When I began watching Judge Judy in the late 1990s, I became an instant fan—not so much of Judge Judy herself as the incredibly lame people who appeared on the show. I still catch the program at least a couple of times a week, usually via DVR. Among my favorites are cases involving women who have been burned by deadbeat guys—guys they knew were losers from the start (often via prison records). No matter how irresponsible and lazy the man, the woman suing him had, at one point, been living with him, hoping and praying he could be changed. The only change that occurred, of course, was the woman’s money moving from her own pocket into that of her lame-brain boyfriend and out the door, never to be seen again.
I also enjoy the cases where parents show up to defend their children, making excuses as to why their 12-year-old, who broke a neighbor’s window while playing baseball, or ran into their parked car with a bike, wasn’t really to blame. Even worse are parents who enable their perfectly healthy adult children, allow them to live at home rent-free with no job or responsibilities. The latter are plaintiffs in various lawsuits: non-payment of child support; borrowed cars that were wrecked while driving without a license or insurance; payback of loans that they insist were meant to be gifts. The list goes on and on, and so does the show because, apparently, there is no end to the number of lame people willing to go on TV and show the world just exactly how lame they are.
Watching Judge Judy helps me as a writer in several ways. The most obvious is that I get ideas for characters. Most of these people are way too pathetic to serve as main characters (what reader could take them seriously?), but I have picked up some worthwhile material to use with my supporting casts. I also find the show great medicine for that affliction that hits us all from time to time: the writer’s doldrums. You know what I’m talking about: those depressing days when we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because we have yet to land that six figure contract. When I fall into this trap, I abandon my computer for my TV, watch a few episodes of Judge Judy, and presto! I feel instantly better. Much better. It’s a relief to know there are people out there who have accomplished so little with their lives that they’re willing to throw away a lifelong family relationship to sue a sibling for fifty dollars. And in front of a television audience of millions, no less.
Thanks for the inspiration, Judge Sheindlin. And keep up the good work.