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10 Actors' Dramatic Departures from Popular Shows

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As the season premiere of Two and a Half Men edges closer, many fans are alternately waiting to see how the addition of Ashton Kutcher to the cast will change the show while simultaneously shaking their heads over an actor (we're looking at you, Charlie Sheen) who was unwilling to rein in his self-destructive behavior just a tad during production season in exchange for almost two million dollars per episode...! Mr. Sheen's isn't the first major character to be axed from a hit show, and there are others who (sometimes) ill-advisedly killed their own golden goose while their former show, despite dire predictions, went on. Here are some memorable examples:

Co-workers bid Shelley Long Cheers

When Cheers debuted in 1982, one of the main continuing story threads was the love/hate relationship between wannabe-intellectual waitress Diane (Shelley Long) and retired athlete/bar owner Sam (Ted Danson). But behind the scenes, Long's relationship with not only Danson but the rest of the cast and crew of Cheers leaned more toward the "hate" side of the equation. Long was a perfectionist and, among other quirks, often held up taping for 45 minutes or more to have her hair and make-up redone (all the while, the studio audience was sitting and waiting). After the box office success of her 1987 film Outrageous Fortune, Long decided to leave Cheers to pursue her movie career. Unbeknowst to critics and viewers who predicted certain death for the sitcom with the departure of such a major character, Long's departure actually relieved a good deal of on-set tension and virtually revitalized the cast and writers. Cheers ran for another very successful six seasons until Ted Danson finally decided to call it quits.

He found his thrill behind the camera

Red-haired aw-shucks all-wholesome-American Ron Howard starred as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days for the first seven years of the long-running sitcom's 10 year run. Howard had been acting since the age of four, including a nine-year stint as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. Having spent most of his life on studio sets, he developed a serious interest in acting directing, and the respectable box office results of 1977's Grand Theft Auto, his directorial debut, further whetted his creative appetite. He was itching to stop playing a teenager and start pursuing his dream. Since virtually every Happy Days plot revolved around Richie, the producers were panicked when Howard gave his notice, so he agreed to return for a limited number of guest shots after his character joined the Army and was shipped off to Greenland. Happy Days continued for another four seasons, but the changes wrought by Howard's departure were mind-boggling. Somehow Joanie, Chachi, Fonzie, et al., were magically transported 30 years into the future. Instead of a feel-good slice of 1950s nostalgia, viewers were treated to a barrage of Very Special Episodes (with formerly apolitical Fonzie suddenly solving the problem du jour—be it racism, single parenthood, or alcoholism—in 30 minutes) and featuring cast members who looked like they'd stepped out of an Izod ad rather than the Eisenhower era. Of course, Howard hasn't done too badly for himself since hanging up his Jefferson High jacket...

It was high treason, and it mattered a great deal

When Rob Lowe first signed on to play Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, he was considered the "box office draw" and was likewise given both top billing and the highest salary. But after the first season, the show started to gain critical acclaim and the supporting cast attracted more attention. Once The West Wing became a bona fide ratings hit, supporting actors Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, and John Spencer joined forces and demanded a sizable salary increase. The granted pay raise brought the quartet up to the same salary level as original "main" star Rob Lowe. When Lowe asked for a raise, the producers refused him and, as Lowe later stated in his autobiography, he thought, "You know what? This is not right. It's just not right," so he called it quits in 2003. Despite his bitter departure, Lowe was still appreciative to the series' producers for essentially reviving his career (which had been in a slump after a notorious hotel sex video was made public) and he appeared in two parts of a four-episode story arc that served as the series finale in 2006.

What do you think, sirs?

Joel Hodgson was a successful stand-up comic (with appearances on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live under his belt) when he bid farewell to Los Angeles and returned to his hometown in Minnesota. While deciding his next career move, he did local stand-up and also sold personally constructed robots (his passion since childhood) at a local shop. The industrial space he rented in which to construct his creations was next door to the studios of KTMA, a local St. Paul UHF station managed by Jim Mallon. Jim and Joel became friendly, and eventually when Mallon had two hours of air time to fill on Sunday afternoons he asked Hodgson if he could somehow use his comedy act along with his robot puppets to fill the time. The show the two co-created, Mystery Science Theater 3000, eventually became a cable hit — so popular that Hollywood came a-calling.

