The Judge (TV series)

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The Judge
Starring Bob Shield (as Judge Robert J. Franklin)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 70
Production company(s) WBNS-TV
Distributor Genesis Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channel First-run syndication
Original run September 1, 1986 – May 28, 1993

The Judge is a dramatized court show which ran in first-run syndication from 1986[1] to 1993. The series chronicled the family court cases heard by Judge Robert J. Franklin, played by Bob Shield, who died in late 1996.

This was one of many shows that dealt with dramatized court cases based on real ones. This show was one of several courtroom dramas that were popular at that time such as Divorce Court with real-life Judge William Keene and Superior Court with Raymond St. Jacques. The show was produced and licensed by WBNS (Columbus, Ohio), and was distributed by Genesis Entertainment before it became part of 20th Television.

Show format[edit]

Opening[edit]

After a preview of the day's episode (which sometimes showed a pre-hearing teaser), the show would begin at Judge Franklin's home with Franklin preparing for work (Photographs in the background, all actually of Shield himself, showed Franklin's days in the Army and as a young lawyer). After a kiss to his wife and a wave to a neighbor and kids playing nearby, Judge Franklin would drive off to work as we heard him narrate:

Typical episodes[edit]

Most episodes opened with an announcer saying, "What you are about to see is a dramatization of an actual case in family court. Because of the emotional and sensitive nature of the issues presented here, Judge Franklin's courtroom is closed to the public. The proceedings are about to begin."

The show was set in an unnamed metropolitan area, and dealt primarily with family-related issues. Many of the stories involved children and adolescents in custody, paternity, delinquency and adoption hearings. Much like similar drama-based courtroom shows of the era—including Divorce Court and Superior Court—the stories involved shock value; to wit, what usually began as mundane or routine often ended up taking a serious or unexpected turn.

For example:

  • A teenager accused a high school teacher of getting her pregnant. But when Judge Franklin ordered her to take a paternity test to find out who the real father was she initially refused to comply, but then admitted that her ex-boyfriend (subpoenaed in court as a hostile witness) fathered her child. The charges against the teacher were dropped, and after Judge Franklin gently reprimanded the girl for perjury, he ordered her to pay all the teacher's legal expenses.
  • In another case involving a teenage girl having difficulties with her mother and stepfather, it was revealed that the girl was pregnant — by her stepfather.
  • An estranged father was suing to regain custody of his young daughter from her activist mother. After Judge Franklin talked to the girl in his chambers, it was revealed in court that the girl's mother and a radical group she was involved in were responsible for a deadly bombing at an abortion clinic.
  • A young couple with limited resources are fighting the state to keep custody of their 10-year-old son, who has serious behavioral issues; a school incident where the lad was accused of poking a girl's eyes out with a pair of scissors had led to a social worker demanding the custody hearing. It appears the parents are winning the judge over until there is a small wastebasket fire in the judges' chambers, after which it is revealed then that the boy indeed has the problems the parents have been in denial about.
  • A cycle of revenge unfolds after a teenage girl rapes the boyfriend of another girl whom he had date raped.
  • A dishonest lawyer, in the hopes of swaying Judge Franklin to his side in a losing case, offers him a bribe in his chambers. Though Franklin neither accepts nor declines in chambers, he later exposes the lawyer's crooked offer on the bench while rendering his decision, and says he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee recommending disbarment for the lawyer.
  • A mental competency hearing is held for a teenager accused of brutally killing his parents to inherit a fortune. Though the boy claims mental illness, his elderly uncle, another heir to the fortune, insists that the boy is perfectly healthy. A video is played of the boy during an evaluation, but his claim starts to unravel after a mental health expert notes inconsistencies with his behavior.
  • A street puppeteer files papers to adopt a young foster girl with emotional challenges. The proceedings are working in favor of the father-to-be until the girl's social worker brings to light a new discovery: the puppeteer had been diagnosed with a form of Asperger's and is unable to mentally or financially support the girl. It is up to the puppeteer to deliver the heartbreaking news to his would-be daughter.
  • A teenage girl attending a Catholic school with a strict moral code fights her stern principal for reinstatement after she is expelled for posing for a swimsuit calendar. The principal's fire-and-brimstone values come into question when the girl's attorney reveals evidence that the principal may have had more involvement with the calendar—and similar projects involving underage girls—than he's willing to admit.
  • During an emotional custody hearing, a schizophrenic father smuggles a loaded gun into the courtroom and holds everyone hostage, demanding that the pending divorce proceedings be dismissed immediately, that his ex-wife-to-be come home, and everything goes on just like normal. Judge Franklin does everything he can to talk the man into giving up, but eventually the man fires the gun...shooting his own son. The son is badly wounded, and the show ends soon after Franklin scolds the man, telling him in essence, "Look what you've done now!" (Only then does the man see he is seriously mentally ill and needs help.)

In "tempering justice with mercy", Judge Franklin's decisions were always fair-minded, and usually gave the guilty a chance to redeem themselves. In almost every episode, Franklin would end his dissertation before adjournment by gently pleading with all involved, "Please, try to be good to each other. That's all it takes." But for all his avuncularity, Judge Franklin never hesitated to rebuke anyone who stepped out of line, especially in his courtroom. Case in point, a teenage boy was suing for emancipation from his overbearing father, an Army colonel. When the colonel began overstepping his authority during the hearing, Judge Franklin angrily reprimanded him, saying "Colonel, in this courtroom, I give the orders!"

Other regular characters[edit]

One character who appeared frequently on the show, often as a source of comic relief, was Police Sergeant Terrance Fox (played by Brendan Burns). Fox was an honest police officer, but his abrasive personality would often irritate Judge Franklin to no end. In one episode he told the officer that he would try the patience of a saint, adding, "And I am no saint!"

Franklin's courtroom assistant was Janet Page, or Miss Page.

Broadcast history[edit]

A drama that later became The Judge, called Municipal Court (and later The Judge), ran for 12 years as a local television program in Columbus, Ohio. Shield, playing Judge Franklin, won four regional Emmy Awards for his performance. In 1986, The Judge was picked up for national syndication, where it enjoyed a seven-year run.

Repeats of The Judge aired on the USA Network in the early 1990s.

The nationally syndicated version was originally taped in Los Angeles for its first four runs of 10 episodes each (1986–89), and later moved to Toronto for its final three runs (1991–93). The show was licensed by WBNS-TV in Columbus.

Episode list in alphabetical order[edit]

  • And the Beat Goes On
  • As Good as Gold
  • Better Living Through Chemistry
  • Blood Is Thicker
  • Brothers in Arms
  • The Brutal Truth
  • Burnin' Down the House
  • Cruisin' Down the River: Part 1
  • Cruisin' Down the River: Part 2
  • Cry Rape
  • Date Rape
  • Double Play
  • Dueling Grandmas
  • An Explosive Decision
  • Fetal Abuse
  • In Violation of Michael
  • The Indigent Father
  • Just Another Lover's Quarrel
  • Just Leave Me Alone
  • Life After Death
  • Live and Let Live
  • Loved to Death
  • The Master
  • Mastermind
  • A Matter of Conscience
  • Motorcycle Mama
  • My Angel Mother
  • Nun of Your Business
  • Paparazzi Pete
  • Pendleton High Bust
  • Racing Hearts
  • Right to be Fat
  • Sexual Healing: Part 1
  • Sexual Healing: Part 2
  • Six Months to Life
  • The Sound of Silence
  • Stand by Me
  • The Terrorist Tot
  • The Trojan Horse
  • Victim of War
  • Watch Me
  • We're Number One
  • Wrong Baby

References[edit]

External links[edit]