Friday, November 07, 2008

The First Commandment of TV Court Show Bailiffs: Introducing Byrd's Rule

Ever since I was a kid, I've been a fan of small-claims court shows. I watched the original People's Court and Divorce Court every chance I got. I mean, who could forget this theme music:




But I got older, and People's Court, even though it was still on, was getting harder to find, and I stopped watching it. It eventually went off the air sometime in the early 90's, and I thought the genre was dead.



But everything changed in September of 1996 when a small syndicated television series debuted. Judge Judy. It eventually grew to the be the top-rated daytime television series in America, and as a result several good, bad, and ugly courtroom series have come and gone onto the daytime television scene.

But my favorite characters of all these shows usually isn't the judge. It's not the narrator or the smarmy post-case interviewer.

No, it's their trusty sidekicks. The Bailiffs. The solid, stoic manifestations of justice who stand guard at the judge's side, forever ushering plaintiffs and defendants in and out of court, bringing papers and evidence up to the judge, stepping in the way when someone tries to approach the bench without permission, occasionally laying the smackdown on an unruly litigant, and--most of all--providing a massive amount of comic relief.

First off, no one will ever replace the greatest Bailiff of all time. Rusty from People's Court.


Unfortunately Rusty Burrell died in 2002, but his legacy will never die.

Today's TV bailiffs are a mixed bag. You have the awesome (Byrd from Judge Judy, Joe from Divorce Court, and Josephine from the earlier seasons of the new People's Court) and you have the sucky ones (robot Doyle Devereux from Judge Mathis who, unlike many of the other bailiffs, has never worked as a real-life law enforcement officer or Firefighter-turned-bailiff Pete from Judge Maria Lopez who won't ever shut up).

But there's something I'm sure many of you have noticed, but maybe not thought too much about. It's an unspoken, unwritten rule of TV Bailiffs. And even though I don't like this rule one bit, I want to make this rule official. Here it is:

"For every Court Television series that has come out since 1996, the bailiff is always either a different ethnicity or gender than the judge, and in many cases, both."


I will call this "Byrd's Rule."



Observe:

Judge Judy
1996-Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Judy Sheindlin

Judge's claim to fame:
Became famous for yelling a lot. She's funny.


Petri Hawkins-Byrd


The New People's Court
1997 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Ed Koch


Judge's claim to fame:
Mayor of New York.


Josephine Ann Longobardi



Jerry Sheindlin


Judge's claim to fame:
Judge Judy's husband




Marilyn Milian

Judge's claim to fame:
Like the fist of an angry god.


Douglas McIntosh


Judge Joe Brown
1997 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:



Judge Joe Brown

Judge's claim to fame:
Presided of James Earl Ray's last appeal. Shamelessly prefers hot litigants over ugly ones.


"Miss Holly" Evans


Sonia Montejano


Judge Mathis
1999 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Greg Mathis

Judge's claim to fame:
Was a juvenile delinquent that "got a second chance."


Brendan Anthony Moran (Killed himself in 2002)


Doyle Devereux


Judge Mills Lane
1999-2001

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Mills Lane

Judge's claim to fame:
Was a boxing ref who presided over Tyson biting Holyfield's ear. Om nom nom.



I don't know what her name is.


The New Divorce Court
1999 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Mablean Deloris Ephriam

Judge's claim to fame:
Although she was a lawyer, she never served as a judge before this show. She's funny.



Judge Lynn Toler

Judge's claim to fame:
She's hotter and asks for less money than Mablean.








Joe "I kick ass" Catalano

Moral Court
2000 to 2001

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Larry Elder

Judge's claim to fame:
Famous conservative/libertarian radio talk show host.


Russell Brown

Texas Justice
2001 to 2005

Judge:

Bailiff:


Larry Joe Doherty

Judge's claim to fame:
Wears a cowboy hat. Ran for congress and lost.


William Bowers

Judge Alex
2005 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Alex Ferrer

Judge's claim to fame:
Used to be a cop.


Victor Scott


Cristina’s Court
2006-Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Cristina PĂ©rez

Judge's claim to fame:
Had a Spanish-language court show first.


Renard Spivey

Judge Hatchett
2000 - Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Glenda Hatchett

Judge's claim to fame:
Kind of like Judge Judy, but not as mean. Likes to have Moral Courtesque cases that aren't really about anything. "I'm suing you because your hair is ugly."


Tom O’Riordan

Judge Maria Lopez
2006 - Present

Judge:

Bailiff:



Judge Maria Lopez

Judge's Claim to Fame:
She became nationally famous after giving a child kidnapper/sex offender probation. Makes outrageously bad decisions based on her "gut."


Pete Rodriguez


Judge David Young
2007 - Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge David Young

Judge's claim to fame:
He's openly gay. Forces litigants to hug a lot.


Tawnya Young

Judge Karen
2008 to Present

Judge:

Bailiff:


Judge Karen Mills-Francis

Judge's claim to fame:
She wears a red robe, and that makes her different.


Christopher Gallo


Many of these shows have come and gone, and there are quite a few I've missed. I challenge any of you to find one that's come out in the past 12 years other than Animal Court that doesn't follow Byrd's Rule.

(Animal Court was a show on Animal Planet that featured Judge Wapner and Rusty the Bailiff, so that one doesn't count.)

I suspect for the first couple shows on this list, Byrd's Rule was more of a random casting decision than a deliberate effort at PC-ness. But by the time you hit the year 2000, every show that's come out has gone out of their way to make sure the bailiff is balanced with the judge. Don't get me wrong.... Josephine, Byrd, Joe, all absolutely brilliantly cast in their roles. But when you start to see show after show after show with this forced Skittles courtroom. It's silly, and it's racist.

Racist, you say? How is that possibly racist? It's racist because a specific group was deliberately left out of the casting process. For Judge Karen (which is a pretty good show, btw. I watched it for the first time today since I was home attending to a sick Meredyth) there was no chance in the world a black female bailiff, like Miss Young from Judge David Young, would've gotten that part. No chance. And conversely, a gay white dude like Richard Simmons would never, ever get the part of the bailiff on Judge David Young. It's racism, pure and simple, and it's a type of racism that's still accepted today.




And remember kiddies, don't take the law into your own hands. You take them to court.

6 comments:

  1. I miss Josephine! Whatever happened to her? I think there was a bailiff between her and Douglas. He came on when Marilyn started

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  2. That guy on Cristina's court is huge!

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  3. Thanks for taking care of me when I was sick. :o)

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  4. You sure put a lot of research into these blog posts!

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  5. Maria Lopez / Pete Rodriguez. Er, what's the difference?

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  6. I don't know what I'm more surprised about: The startling truth of "Byrd's rule" or the scary amount of TV Court shows.

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