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Bates Motel Recap, Episode 8: A Boy and His Dog

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As we check into Bates Motel for the week, Mr. Decody is teaching Norman the fine art of taxidermy.

“The art of it is to recreate the beauty of motion in something still. To create life, if you will,” he says.

He gives Norman a little light reading called Master Course in Wildlife Art and Taxidermy by Robert Kennedy. I’m assuming not the Robert Kennedy, but maybe RFK had a side hobby. Actually, I wonder if they’re paying homage to this Robert Kennedy. If you want to go really meta, check out this story about Robert Kennedy performing his taxidermy magic on a Sumatran tiger that once belonged to the more famous Robert Kennedy.

Back to our taxidermist and his eager assistant. Decody tells Norman he’s sorry that his dog died.

“It seems sad to let her go,” Norman responds. “Dishonorable, sort of, to just put her in the ground. I think she was lonely,” Norman says, and since we already know how this tale eventually ends, you have to wonder if that’s what he will be feeling when he eventually mummifies his mother. Norman compliments Decody on his work; in turn, Decody tries to recruit him to help out with the business.

“It’s really quite beautiful work, if you’re at all artistic, which I have a feeling you might be.” Norman is pleased.

Gossip Girls

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At school, Emma hauls herself into a bathroom stall to try to get the terrible coughing fit she’s having under control. As she pauses to use her inhaler, a gaggle of girls come in, gossiping about Norman, calling him pathetic and socially challenged, agreeing that it’s creepy when he stares off into space.

“Like really. Like she would ever have sex with someone like that,” one of the girls snips, and that’s all Emma can stand to hear.

“Well, maybe you better talk to her,” Emma says, coming out of the stall. “Because she did. Sex as in carnal back-and-forth. But you should really get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off with your demeaning opinions. And you’ve got toilet paper on your shoe.”

Road Tripping and School Skipping

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Dylan and Remo, the stars of our new favorite buddy sitcom, are watching the pot field. Remo is engrossed in a Louis L’Amour novel. Dylan’s phone rings. It’s Gil, and he wants Remo and Dylan to go pick up "trimmers" in Fortuna, an overnight trip. Dylan wonders what trimmers are, but Gil tells him to ask Remo, since he’s made the trip about 20 times. Remo just sighs.

At school, Bradley confronts Norman about telling everyone about their little tryst.

At first he denies it, but she informs him about Emma’s bathroom showdown with the White Pine Gossip Girls.

“Listen, it’s just not cool, Norman,” she says. Norman gets slight rageface.

“OK. But why isn’t it?” he demands. “I mean, it happened, right?”

Bradley says it shouldn’t have. “I don’t want people to know. Just—forget it happened,” she says, and Norman nods, but as Bradley turns away, he kind of looks like he wants to puke.

The bell has just rung, but instead of going to class, Norman shoves his hands in his coat pockets and rushes out of the school. Miss Watson, his Language Arts teacher, happened to catch the tail end of the argument and runs out after Norman to see where he’s going.

She warns him—not unkindly—that he can’t just leave school; he’ll get suspended.

“I don’t care!” he yells, and his eyes are welled up with tears.

Miss Watson tries one more time to coax Norman back inside, she takes a step toward him and moves to put her hand on his arm when he shoves her arm away quite forcibly. She’s visibly shaken as Norman sneers at her and walks away.

"Housekeeping!"

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Norma has purchased herself a cute little housekeeping tunic and she’s pushing a cart full of towels and cleaning supplies that’s a bit overkill for the one guest currently staying at the motel. She knocks on the door of said single guest and says she wasn’t sure when he wanted his room made up.

“You can come in and clean now,” Abernathy tells her.

She says she’ll just come back when he's out, but he insists.

Then he sits back and watches her clean the room. It feels strangely intimate, the way he’s watching her crawl across the bed to remove the dirty sheets. As she’s creeping, he mentions that he heard about the “unpleasant incident” that happened at the motel recently.

“A dog got hit out front,” Norma shrugs, and she pulls this “Aw, shucks” face she makes when she’s trying to pretend like she’s innocent or ignorant.

