Karen Hanover TV presents, a new courtroom reality TV show with a BIG twist!

Court reality shows (also known as a judge show, legal/courtroom program, courtroom show, or judicial show) is a television programming sub-genre of either legal dramas or reality legal programming.

Court TV shows present content mainly in the form of legal hearings between plaintiffs and defendants presided over by a pseudo-judge.  At present, these shows typically portray small claims court cases, produced in a simulation of a small claims courtroom inside of a television studio.  Plaintiffs and defendants sign arbitration agreements so the judgment is legally binding.

Karen Hanover TV Presents a Felon as Judge

Karen Hanover TV presents a sharp-tongued, convicted white collar felon as the Judge.  This irony should create some dramatic moments in the courtroom as “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” says Karen Hanover, CEO of Karen Hanover TV Productions.

Karen Hanover TV Presents a show where home viewers will be jury

Another distinguishing factor of Majority Rules, Karen Hanover TV presents premier courtroom drama, is that viewers at home will vote like a jury and the outcome of the case will be based on those votes.

Courtroom drama reality TV genre

Widely used techniques in court shows have been dramatizations and arbitration-based realities. The genre began with dramatizations and remained the technique of choice for roughly six decades. By the late 1990s, however, arbitration-based realities had overwhelmingly taken over as the technique of choice within the genre, the trend continuing into the present. Dramatizations were either fictional cases (often inspired from factual details in actual cases) or reenactments of actual trials. The role of the judge was often taken by a retired real-life judge, a law school professor or an actor.

Arbitration-based realities, on the other hand, have typically involved litigants who have agreed to have their disputes aired on national television so as to be adjudicated by a television show “judge.” Due to the forum merely being a simulated courtroom constructed within a television studio as opposed to a legitimate court of law, the shows’ “judges” are actually arbitrators and what is depicted is a form of binding arbitration. The arbitrators presiding in modern court programs have had at least some legal experience, which is often listed as requirement by these programs.

Karen Hanover TV Presents notes that these television programs tend to air once or twice for every weekday as part of daytime television.  They often cost little to create (under $200,000 a week, where entertainment magazines cost five times that). Like talk shows, the procedure of court shows varies based upon the titular host.

In most cases, they are first-run syndication programs. In 2001, the genre began to beat out soap operas in daytime television ratings. While all syndicated shows are steadily losing audiences, court shows have the slowest rate of viewer erosion. Accordingly, by the end of the 2000s, the number of court shows in syndication had, for the first time, equaled the number of talk shows. As reported in late 2012, court programming is the second highest-rated genre on daytime television. The genre’s most formidable competitors in syndication have been the sitcom and game show genres.

Early stages of televised court shows

As television began to transcend radio, the previous era of radio broadcast court programming had waned. By 1948, court programming had begun to relocate and appear on television for the first time, and thus, the television court show genre was born. In its early stages, television court shows largely followed the same “dramatized” format as radio court shows, though with the new element of physical- and visual-based entertainment. The vast majority of these court shows were depicted in black-and-white.  Karen Hanover TV Productions will be in full color.

Dramatized court show

This court show type is a subgenre. For its broader, collective genres, see legal drama and dramatic programming.

In the same way as some films are based on true stories, featured cases on courtroom dramas are based on real-life cases. On the other hand, some are altogether made up, though often drawing on details from actual cases.

To recreate cases and make them up, staff members working for the court shows would research the country’s court cases. From the cases they felt would make for captivating television, they derived ideas or simply cases to recreate.

Typically, the role of judge on these programs was played by a law school professor, an actor, or a retired judge. The roles of litigants, bailiffs, court reporters, and announcers were always performed by actors and actresses. While some of these court shows were scripted and required precise memorization, others were outlined and merely required ad-libbing. Karen Hanover TV presents a felon judge.

In outlined cases, actor-litigants and -witnesses were instructed to never get too far off the angle of the case. Under its dramatized format, the early court show genre shared more of a resemblance to legal dramas than the programs that have come to represent the modern judicial genre.

Modern TV court show genre (1996–present)

Karen Hanover TV Presents Arbitration-based reality court show

This court show type is a subgenre known as reality court show. For its broader, collective genres, see reality legal programming and reality television.

Far more realistic than their dramatized predecessors, arbitration-based reality versions do not use actors, scripts, or recreations. Rather, they feature litigants who have legitimately been served and filed lawsuits, presenting their cases to an adjudicator.

Behavior and commentary from all participants involved is self-directed as opposed to script-directed. As such, these types of court shows fall into a subcategory of reality television. It is for these reasons that many of these particular programs make clear claims to authenticity, as text and voice overs remind viewers that the cases, litigants, and outcomes are “real.”

