Judy Sheindlin may have a new set, a new (burgundy!) robe, and three new sidekicks — but she’s still serving up plenty of original-recipe sass on Judy Justice. “You want this face to believe that?” she bellows at one defendant. “If you’re going to be a liar, be a consistent liar,” she scolds another. The cases are on par with the peculiar pettiness fans are used to watching Judge Judy adjudicate (road rage at the car wash! a melee over a borrowed microphone!) and Her Honor still has precisely zero patience for any “editorializing” by the plaintiff or defendant. (Expect a lot of shushing.)
Law clerk and “legal analyst” Sara Rose — who is also Sheindlin’s granddaughter — essentially gets paid to sit quietly for the majority of the episode, though she does join the judge in chambers after each case for a quick debrief. (Grandma does most of the talking, to be honest.) Official court stenographer Wendy Kumar is also a mostly-silent presence, but she is called upon occasionally to read back transcripts of the testimony. Judge Judy fans were distressed to see that Sheindlin’s longtime bailiff, Officer Byrd, did not make the leap to Judy Justice, but his replacement, Kevin Rasco, seems like a perfectly nice gentleman. Will he ultimately become a fan favorite, too? To quote Judge Sheindlin herself, “I don’t answer questions!”
One of the enduring mysteries of the last few decades is how Judy Sheindlin became the highest-paid woman on American television. Towards the end of Judge Judy’s 25-year run, Sheindlin was hauling in $47m a year (her estimated net worth is about $440m). Since the show only required her to work for 52 days a year, that meant she earned $900,000 just by showing up. And this was Judge Judy, for crying out loud. It was a televised small-claims court. It was, by its very nature, mundane and repetitious.
And now it is over. Earlier this year, Sheindlin made the decision to hang up her gavel. You might not have noticed, since Judge Judy has been airing in reruns since then, and every episode is absolutely identical to every other episode. But while you or I might take this downtime as an opportunity to kick back and enjoy our mountains of unimaginable wealth, Sheindlin has not. For she already has a new show on IMDb TV. It’s called Judy Justice. And if you liked Judge Judy then, oh boy, are your rock-bottom expectations about to be expertly filled.
Judy Justice – very much the Hollywood Hogan of minor arbitration shows – has been described as a “flashier” version of Judge Judy, although only the top percentile of Judge Judy acolytes would be able to spot any difference. Sheindlin isn’t wearing the lace collar of old, and her robe is now burgundy instead of black, but this is by no means a reinvented wheel. The format of the new show remains exactly the same as the old one: a procession of dirtbags line up to publicly air their petty disputes, and Sheindlin interrogates them before making a decision.
The show is so identical to Judge Judy, in fact, that the first episode falls into line without any real explanation. We see a courtroom. We see two bozos who got drunk and had a fight. And then we see Sheindlin pull a vaguely unamused face. A narrator announces “This is Judy Justice” and then we’re off to the races. And since IMDb TV (and, honestly, who knew that was a thing?) is ad-supported, we even still get the old pre-commercial “coming up” buffers to gee up our flagging interest.
At first glance, it’s hard to know who – other than Sheindlin’s accountants – Judy Justice is for. Indeed, it has been reported that her main competition here is herself; CBS is aggressively broadcasting a series of reruns (which have traditionally always got high ratings) during the first volley of Judy Justice episodes, in the hope that casual viewers would prefer to watch easily accessible old episodes rather than seek out a new and hellishly obscure streaming service.
And if your viewing tendencies already default to streaming, then why would you watch Judy Justice at all? You have every amazing television programme ever made at your disposal. Why, given the depth and breadth of the major streaming services, would anyone choose to watch a daily half-hour lowbrow courtroom show? Even once you’ve taken Sheindlin’s extraordinary salary demands into account, this is still a filler show that has to find a home in a media landscape that no longer requires filler.
Having said that, of course, I have to confess to enjoying Judy Justice a little. It’s an aggressive throwback to the bad old days when television was full of exploitative little shows where grubby fools would line up to broadcast their idiocy on television, knowing full well that they were likely to come out of it looking terrible. And, remember, this exists at the classier end of the spectrum. Yes, the first episode is about a couple who fought so much that they lost their children. And, yes, the second episode is about a woman who attacked another woman with a bottle. And, yes, an upcoming episode is entitled Backyard Fist Fight. But Sheindlin remains a watchable presence; still sharp, still wry, still outwardly hating every second of her time onscreen. She’s a compelling character, even after all these years, and that’s what will draw people back to the show.
Surely nobody on the face of the Earth is going to watch every new episode of Judy Justice on a daily basis. But to dip in and out of now and again, it’s going to be just fine. This is enough, though. If the Roku Channel happens to be planning a reboot of The Jerry Springer Show any time soon, it might be time to rethink things.