The Confessable Pleasures of People's Court

I am occasionally home in the afternoons these days and sometimes, while making lesson plans, I catch some of that wacky daytime television. It is admittedly pretty awful, and the number of psychology-lite shows is truly astonishing. So when I want some real grit, I turn to People's Court.

I get a huge kick out of People's Court for several reasons. The first reason is that the announcer makes zero attempt to be suave. It's pure over-the-top Barnum & Bailey ringmaster stuff: "He's accused of being a cheapskate." "She's a woman with a mansion and SHE wants payback." The point being that I don't mind trite and tacky as long as everybody knows it is trite and tacky.

The other reason I enjoy it is Judge Marylin Millian. She really is the pick of the crop amongst daytime judges. First of all, she is fun to watch. Second, she has a real knack for sizing up people (the trick with these shows is to remember that the judge has seen all the complaints and whatnot before the case gets on TV; she just uses the television portion to verify evidence; so when it looks like she is cutting people short--and this is true for all the TV judges--she is really just moving on from evidence that she has already looked over) as well as her ability to put in plain speak commonsense rules of life.

I look on it as a kind of therapy. I can get very frustrated with my students sometimes, and it is refreshing to have someone else say all the stuff I'd like to say but can't.

For example, there was a lady on one day who agreed to take care of another lady's dog (for money) and then the dog got out and the lady who was supposed to take care of it didn't want to pay for the lost dog. The judge pointed out that if you agree to take care of someone's dog as a service, and you lose the dog, it really doesn't matter much whether or not you INTENDED to lose the dog. You still lost it.

This is enormously refreshing although I'm sure that, like Dr. Laura, it'll get old after awhile, and I'll go back to watching Rumpole of the Bailey episodes while I figure out how to make grammar interesting. I never did understand why people who listen to Dr. Laura would NEED to call her. I KNOW what she is going to say. How could you possibly be surprised that she doesn't think you should have a baby by your drunken, abusive boyfriend who is twenty years older than you? Why would you bother to call and get yelled at?

I think it is "But this time it is different" syndrome. Now, in matters of the heart, I think there is some truth to the "But this time it is different" protestation. I'm not advocating relationships with drunken, abusive boyfriends, but I really don't think there is a one-size-fits-all solution to personal relationships out there. (But people sure want to believe that there is--hence all the psychology-lite shows.)

But with the law, well, the law is the law. Even when Judge Millian feels sorry for people, hey, if you don't have the proof, you don't have the proof. And if you came to court without proof, nice having you but you just lost your own case. And boy, that's nice to hear. I don't think of myself as an especially harsh person, but I get very weary sometimes of all the reasons students have for not getting their work done each week. (Although I try to remind myself that from their perspective, it is one excuse; from my perspective, it is number one thousand and three hundred twenty eight.) If you want to earn 3.0 credit hours, come to class and do the work. Why complicate it with a bunch of excuses?

I think this means I'm getting old.

In any case, it's nice to watch a show where people who behave badly by commonsense standards are told they are behaving badly by commonsense standards. And where women who have babies by drunken, abusive men are told they are stupid. But the men still have to pay child support.


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