When the prospect of a major motion picture version of MST3K became a reality, Jim Mallon suddenly took charge and insisted upon being named director. He then offered Joel, who was supposedly his equal partner in the MST franchise, various associate producer-type credits. Joel felt that his overall role in the show was being minimized, and that to object would start a legal fight that could jeopardize not only the movie but the series as a whole, so he left the show during the fifth season. Michael J. Nelson, who had been head writer for the series since the beginning, took over the hosting duties after Joel's departure. Joel has since confessed in subsequent interviews that he really didn't think the show would last five more seasons without him and that he occasionally has had some 20/20 hindsight twinges of doubt about his decision to leave.

Wild child

When One Day at a Time debuted in 1975, it was one of the first sitcoms to realistically portray a newly divorced single mom as its main character. Bonnie Franklin played 34-year-old Ann Romano, who had recently ended a 17-year marriage and moved into an apartment with her two teenage daughters. Valerie Bertinelli was the adorable and angelic (she had to make up sins when she went to Confession) younger daughter, Barbara, while Mackenzie Phillips was the rebellious older daughter, Julie. While Julie's biggest offenses were of the breaking curfew variety, off-screen Mackenzie's behavior would have shocked even the worldly Schneider. The troubled teen was not only addicted to heroin and cocaine, she was also having an incestuous relationship with her father, John Phillips. She was arrested for cocaine possession during the third season of the show and her character was written out for six episodes so Phillips could go through rehab. She was eventually fired, then briefly rehired for limited guest appearances, then written out entirely in 1982. One Day at a Time continued on for an additional two years, with the plot focus shifted to newly married Barbara and her husband.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this

Has there ever been a more compassionate and selfless character on television than Edith Bunker? She would've given Archie her corneas and kidneys if he needed them, and she would've had them removed without anesthetic if sodium pentothal cost extra. So it's understandable that the death of Edith Bunker turned out to be one of the most poignant moments ever shown on a sitcom. Funny thing is, many All in the Family fans recall and reminisce seeing "the episode where Edith died," even though there never was such an episode during the run of that series.

When All in the Family ended its run, Jean Stapleton had decided that after nine seasons the character of Edith was as developed as it would get and had nowhere else to go. She signed on for the first season of Archie Bunker's Place with the understanding that it would be Edith's swan song. As the first episode of Season Two of ABP opened, Archie and Stephanie are eating an awkward breakfast together. As the dialog progresses, we learn that Edith had died suddenly of a stroke in her sleep three weeks earlier. Archie's soliloquy after finding Edith's bedroom slipper was very emotional, but ABP had another three seasons to go, so he had to get over his grief fairly quickly so that the writers could have his character date other women in future episodes.

Better late than homophobic

Isaiah Washington won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of gifted thoracic surgeon Dr. Preston Burke on Grey's Anatomy and was named "one of TV's sexiest men" by TV Guide. The future seemed rosy for the actor until one day during Season Three when co-star T.R. Knight was late reporting to the set. Washington made no secret of his agitation at the production delay, and the situation escalated when Patrick "Dr. McDreamy" Dempsey defended Knight and urged Washington to cool down. According to backstage witnesses, Washington then directed his anger toward Dempsey and grabbed him by the neck and shoved him while yelling, "I'm not your little f***** like [Knight]!" The scuffle was leaked to the National Enquirer, and Knight, feeling cornered, came out to the press shortly afterward. ABC announced in June 2007 that Washington's contract would not be renewed, and a month later the actor appeared on Larry King Live and blamed Patrick Dempsey for his outburst, stating that McDreamy "was treating him like a 'B-word,' a 'P-word,' and the 'F-word,'" which Washington said implied that he was weak and afraid to fight back. Four years later, Grey's Anatomy is still going strong and viewers are still trying to figure out what all those "-words" are.

