With talk in recent months focusing on the pending departure of the queen of daytime talk, Oprah Winfrey, let’s shift the attention to another daytime blockbuster, Judge Judy. You know by now that no-nonsense Judge Judith Sheindlin is a particular favorite of mine, topping the rating charts year after year in the court genre. In fact, CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy recently achieved 700 consecutive weeks of dominance—often leading the daytime pack (including Oprah)—and shows no signs of slowing down.
But will the feisty genre leader continue to bang the gavel, so to speak, when her current contract expires in 2013? I caught up with Sheindlin recently to find out.
Did you ever imagine you would still be dominating with an iron fist after 14 years on the air?
My main focus in those first few seasons was learning about the business of show business. So, I never really thought that much ahead. But I am certainly very blessed, and I do still enjoy doing it. My success proves that anything is possible at any age. You just never do know what can happen in this life.
Do you plan to continue with the show past 2013? CBS Television Distribution is already losing Oprah; it certainly wants to keep you.
Well, I will just have to see what happens. I think I will know at some point when it is the right time to say goodbye, and I just don’t see that at the moment. If I worked five days per week, I might feel differently. But the schedule I keep (five shows are taped in one day, five days out of each month) still works for me. As my father used to say, “The older you get, the less you work for more money.”
How do you feel about Oprah leaving? Will that change the playing field?
I applaud her…25 years is a long time. I imagine this will open up a lot of time periods, but I think we are happily established where we are. It doesn’t change anything for me.
Your target audience is women 25-54, but everyone no doubt knows who you are. Do you get stopped a lot in public?
You know what? I live a very simple, private life. I have a small circle of friends, I don’t have an entourage and I am not exactly out every night club hopping, so most people are respectful of that. I do the occasional talk show appearance, like Larry King, but I have no career aspirations at this point in my life. So I’m not really out there.
I don’t know how to use a computer. I don’t tweet or text. And you will never see me as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, that’s for sure.
Why not? I think you and Maxim Chmerkovskiy could do a great pasodoble together.
I think you would have to carry me off the stage floor! The one thing I would like to do is attend the Academy Awards. That has always been a dream of mine.
Mine, too, actually, but I think you stand a better chance of getting there first! Do you watch the court competition?
Every now and then I do a check of what else is out there. You have to remember that when we started, there were no daytime court shows on the air. Now there are like 11 or 12. Some are good; some not so swift…the same as any category.
Have you ever presided over a case where you knew the person you were ruling for was lying?
Every case is different; there is no specific answer. But even if you are the one telling the truth, you have to prove damages. You have to show that you are diminished. Without that, winning the case is very difficult to do.
Has the caliber of cases or people changed over the years?
You know what? I often see the same problems now that I did when I started this show. People do stupid things, they get themselves in messes and I have to use my knowledge and intuition to find the solution. But if this was a perfect world with perfect people, I would have no show. So, I am very grateful for this imperfect world.