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Series / The Judge

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The Judge was a syndicated daily courtroom show that ran from the mid-1980s to early-1990s, and was part of the 1980s wave of courtroom shows. Unlike the current wave of shows that typically deal with real-life small-claims arbitration, these dramas featured fictional stories, but were said to be based on real-life cases and current issues of the day. Often, the show aired alongside fellow courtroom dramas Divorce Court (with real-life Judge William Keene) and Superior Court (with a rotating series of judges).

Robert Shield played the protagonist judge, Robert Franklin, who was assigned to a courtroom in an unnamed city (presumably metro-sized) in an unnamed state. Most of the cases were family court-style, but others were arbitrations or criminal proceedings.

The show was produced and licensed by WBNS (Columbus, Ohio), and was distributed by Genesis Entertainment.

This show provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Generally, Judge Franklin was an even-tempered man who had the patience of a saint, but when someone stepped over the line, he didn't hold back. One infamous example was when an Army colonel, during an emancipation hearing for a teenage boy wanting to get away from his abusive, overbearing father; while the father was being grilled by his son's attorneys and he clearly had lost the upper hand, he tried to get into a shouting match with Franklin, but the judge quickly put a stop to it: "Colonel, in this courtroom, I give the orders!" (Needless to say, the Colonel lost custody of his son.)
  • Catchphrase: "Please, try to be good to each other. That's all it takes."
  • Cycle of Revenge: In one episode, Franklin hears the sick, demented case of three former friends getting revenge on each other with sexual assaults of their own, after a boy rapes his teenage girlfriend. (The girl's best friend gets revenge... and to make thing even sicker, the original victim rapes her best friend.) Franklin is disgusted and outraged and asks the district attorney to file charges against each of them.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A man who is about to have his parental rights terminated barges into the courtroom with a gun and holds everyone hostage. The man is a psychopath and cannot be reasoned with, despite everyone's best attempts. Things reach a boiling point where, when someone tries to disarm him, he fires the gun... and accidentally shoots his own son. Only then does the man realize he is sick and needs professional help. As the man bawls and holds his badly-injured son — it is implied the boy will recover — Franklin makes sure the man understands the seriousness of his actions.
  • No Periods, Period: Played with in one episode concerning a teenage girl suing for emancipation from her overbearing parents. During cross-examination, the parents' lawyer ambushes the girl by revealing they know she's on the Pill (much to the disgust and outrage of the parents). She hastily explains that she's not having sex, it's just that "I get really bad cramps when I...when I..." It's clear what she means, but she's too embarrassed to say it.
  • Obfuscating Disability: During one hearing, a young man, accused of killing his parents to inherit a large estate, attempts to use an insanity defense. A mental health expert, however, reviews a video tape and notes serious inconsistencies between his insanity claim and the psychopath he is revealed to be.
  • Opening Narration: The show always began with a series of clips of the judge getting ready for work, kissing his wife goodbye, patting his dog, and waving to the neighbors. Once he reached chambers and sat down at his desk, the montage concluded with him signing his name while giving one of these.
    I'm Judge Robert J. Franklin. I chose the law as my way of serving my fellow citizens. As a judge in the Family Court, I pray each day that God will give me the wisdom to always temper justice with mercy.
    • When the episode proper starts, additional narration is given by an announcer while Judge Franklin makes his entrance in the courtroom and the participants are sworn in.
      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.
  • Parental Incest: Seen in some of the more squicky episodes.
    • In one, a man whose wife had a very demanding job takes to molesting his teenage stepdaughter. He gets her pregnant, then forces her to sue a minor celebrity (on whom she has a crush) and claim that he was the one responsible. The truth comes out during the hearing when she can't bring herself to lie anymore.
    • In another episode, a teenager explicitly accuses her father of this. Her mother takes her father's side, but eventually admits that she's on prescription medication which causes her to sleep very deeply. Sure enough, the father is guilty and Judge Franklin is disgusted.
  • Playing Both Sides: In one episode, a couple on the brink of divorce are battling it out in Judge Franklin's courtroom. As the proceeding unfolds, however, it becomes revealed that neither one really wants to divorce the other, but their daughter has been talking them both into it so that she can 'divide and conquer.' The parents are less than pleased when they figure out what she's been doing.
  • Stock Legal Phrases: Lewis, the bailiff, uses many of these, such as "All rise!" In most episodes, they're his only lines.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: One episode has a man (completely unconnected with the trial taking place) come in and threaten the whole courtroom with a homemade bomb. He turns out to be someone the judge had put in jail some years earlier.
  • Surprise Witness: Not as frequently as the series’ brethren Divorce Court and Superior Court, but enough to satisfy fans of 1980s-era courtroom TV shows. When it was used, it was (more often than not) much like the other shows: The chips are down for the sympathetic litigant and it seems the antagonist has victory all but sewn up, only for the surprise witness to refute the testimony and eventually help justice prevail.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: In the same episode where the Army Colonel is contesting his son's emancipation suit, the Colonel and his son have a heated exchange while the Colonel is on the stand. While Franklin is trying to restore order, the Colonel makes the mistake of telling "Bob" to tell his son to sit down and shut up... which, needless to say, earns the Colonel an angry rebuke, a reminder that he is to be addressed as "Your Honor" or "sir," and a contempt of court citation.
  • Twin Switch: In one of the more bizarre episodes, a man breaks things off with his fiancée when she informs him that she's pregnant, insisting that it must be someone else's child because they haven't slept together. She's deeply confused and takes him to court to prove that he's the father. As it turns out, he isn't - it's his identical twin brother, who is secretly in love with her and slept with her while pretending to be the twin to whom she was engaged. The episode ends with her agreeing to marry the twin who impregnated her, and the judge doing the honors.