It’s not working, though. Abernathy knows. He knows about Shelby, he knows about Summers and he knows about the sex trade. He goes on, in a fake incredulous tone of voice, to say how unbelievable it all is.

“You just never know, do you?” he says, watching for her reaction.

“Yeah. I guess you don’t,” she agrees flatly, then promptly knocks the lamp off of the nightstand, shattering it.

As she’s on hands and knees picking up the pieces, Abernathy looms over her, asks if she knew Zach Shelby.

“A little,” Norma admits, then amends it to “Not so much” a few seconds later.

Feeling uncomfortable, she says she has to leave immediately to give Norman a ride somewhere.

But Abernathy’s not dumb. “He’s not here. I saw him leave. School, wasn’t it?”

She tries to make her exit, but he grabs the cart to stop her. Then he takes off two towels, as if that was all he wanted. “We’re good for now,” he tells her.

When Blackmailing Backfires

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Norma, who had left Sheriff Romero a message earlier, finally gets in to see him. They’re not quite as chummy as she thought they would be—apparently, just because someone takes the fall for a couple of murders committed by you and your family doesn’t mean you’re BFFs.

After getting a cold stare during her attempt to make small talk, Norma cuts to the chase: When she bought the motel, no one ever mentioned that a bypass was being built that would make her motel obsolete.

“I’m just trying to figure out a way that I can fight this from the inside,” she fishes. Romero is unmoved, so she plows ahead. There’s a seat open on the city planning committee, and she wants Romero to nominate her for it.

“Why would I do that?” he asks, deadpan. Norma was not expecting to meet with resistance.

“Because... I thought you would...” she draws it out, trying to figure out how to word her blackmail attempt. “Because of what we’ve been through. Because we know things about each other,” she says this in a singsongy voice, smiling. The flirtatious act may have worked on Shelby, but Romero isn’t having it.

“We don’t owe each other anything,” he tells her. “We’re not friends. You don’t know me in any social sense. Don’t assume differently just ‘cause I was kind enough to save your ass once.”

Norma drops the act. “The fact is that your deputy was doing all of this right under your nose, and you knew nothing about it.” Romero shuts the door to his office, then turns to Norma.

“Are you trying to say that you have something on me, is that it? Because that really wouldn’t be good for you, okay? I mean, I might have to burn you down to the ground, you know?” he says casually. “Don’t ever try to intimidate me. Don’t walk into my office and ask me for political favors based on nothing. You and I have no connection. We’re not on the same playing field. You don’t know what you’re doing. Go home, Mrs. Bates.”

To cap things off, as Norma is leaving Romero’s office, Norman’s principal calls. They want to discuss Norman’s behavior.

"He is... Emotionally Unusual."

At the Decodys, Norman asks Emma why she told all of the girls that he slept with Bradley.

“It just came up. Sort of,” she says. “I’m sorry.”

For his part, Norman seems fine with that. “Don’t ever tell anyone something I tell you in confidence again, okay?” he says, and it’s a totally calm, rational Norman. Emma agrees, and that’s that.

If only things were going that well during Norma's meeting at school. Norman, it turns out, is going to be suspended for three days. (Is that normal?)

Covering for him, as usual, Norma says that he just wasn’t feeling well.

Miss Watson recounts her version of what happened, saying she put her hand on his arm to lead him back in when he pulled it away “pretty violently.”

“Are you supposed to be putting your hands on the students?” Norma retaliates.

Getting back to the point, the principal says they’re concerned about Norman’s “emotional instability.” They want him to speak to the school psychologist.

“I don’t know if I want him to be doing that,” Norma sighs. When the principal asks her why, she has to stop and think. “I think that he should see a private psychologist. I would like to choose the therapist.”

Miss Watson and Mr. Hudgins think that would be fine, but they’d like the name of the therapist when she gets it. “Mmmhmm, sure,” Norma says, getting up to leave. “Mmmhmm. Okay! Of course. Absolutely. I’ll keep in touch.” She cannot get out the door fast enough, and when she does, she leans against it and swallows hard.

