Arts & Culture

Move Over Oprah, It’s Judy Time

Oprah may be the Queen of book clubs, vision boards, self-help, and Chicago, but she’s no longer the top of the syndication ratings. MediaWeek reports that, during the week of December 15, Judge Judy came in ahead of Oprah in … Read More

By / January 8, 2009

Oprah may be the Queen of book clubs, vision boards, self-help, and Chicago, but she’s no longer the top of the syndication ratings. MediaWeek reports that, during the week of December 15, Judge Judy came in ahead of Oprah in the Nielsens. Sure, syndication can be a fickle beast, and there are reruns to take into account, but America’s most popular judge is certainly not one to be ignored – or discounted.

Unlike other high-profile women on television, from Oprah to Katie Couric to Tyra Banks, Judge Judith Sheindlin isn’t one you’d expect to bring home a substantial fortune. In 2007, the former New York family court judge was the third highest paid TV personality in the country, behind only American Idol judge Simon Cowell and, of course, Ms. Winfrey herself. Her fortune comes not only from her lucrative TV show, now in its 16th season, but from "best-of" DVDs and popular books of Judy’s trademark courtroom wisdom like Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. 

Judge Judy is the Jewish mother you love watching but are grateful not to have. I love the way she points out the obvious stupidity or blatant lies of litigants in her courtroom, but I’m really glad she’s not grilling me about why I didn’t get straight As this semester or what exactly I was doing that made me get home after curfew last night. It’s also pretty damn satisfying to watch her totally knock down someone who abuses the welfare system, cheats on their girlfriend and then demands she continue paying his rent, or slaps a relative in the face and then sues for their personal pain and suffering.

She’s the opposite of smiley, spiritual, warm-and-fuzzy Oprah. Where Oprah rewards people, bringing schools and families and everyday moms to tears by giving them money or a new car, Judy punishes. She’s the God of the Old Testament, vengeful and damning. Also, she’s dishing it out to people who deserve it. She’s the arbiter of good and bad as well as the voice of those of us who are at home, saying – in a more articulate fashion – what we’re screaming at the television.

Below, here’s one of my all-time favorite Judge Judy episodes, known as "eBay of Pigs." The way she upbraids an eBay scammer – all after admitting she doesn’t really get the whole system of auctioning stuff off on the internet in the first place – is a thing of beauty.