Second time wasn't the charm

Shannen Doherty had some previous TV roles under her belt, but it was the part of Midwestern transplant Brenda Walsh on Fox's Beverly Hills 90210 that made her a star (and a tabloid favorite). By the third season of the series, Doherty was apparently having trouble separating herself from the character she played on TV and spent many late nights on the town, occasionally brawling with boyfriends, and frequently showing up to work late and hungover. She wasn't winning any popularity contests with her co-stars, either; she and Jennie Garth once got into a fistfight, and Luke Perry asked the writers to cool off the love story between Dylan and Brenda because he wanted as few up-close-and-personal scenes with Doherty as possible. Doherty was fired after Season Four and Brenda was shipped off to London to study theater. Four years later, producer Aaron Spelling gave Doherty a second chance and hired her to play one of the three magical sisters on Charmed. By the third season things weren't so peachy-keen behind the scenes; rumor has it that Alyssa Milano and Doherty only spoke to one another when the script required it. Finally Milano approached the Paramount execs with an ultimatum—either Doherty went or she'd leave. Doherty had just recently been arrested for a DWI and had a track record of being difficult, while Milano was, well, more of an America's Sweetheart type. Guess which way the ax fell.

A dark and depressing crime show? Who'd-a thunk it?!

Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin signed up to be the main star of police procedural drama Criminal Minds in 2005. His character, Jason Gideon, was the academic, gifted profiler of a special FBI team that was designated as the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Somehow the gifted actor apparently missed these few clues that indicated his character might be involved with the darker side of life, because during the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo in 2007, Patinkin told the assembled journalists, "I loathe those violent images and I want no part of that type of violence. I work with the writers and producers constantly to try and tamper that violence down." At the first table read of the premiere episode of Season Three in July 2007, Patinkin simply didn't show up. He didn't bother to call in "sick" and had never hinted that he was considering leaving, so his cast mates and the production staff were stunned. Patinkin soon began the legal maneuvers necessary to be released from his contract, stating that he wanted to go back to musical theater to inject laughter and happiness into the entertainment industry. When he did return for a day so that his character could be given a proper send-off, his part was reduced to one scene, filmed on a separate soundstage with an alternate crew because his former co-workers were still very bitter at his abrupt, no-explanation-given departure.

Behavior unbecoming a Huxtable

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was one of America's favorite TV dads during the 1980s. Bill Cosby was just as paternal, and perhaps even more so, behind the scenes. All the regular actors had to sign a morals clause as a condition of being hired, and Cosby rode roughshod on the school-age actors to always put their studies first. In any such tightly regimented atmosphere there is bound to be one rebel, and in this case it was Lisa Bonet, the most popular (according to fan mail and press coverage) member of the Huxtable clan.

Bonet's first "offense" was co-starring in 1987's Angel Heart, a film in which her explicit sex scene with Mickey Rourke had to be seriously edited so that the rating could be reduced from X to R. Less than a year later Bonet appeared semi-nude on the cover of Rolling Stone. Producers felt that Bonet's off-stage antics could potentially harm the squeaky-clean Huxtable image, but Dr. Cosby (who already had a spin-off in development) intervened and allowed Lisa to continue playing the character of Denise on A Different World. Bonet's eventual pregnancy threw a further wrench into the works; she was married but Denise was not, and even though A Different World sometimes explored controversial issues, an unwed pregnant college student was not one of the plot lines the producers had in mind. Bonet returned briefly to The Cosby Show, but when her marriage to Lenny Kravitz began unraveling, she often turned up late to the set or not at all and was ultimately let go due to "creative differences." Not only was Bonet absent from the series finale (geez, even Vanessa’s former fiancé Dabnis was present!), she has thus far not been invited to attend any of the subsequent Cosby Show reunions.

From saving lives to saving money

When Wayne Rogers signed on for the role of Trapper John on M*A*S*H, he was told that the TV series would be as similar to the movie as TV would allow and, accordingly, that the characters of Hawkeye and Trapper would be equal. But as Alan Alda got more involved with the creative aspects of the show, the writers started giving Hawkeye all the best jokes and most poignant monologues. Rogers was suddenly Alda's second banana and not at all pleased about the situation. He resigned abruptly after Season Three, which prompted a multi-million dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit from the producers. Rogers, however, had never signed his contract (he'd objected to a morals clause), so the last laugh was his.

Sort of.

