I often avoided watching courtroom trial television shows until recently, but once I started watching them, I realized the important values they taught. Shows like Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Steve Wilkos do have their valuable lessons as well, such as not fooling around when you are in a relationship and definitely not sleeping with any of your cousins or their girlfriends or boyfriends (Jerry), figuring out how many men you forgot you slept with and who your baby daddy is or stepping up to the plate if you are the father—or dancing and laughing at the girl who accused you if you are not (Maury), and more serious sometimes awkward criminal justice cases such as abuse and paternal issues (Steve). While there are plenty of cases in trial television that are complete nonsense, there are plenty of others that do teach very valuable lessons.
The shows I am referring to are Judge Judy, Judge Gloria Allred, Judge Mathis, Judge Alex, Judge Kevin Ross, Judge Joe Brown, The People's Court, Divorce Court, etc. All the judges are real and authentic, usually have many years of experience, and do have all the powers of any judge in the United States Judicial System. The judges were likely given the opportunity to do the television show based on their track record. TV producers are certainly looking for judges who have a specific personality-type and can handle the stress and pressure of the job, while also still remaining entertaining to a television audience. These shows are meant to entertain and bring money into television networks.
The judges and television networks make a fortune on these shows from advertising, often working over 8 hours a day for just a few days out of the month, as the cases are just an assembly line of people that the judges "run through" during the entire day. These shows are condensed into a half hour, usually with two cases each episode, making it look like these judges work a half hour a day. The audience is filled with guests who applied to get on the show for free. The make-up is usually more women than men, and throughout the day, they shuffle men and women around plus they hire extras or use on-staff employees to make it look like a new audience with each case, so it appears that the audience is different and that the same audience is never seen on more than one episode. Occasionally, the judge may or may not interact with the audience, depending on how tired they are or how they feel.
The result of the condensed half hour episode means tons of advertising, a lot of money (Judge Judy is the highest paid TV personality who makes $45 million a year) and a lot of vacation time for the judges. The Defendants and Plaintiffs who agree to appear on the show often receive compensation in the form of waived court fees, a free trip to the town where the court is located, a hotel stay, and some money for food for several days, and in some cases, the show may pay for the Plaintiff or Defendant's bill if money was granted to either party.
These court shows do, however, have lessons to teach for real life situations in court. These court shows are mainly for small-claims court in which the offenses are minor, usually people suing each other. More often than not, a lawyer is usually not present or necessary for these cases. People are assigned a court date and the judge has a certain amount of cases per day. The judge listens to both the Plaintiff and then the Defendant speak. Many of these cases are easily solved because either side hardly ever presents factual evidence or one side may be the only side to present concrete information to the judge. When the judge sees and listens to hearsay, the case goes quickly and is easily dismissed. Words are just words. Without proof of receipts, emails, or letters, no case can stand up to a judge or jury in court. Most people will not remember what was said exactly or what was done.
The important lessons court television shows teach are:
Court television is entertaining and enjoyable to watch and provides lessons to be learned and makes you think about what you would do if you were in such a situation. It is often interesting to see cases where you may have already made your judgments based on the short introduction about the cases they give without hearing the entire story — and usually after the commercial break, there is always some twist in the case that may make you change your decision. Court TV is a close representation of what anyone might face by stepping inside of a court room. By following all these rules - if you ever have to go to court - though there is never a guarantee if you will win or lose - these lessons will help you in a Court of Law.