American TV wouldn’t have a long run to this day if people didn’t spend their afternoons on the couch watching edge-of-the-seat thrillers and courtroom shows. Imagine Judge Judy or maybe The People’s Court- such televised disputes have helped viewership reach the apex.
But haven’t we all wondered at one point if such reality shows are real or staged. Would you be comfortable to portray your real self inside any normal court? Or are these constructed purely for entertainment purposes? So is money the primary driving force behind people agreeing to become a part of the so-called real settings? We all like such ‘juicy’ content. And frankly speaking, not everything you watch qualifies for real things!
Is It All Staged?
Dave DiVerniero, the producer at Black Chip Studios in San Diego, says that bringing a dose of ‘reality’ to these court shows is a tad difficult. In actual sense, reality TV ensures that the shows make it to a ‘contrived’ zone and not absolutely authentic or even fabricated.
Of course, TV court shows might not have scripts. However, they need to create some sensation or spectacle means the drama must play out strongly. And this is highly encouraged by producers- sometimes even going to the extent of telling the guests to make some modification in the case details and then add the necessary drama in the stories, which would elicit some strong reactions!
For the most part, people and cases are all real. DiVierno strongly confirms that in few situations, despite knowing that the cases or aspects of a few of them are mock-ups, producers and actors both work on them, just for few pennies.
The Battle Between Actual Court and Arbitration
Precisely whatever happens on these shows isn’t real, like the trials. The same goes for the judges (exceptions occur when some are judges in real life). You watch a lawful process, called ‘arbitration’ in legal terms. It is nothing but an ‘alternative dispute resolution.’
A sharp departure from the TV world, arbitration has its cousin termed ‘mediation.’ In this process, they settle every dispute or disagreement worked on. This is sans dealing with the complexities of the court system. And of course, a mutually agreed-upon resolution is reached at the earliest. An arbitrator’s ruling is usually binding. However, a court can overturn it if it decides that matters falling under the purview of arbitration lie outside the governmental scope.
Participants on these TV courts show sign contracts that say they will abide by whatever the judges decide. Besides, the TV show pays the judgment in case of the winner of the case.
As add-ons, a reality TV court show guarantees a speedy response to a cause, compared to any local court hearing. Then there is free travel and, most importantly, the opportunity to achieve the much-coveted 15 minutes of fame.
The Thin Line Demarcating Fiction From Reality
What if you’ve not watched the show- you might have heard of Judge Judy, who is the ‘highest-paid TV personality’ in the country. The show that goes with the same name has been airing for close to 21 seasons! Starring Judith Sheindlin, an ex-New York family court judge who hears and settles very small-claim disputes. The show is a top-grosser.
Judge Judy strikes the right chord with the audience, given her piercing tongue and strident approach. This makes the show a laudable watch. But this might not work if you’re on the lookout for strong legal advice.
Even Kenneth M. Perry, who has partnered with Perry & Aronin in New York City, has emphasized the unrealistic perspectives that these shows add. More so in terms of what courts look like and how they function in real life!
Keeping in mind that the very purpose of TV is entertainment. They retain certain elements, and the downtime is sped up by several notches. But the next time you head to a court to work upon a small claim, do not expect a redressal as you see on TV. For instance, an argument between a landlord and tenant or even a contract dispute does not replicate the ‘reel’ life.
Is It The Right Thing For You?
The decision is yours. If you feel your case has a relatively high chance of making through in a small claims court, go for it. Or else, you can stick to the small screen for the payout, instantaneous resolving, and momentary fame. Always weigh the perks or ‘reality’ associated with it, like the staged denigration.