M*A*S*H soldiered on for eight more seasons, and Wayne Rogers' acting career never got completely back on track. However, Rogers is one of the few actors in Hollywood who works for the sake of artistry, not a paycheck. When he first started out in the business he saw too many stars losing everything they'd earned thanks to bad investments, so he set out to educate himself in the world of finance. He befriended entrepreneur Lew Wolff (head of real estate at 20th Century Fox) and learned all about real estate and money management. Today, Rogers owns the Stop-N-Save convenience store chain, an upscale chain of New York bridal stores, and Wayne M. Rogers & Company, an investment strategy firm.

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20 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. Show
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You never need an excuse to look back at Mr. Show with Bob and David, but given that today is co-creator Bob Odenkirk's 55th birthday, now seems to be as good a time as any.

1. BOB ODENKIRK AND DAVID CROSS’S FIRST MEETING DID NOT GO VERY WELL.

Following four years of writing on Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk was in Los Angeles in 1992 as a writer for the Chris Elliott Fox cult classic Get a Life. David Cross was a comedian in L.A. after performing for years in Boston. One boring afternoon, Cross asked friend and fellow stand-up Janeane Garofalo if she knew anybody that played basketball. The two went to Odenkirk’s house, and Garofalo introduced David to Bob and then asked if he wanted to play basketball. He said no.

2. ODENKIRK AND CROSS FIRST WORKED TOGETHER ON THE BEN STILLER SHOW.

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two ended up having numerous fruitful collaborations, starting with their work on The Ben Stiller Show. Odenkirk was a writer/performer on the short-lived but Emmy award-winning sketch show with Garofalo, Stiller, and Andy Dick. Cross was brought in in the middle of the show’s 13-episode run as a writer.

3. THE CO-STARS FIRST PERFORMED ON STAGE TOGETHER AS "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ."

Odenkirk and Cross performed sketch comedy together at the Diamond Club in Los Angeles, with a third improviser that, the joke went, would either be deceased or out elsewhere getting high.

4. "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ' WAS ALMOST THE TITLE OF MR. SHOW

Odenkirk also pitched the title Grand National Championships, but David Cross was never a fan of it.

5. JACK BLACK, SARAH SILVERMAN, AND OTHER FUTURE STARS APPEARED ON THE SHOW BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS.

Black was in four episodes of Mr. Show, starring in the classic Jesus Christ Superstar parody “Jeepers Creepers.” Silverman was a performer in 10 episodes. Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe on 24, was a featured actress in the first two years. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, was a series regular for a majority of the run. Scott Adsit, a.k.a. 30 Rock’s Pete Hornberger, was in six episodes.

6. PATTON OSWALT WARMED UP THE MR. SHOW CROWD.

In addition to performing stand-up before tapings and keeping the studio audience interested in between scenes, Oswalt played Famous Mortimer in the episode “Operation: Hell on Earth” (but was credited as “Patton Oswald.”)

7. HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE NOT KIND TO THE ORIGINAL SETS.

Because the pilot episode was shot at a “down and dirty,” small Central Hollywood club, the sets had to be placed outside, where homeless people defecated on them.

8. YOU MIGHT ALSO RECOGNIZE SOME OF THE WRITING STAFF.

Dino Stamatopoulos was already on the original writing staff of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and had written for David Letterman before writing for Cross and Odenkirk. He would later create three shows and play Starburns on Community. Writer/performer Scott Aukerman co-created and executive produces Between Two Ferns, and created and stars on Comedy Bang! Bang!. Writer/performer Paul F. Tompkins hosted VH-1’s Best Week Ever! and currently hosts the satirical debate show No, You Shut Up!, where he moderates discussions by a panel full of puppets. Bob Odenkirk’s brother Bill has written ten episodes of The Simpsons.

9. THE DIRECTORS OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE LEARNED HOW TO DIRECT COMEDY FROM MR. SHOW.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton were known for directing music videos like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” and decided to direct two Mr. Show episodes to expand their filming vocabulary. The husband and wife team were behind the camera for the classic sketch “Monk Academy.”

10. ONE SKETCH WAS INFLUENCED BY LOUIS C.K.

One of the first sketches in the show’s history involved Odenkirk playing a priest forced to do rather unpleasant and un-priestly things. The idea sprang from a conversation David Cross had with fellow young Boston comic Louis C.K., where Louis talked about annoying people that try to claim a prize on a bet that their friends never agreed to in the first place.

