Going to see the judge

On Friday I got to sit in on the taping of a Judge Judy-type show. I found it via Craigslist when I was looking for jobs and got a call about it several days later. I was told women were needed for an episode of something that would be dealing with women’s issues, but I’m pretty sure they were just trying to make sure they hit a quota for female audience members. Just speculation.

I was supposed to go to a taping on Wednesday but it got cancelled; they moved me to the Friday show instead. I showed up at a TV station downtown at 1:30 and we were seated about an hour later. We got to meet the judge ahead of time. She was a small, pretty woman who smiled and thanked us for coming. She told us she’d once been a “background” actor on Oprah and shook our hands politely.

We sat through nine or ten cases, I lost count toward the end. They ranged in dealing with a woman suing a former tenant (and possibly former fling?) for an unpaid loan, to a wife suing her philandering estranged husband for their daughter’s orthodontist bill, to two young women suing and counter suing each other for medical bills resultant of a cat fight. The most emotional one involved a mother suing her daughter for bail money; the daughter admitted to being addicted to painkillers but was off them for court. She looked like someone who was suffering from withdrawal. The judge made a whole point of lecturing the daughter for not having any reason to be such a wreck when she had loving parents who cared about her, etc. She ordered the daughter pay her mom back the $500 bail and the mom and kid hugged after the case.

Some people really seemed to ham it up for the camera, but they swear the cases are all real. Some people looked really ticked at the verdicts in their cases and some people seemed to blow it off and smiled on their way out the court room door.

Some audience members got moved around the studio, including me. I suspect it may be because I was the only woman around my age who was also blond, and they wanted to mix things up a little. The audience was mostly made up of a class of young students who were there with school, and they were all African American. I got to sit next to a few different people, my favorite of whom was a girl around my age. She’d gone to school in NYC and saw SNL be taped on multiple occasions, as well as Conan. “I just love NBC,” she said. I could relate and couldn’t seem to convey this to her enough.

The only thing I had to compare this experience to was the time my junior high class went to see the Maury Povich show be taped in New York. I was talking about this with a school friend yesterday, and in retrospect, I said, it seemed wildly inappropriate that we, at ages 12-13, should see Maury, of all shows. He reminded me it was pretty tame subject matter the day we saw it, something about making kids’ wishes come true. The only thing I could remember about that show was this little kid being given a wagon full of pennies. The thing is, they did several takes of everything, so we saw this kid be given the same wagon full of pennies over and over, looking less enthused each time. Luckily, the judge show wasn’t like that, and we didn’t just see the same case play out over and over for seven hours.

At the end, we were all given a pen and keychain with the show’s logo and a supposedly signed photo of the judge. It was an interesting experience and a good way to spend a Friday afternoon.

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