cases, with Judy asking a ton of questions and offering a steady stream of verbal smack-downs.
But one thing really bothers me about the show. Each episode has three or four separate cases, five days per week, week after week after week. There is never a shortage of morons willing to embarrass themselves on national television. This is truly frightening. During the commercials I would have conversations with my mom or dad, the main gist being: “Holy mackerel! Can you believe there are that many dysfunctional knuckleheads in America?!”
I understand there are other afternoon TV shows—Springer, Montel, Maury—that make Judy’s show, by comparison, look like “Rhodes Scholars On Parade.” (Although I suspect in a different setting, the people on Judy’s show wouldn’t hesitate to throw a chair at someone.)
Being exposed to the world of Judge Judy was certainly an eye-opener. But I think I’ve had enough. I hope my loved ones stay out of the hospital for a while.
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