The Dylan and Remo Show

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Remo and Dylan are hanging out at “Mike’s Bar" on their way to retrieve the trimmers. Trimmers, it turns out, are the guys who trim and process the weed in preparation for the final product. (There, you learned something today.)

Remo’s pretty drunk. “Twenty-three years of experience and here I am working for you,” he slurs.

Dylan calls him a pathetic, self-destructive loser, and of course, a fight ensues. Dharma beer bottles get shattered. Yep—it’s not stylized with the traditional black and white logo from Lost, but it’s definitely Dharma beer.

At the end of the battle, both of them are bloodied and bruised. Now that they’ve gotten that out of their systems, they’re—well, not friends, but they’ve at least declared a temporary truce. As Dylan walks a staggering Remo to his room, Remo explains why he’s stopped rising in the company. “I’m not what you would call consistently reliable,” he says. Yeah, that’s definitely a trait you don’t want to mention as a “weakness” during your job interview. We also learn that Remo doesn’t work for Gil. He works for the “Big Boss.”

“Who’s that?” Dylan says.

“You’ll know when you need to know,” Remo responds. Dylan then asks why Remo doesn't just quit the job if he's so unhappy with it.

“There’s no quitting in this job,” Remo says. “You can get fired though. You don’t want that to happen to you. Believe me.”

Fun with Taxidermy

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At home, Norman apologizes to his mother about the incident at school, but he refuses to tell her what he was upset about. “It won’t happen again,” is all he’ll say.

“It can’t happen. Because now they want to you to go see a therapist,” she says. “You have to try to fit in, Norman. You can’t go around being so emotional all the time.”

“I know, Mother, and I’m sorry,” he says. “But I do think I fit in. For the most part.”

In the very next breath, he asks for a ride to the Decody’s: “Emma’s dad is teaching me how to do taxidermy!”

Norma’s reaction to that is the same as ours. She agrees to take Norman to the Decody’s, because she’s going in to have a chat with the good taxidermist.

When they get there, Mr. Decody is fitting Juno onto a frame. She asks to speak to him alone.

“I don’t know if this is such a good thing for Norman to be doing. He’s already sort of an unusual boy,” she explains. “I don’t want him getting labeled as a freak or anything.”

Decody is a bit offended. “I don’t think that learning taxidermy necessarily makes one a freak,” he protests. Norma realizes her faux pas and starts backpedaling, kind of hilariously petting the dog. Decody continues to defend Norman’s interest in taxidermy: “He’s good. And he’s good company. We’re not hurting anyone—the animal is already dead. So what’s the harm in letting a young person follow their passion? What could go wrong with that?”

I’ll give you a moment to snort. I’ll still be here when you come back.

Later, as they’re putting staples around Juno’s replacement eyeballs, Norman fawns over his mentor.

“You’re so good,” he says. Decody admits that he quit his hobby while he was married to Emma’s mom, because she didn’t like it. Or him, as it turns out. He took up stuffing carcasses again when Mrs. Decody left.

Norman apologizes for bringing it up, but Decody says not to. He left all of that behind in England, and he has Emma, and that’s what’s important.

Meet the Trimmers

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A circle of hippie-looking guys are playing hacky sack when Remo and Dylan pull up. One of the guys has the gall to scold them for being an hour late, which is when Remo tells Dylan that the same dude caused a lot of trouble last year. He recommends ditching the guy, but Dylan won’t bite. Gil said to pick up all of the trimmers, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Yeah, it doesn’t last long. In the van on the way back to Oregon, the lead hippie is jamming on a guitar because of course he is, when Remo tells him to cut it out.

“You all remember this pusball from last year, right?” lead hippie says. Then he demands to stop for food, and when Remo tells him to wait a few minutes, the hippie says, “Management here seems to think he can tell us when we’re gonna eat.”

“Remo, pull over,” Dylan says.

He points a gun at him and tells him to get out of the van.“Anyone else who thinks this is a democracy, you can get out too.” The hippie has a change of heart, says that anytime they want to stop for food is fine. It’s too little, too late—they leave him on the side of the road.

