Film and TV

Things to Watch in Denver When You’re Sick

I’m home from work today. Sick. Sick as a dog that’s sick. (See how lame that simile was? Yeah, that’s how sick I am.) Seriously, back up from your screen, so I don’t include you in my circle of contagion.


So what else is there to do when you’re home sick besides watch TV? It’s as ubiquitous as chicken soup. But daytime television has changed. Where at one time you could count on old sitcom reruns, a plethora of game shows, and soap operas to nap to in the afternoon (okay, maybe that was just me), now the Today show lasts until lunchtime, The Price is Right is the only game show left (Chuck Woolery has retreated to a small, well-stocked bunker on the Game Show Network, though he swears that he shall return “in two-and-two”), and something horrible has gone awry in soap operas, committing each of them to including at least one evil dwarf and/or child character in every cast. Which really isn’t as interesting as it sounds.

Thank god for Judge Judy. Judge Judy is the sanctus sanctorum of daytime television. Good thing it’s on about a half-dozen times or more. Forget about People’s Court (though it’s fun to catch Judge Marilyn Milian’s spanish accent come out when she gets pissed off) and and Judges Alex, Hatchett, Joe Brown, and Mills Lane (which sound like they’d make a great Barbershop Quartet, actually). Judge Judy is the real deal.

The great thing about Judy Sheindlin is that she knows it’s a show. She knows it’s all a put-on. This isn’t court. This is Judge Judy. Real courts accept affidavits as a regular part of the process. Judge Judy doesn’t. Nor does Judge Judy really care about what the laws are. Oh, she’ll use them as a foundation for her rulings, but really, the show is all about whether or not Judge Judy thinks you’re living well, supporting your family, working hard, and generally being a good person. If you don’t pass muster with Judge Judy, woe be to you. She’ll fix you with one of her scowls, admonish you to “look at me, not the floor!,” and scream “Outrageous! Outrageous behavior!” faster than you can bang a gavel. And then you’re out in the hallway, talking to that hallway guy, who may or may not actually be part of the show. (And if he is, really…when you’re a poor man’s Doug Lewellyn, then seriously, you need to find another vocation.)

The fun of watching Judge Judy is that it’s basically a Jerry Springer-type show, but with a good, ladling of snotty condescension. Where Jerry would joke with genetic misfits, try not to make them upset, coddle them, Judy does just the opposite. She mocks. Oh, does she mock. She condescends. She judges—not just the case, but the people bringing suit, and the lives that produced the need for the suit in the first place. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. The only thing that keeps it from being obscene is the absolute complicity of the participants, who come to get chewed out (and for their fifteen minutes).

And as we all know, obscenity plus complicity equals TV satisfaction. -- Teague Bohlen

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Sean Cronin