11. HBO ONLY CENSORED THE SHOW ONCE.

Throughout four years and 30 episodes, the lone note Odenkirk and Cross got from HBO was to get rid of a line where one character tells another to have sex with a baby. Odenkirk admitted that being told to edit it out “wasn’t too much to ask.”

12. THEY ONLY RECEIVED ONE VIEWER COMPLAINT.

The only angry letter that Odenkirk and Cross were ever made aware of was from a military veteran who was offended by the sketch in “Who Let You In?” where Cross’s performance artist character attempts to defecate on the American flag. The two stars actually called the viewer and discovered that he didn’t watch the entire sketch, and therefore never realized that Cross’ character was never able to actually go through with it.

13. ONE SKETCH WAS CUT FROM THE SHOW SIX TIMES AND NEVER MADE IT TO AIR.

A sketch called “Party Car,” a joke on old, low-quality shows filled with '70s celebrities was cut from half a dozen scripts and never filmed. It would have featured Nipsey Russell, Zsa Zsa Gabor, (or reasonable facsimiles), and a baby in a balloon-filled car.

14. BOB ODENKIRK GOT IN TROUBLE FOR USING A PICTURE OF HIS DEAD GRANDFATHER.

Because the sketch “Old Man In House” needed a photo of an old man, and the elderly gentleman was not the butt of the joke, Odenkirk thought it would be fine. Instead, some Odenkirks were “very upset.”

15. CROSS WAS PAYING OFF HIS STUDENT LOAN DEBTS THROUGHOUT MOST OF THE SERIES.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Despite executive producing and co-creating a series on television, Cross had trouble paying off his student loan debts from his time at Emerson College. Figuring that the person calling from the bill collection agency wouldn’t believe that he couldn’t pay if he knew his job status, Cross pretended that he worked at Mr. Show as a messenger.

16. ONE PERSON WAS GIVEN A "SPECIAL THANKS" IN THE CLOSING CREDITS OF EVERY EPISODE AS A JOKE.

As Cross once explained, Rick Dees was thanked in the credits of the pilot episode, even though he was “certainly nobody we would ever thank, or be in a position to thank.” Some personalities that were thanked for no discernable reason were Greg Maddux, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Gabe Kaplan, and Howard Zinn.

17. HBO CHANGED THE TIME SLOT FOR ITS FINAL SEASON, AND IT WAS "DEMORALIZING."

After airing Fridays at midnight for the first three seasons, HBO moved the show to Mondays at the same time, confusing some loyal viewers, and the ratings decreased as a result. Bob Odenkirk told a reporter that, after 30 episodes, HBO was still treating the cast and crew as “second-class citizens,” and that they were “demoralized” by the slot shift.

18. BOB AND DAVID TOLD A STUDIO AUDIENCE THAT THEY HAD JUST WITNESSED THE FINAL EPISODE, AND THEY WEREN'T JOKING.

“Patriotism, Pepper, and Professionalism,” the 40th and final episode of Mr. Show, was taped on November 21, 1998. After the final sketch was filmed, Odenkirk and Cross made their announcement, although the show’s cancellation wasn’t made official for another few months.

19. THERE WAS A MR. SHOW MOVIE THAT WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.

Run Ronnie Run focused on David Cross’s redneck criminal character Ronnie Dobbs. It was filmed in 2001, but never made it to theaters. Bob Odenkirk admitted that the movie wasn’t perfect, but he blamed the poor quality on director Troy Miller, for not allowing himself and Cross to edit the movie.

20. THE TWO HAVE REUNITED A FEW OTHER TIMES.

David Cross and Bob Odenkirk star in 'W/ Bob and David'
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

In 2002, Bob, David, and Mr. Show writer/performers Brian Posehn, John Ennis, and Stephanie Courtney (Flo in the Progressive commercials) toured the country to perform some of the show’s sketches and material from their unproduced screenplay Mr. Show: Hooray For America! The next year, Odenkirk guest starred as Dr. Phil Gunty on a season one episode of Arrested Development, alongside Cross’ character Tobias Fünke.

In 2012, Odenkirk, Cross, and Posehn went on a six-city tour to promote their book filled with more unproduced material. Bob and David appeared briefly together the next year on an episode of Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! In 2015, 20 years after Mr. Show's debut, Netflix premiered W/ Bob and David, a five-episode sketch comedy show created by and starring the duo.

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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