Norma Never Learns

Norma pulls up to the motel to find Abernathy leaving. Naturally, she follows him in her car and discovers that he’s going to search Keith Summers’ boat. Shouldn’t that thing have been seized by now? Or considered a crime scene, at least?

Norma gets out and follows Abernathy on foot, and I am feeling less and less sorry for her. She knows what he’s looking for at this point—how can following him on foot, in the dark, alone, be even remotely safe? Will this woman never learn?

Not today. Abernathy catches her following him.

“Where’d you hide it?” he asks in the tone of voice like you’d ask your toddler where she hid the remote.

She denies hiding anything, knowing anything, but of course Abernathy knows better.

“You think I’m just going to walk away from this?” he asks her. “I’m not some moron like Keith Summers. He was the bottom rung. I’m on the top. You understand?”

Psycho-analysis

Norma found Norman a therapist, as promised.

“Tell me a little bit about losing your father, Norman,” the therapist says.

Unsurprisingly, Norma jumps in before Norman can even finish a sentence.

The therapist tries again.

“Can you talk to me about how it felt to move from the home where you lived with your dad to a whole new town?”

Norma jumps in again. “It was sad. He was sad. We were both sad.”

“Sad,” Norman agrees.

Norma pays the therapist and says she’ll schedule something in the future. He asks to talk to her privately.

“I think it might be helpful if I saw Norman on his own next time.”

Norma, of course, isn’t comfortable with that. The therapist suggests that perhaps she needs a little therapy of her own, based on her need to control everything.

“People who feel like they need to be in control often feel out of control on the inside. Do you ever feel that way?” he asks her.

Norma goes on a long rant about how she feels extremely in control of her life. She doesn’t feel powerless. Ever. And to prove this point, she drives home to the motel and pounds on the door of room number nine. When Abernathy opens the door, she flings all of his cash in his face and tells him to get out.

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“You didn’t just do that, did you?” he says.“You need to dial it down, right now, Norma, before I get truly annoyed.”

“I’m not afraid of you. You have no power over me,” she tells him, and gives him five minutes to get out of her motel.

“You wanna play? We’ll play,” he says, and the awesome thing is that it’s not menacing in the traditional sense at all. When you read that line, it sounds like something he would growl at her, doesn’t it? But he doesn’t. It’s more sing-songy, the “I guess we’ll try it your way!” tone of someone who thinks they’re teaching a lesson by letting the person fail first.

A few minutes later, Abernathy loads a suitcase into his trunk and leaves.

Norman and Emma Make Up

At the Decodys, Norman is petting his dog, which looks exactly like a life-sized version of one of those disturbing scented wax stuffed animals.

“Can we talk?” Emma says. She’s feeling bad that Norman thinks she was gossiping about him. She says she heard the girls talking rudely about Norman and Bradley, and she couldn’t handle it. “I think you are so special, and so much better than any of them.”

“I feel safe with you,” she continues.“You are my friend, and I don’t want to mess that up, or lose you. I don’t have many real friends.”

“It’s okay, Emma,” Norman says. “I’m sorry I was mad.” They hug. Awww.

Then Mr. Decody walks in and ruins it.

Norma Almost Sleeps with Shelby Again

Norma is cleaning Room Number Nine when a van pulls up. It’s Remo and Dylan with the trimmers, and they want seven rooms for them for the next two weeks. Between this and getting rid of Abernathy, Norma is elated—so much, in fact, that she invites Dylan out for dinner. He agrees, and she goes up to the house to change clothes.

She’s just stripped down to a tank top when she notices that someone is in her bed. It’s Zack Shelby, complete with autopsy scar, bullet wounds, missing eye and all. Oh, and there's a deputy badge pinned to his bare chest.

“Normaaaaaan!!!!” she screams, because that’s Norma's first reaction to everything. And also because they want to get their money’s worth out of that scream. I’m surprised they don’t make her do it every episode.

And that, Motel guests, is where we end this week. Only two episodes left! 

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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
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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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