Despite possessing certain real-life elements, however, arbitration-based reality court shows are less credible than “unaffected” reality court programs, which draw on footage from actual courtrooms holding legal proceedings to capture the legal system as naturally as possible (e.g., Parole, On Trial).

Judges are arbitrators

The “judges” in arbitration-based court programs are not actual judges, but rather arbitrators or adjudicators. For one to be considered an acting judge, he/she must be operating within a court and thus bound by the rules and regulations of the legal system.

The setting in these types of court shows is not a legitimate court of law, but rather a studio set designed to look like a courtroom. In this respect, arbitrators are not legally restricted to mandatory courtroom/legal policies, procedures, and codes of conduct. Rather, they can preside in ways intended for entertainment. Moreover, they have the power to act by their own standards and enforce their own rules and regulations.  Karen Hanover TV Presents will distinguish itself from the pack of other courtroom dramas by featuring a Judge who has been convicted of a felony.

This power is reinforced through agreements signed by the parties prior to the case proceedings. Once waivers have been signed, arbitrators gain jurisdiction over the litigants, and thus these litigants are bound by the rules and regulations set by the arbitrator.

One study noted, “In exchange for streamlining the process (and likely sacrificing some legal rights), litigants surrender their fates to the media apparatus and experience a justice system ruled by the conventions of television drama and personality of the presiding television judge.

Arbitration-based reality shows guarantee payment to Plaintiff

“Arbitration-based reality shows guarantee monetary relief if the judgement is won. The show pays the judgment from a fund reserved for each case, paid for by the show’s advertising and syndication revenue. The defendant is also compensated a lesser amount for the appearance.

In actual small claims courts, however, winning the judgement is frequently only the first step as judgments do not ensure the victor the money he/she is owed. Getting the defendant to pay his or her judgment can be taxing and courts typically do not get involved, which means it is left up to the victors to collect.

Rise of arbitration-based reality court shows

During its first 1981–93 life, The People’s Court with Joseph Wapner existed as a nontraditional court show, featuring real-life arbitrations in an era of dramatized court programming. It is the first “arbitration-based reality” court show to air, beginning in 1981. In addition, it is the first popular, long-running “reality” court show.

Prior to the arrival of The People’s Court, real life elements were next to nonexistent on court shows, with the exception of a few short-lived nontraditional court shows; these precedent reality court shows, however, were only loosely related to judicial proceedings, except for one: Parole (1959), which took footage from real-life courtrooms holding legal proceedings.

Since the advent of arbitration-based reality court shows by The People’s Court, numerous other duplicate courtroom programs have been produced. Its revolutionizing impact, however, was not immediate. After The People’s Court’s cancellation in 1993, a second arbitration-based reality court show surfaced the year following, Jones & Jury (1994–95). This was the only arbitration-based reality court show airing during this time and short-lived in its existence. The two other court shows in production during this time were nontraditional programs Kids’ Court (1989–94) and Judge for Yourself (1994–95).

In 1996, a 3rd arbitration-based reality court show emerged, Judge Judy. Upon debuting, it was described as an “edgier” version of The People’s Court, adding attitude to the bench. It was only after the ratings boom of Judge Judy in the late 1990s that a slew of other arbitration-based reality court shows arrived on the scene.

In fact, due to the popularity of Sheindlin’s court show, dramatized court shows became next to nonexistent. Among the influx of other reality court shows included the resurrections of the previously cancelled and defunct People’s Court and Divorce Court (adopting the arbitration-based reality format of its counterparts).

Following after Judge Judy, most court shows began using personal show titles consisting of the judge’s name, and the popularity of impersonal titles dwindled considerably. Judge Judy has remained the highest rated court show since its debut. It has been the highest rated show in all of daytime television programming since 2009–10 television season.

Justice David Sills noted in one opinion that “daytime television in the early 21st century has been full of ‘judge shows,’ where ordinary people bring a dispute for decision before a celebrity jurist.”

Divorce Court is the only show in the genre to have utilized both popular formats (“dramatized” and “arbitration reality”) during their heyday. Moreover, of all the shows in the modern judicial genre, Divorce Court is the oldest. It has also had the most seasons in the entire genre.

The series has had three lives in syndication, from 1957 to 1969 (dramatized); from 1985 to 1992 (dramatized); and currently since 1999 (arbitration-based reality). Altogether, as of the 2013–14 season, the court show has had a grand total of 34 seasons. In second place is The People’s Court with 29 seasons and two lives as of the 2013–14 season.

With no suspensions in its production history, Judge Judy has had the longest lasting individual life of any reality court show. The program entered its 18th season on September 9, 2013.

Check out the Karen Hanover TV shows list of arbitration-based courtroom dramas.  Watch for Karen Hanover TV Presents new show Majority Rules which will be in first run syndication in the fall.