IN the beginning of court television, there was Judge Wapner. And he was good. Good and ornery.
Court shows set
weird bench mark
Wapner was a real former judge and his bailiff, Rusty, was a real former deputy sheriff or marshal or something. I never saw Rusty ever choke out any of the TV defendants, but he looked like he could. Wapner looked like he could, too, and like he often wanted to. After you've been a real judge, it's aggravating having to deal with rejects from the genetic pool who sue each other over $100 truck bumpers. Aggravating, but obviously financially better than a judge's pension. Why else would Wapner agree to sit in a fake studio courtroom and dish out faux justice to nitwits?
Then two weird things happened: Court TV became a big deal thanks to the O.J. Simpson case, and Judge Wapner got relegated to "Animal Court," where he now presides over bickering nitwits who also happen to own animals.
I was home with the flu the other day and so was able to do a careful analysis of daytime television. I was flipping through the channels and, suddenly, there was Wapner on the bench addressing a guy standing next to a horse. I thought I had tuned in to the "Mr. Ed vs. Wilbur Show."
But no, that's what Wapner's doing now. He handles such important legal matters as parrots who say "Polly want some booty" instead of "Polly want a cracker." It's kind of sad, sort of like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor becoming resident manager of a trailer park.
Since Wapner left "People's Court," TV viewer passion for all things legal has spawned a number of new judges:
Judge Judy, a fierce, angry little woman who is ready to rip a plaintiff's lungs through an eye socket if he dares to speak while she's ranting.Of all the Wapner clone shows, Judge Judy and Mills Lane are the best because they treat plaintiffs and defendants with the disdain they deserve. Pity the fool who tries to lie to Judge Judy. Instead of appearing before a federal grand jury, Kenneth Starr should have dragged Bill Clinton before Judge Judy. If Clinton had tried to suggest that he didn't actually have sex with Monica, he would have left the courtroom with little gavel pock marks all over his forehead.
Judge Brown, a quiet, reserved, fatherly figure who, compared to Judge Judy, may be in a coma.
Judge Mills Lane, a former Marine, judge and professional boxing referee (he's the one who let Tyson have TWO bites at Evander Holyfield's ear before he ended the fight). Lane can go from zero to crazy-as-a-crackhead in two seconds. He's prone to colorful outbursts like "WHAT PART OF 'SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE' DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND!?"
Judge Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, who has taken over "People's Court" and done for it what he did for New York City, which is make it so tedious and boring that if they could erect a Brooklyn Bridge in the studio, audience members would throw themselves off of it.
The strange thing about all the new court shows is the politically correct balance of judge and bailiff. Judge Judy, who is white, has a black guy as bailiff. Judge Brown, who is black, has a white lady as bailiff. Judge Lane, who is white, has a black lady as bailiff. I'm not sure who Judge Koch's bailiff is. Maybe it was the fever from my illness, but for a second I could have sworn it was Hillary Clinton.
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
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