HOLLYWOOD - Judge Larry Seidlin, the Broward Circuit Court judge who has turned the fight over the late Anna Nicole Smith's body into his personal 15 minutes of stardom, just may have his shot at celebrity yet.
The Fox Network announced today that it will debut a new six-week reality series, You Be the Judge, during the May sweeps period. The show, built on the premise of the network's popular American Idol, will feature judges from real-life courtrooms across America who have auditioned for the opportunity to preside over a real court case in front of a live studio audience. A combination of audience votes and the opinions of a three-expert panel will determine the final winner, who will be offered his or her own TV series on the network.
For the losers, there'll be a pounding of gavels as the panel shouts in unison, "DISMISSED!"
You Be the Judge is scheduled to begin production next week--and show creators hope Judge Seidlin wraps things up quickly in the Anna Nicole case so he doesn't miss his chance to compete for the honor of becoming "Your Honor."
"There is absolutely no one we want more on this program," said executive producer Kent Getlower Thenthiss. "Judge Larry was made for it. He's been acting throughout this whole hearing as if he wants his own TV show. We're fully prepared to take him without making him audition first. We just know his quips and his old stories are going to be a huge hit with our viewers."
The on-site judging panel will consist of Judge Joseph Wapner, formerly of the syndicated program The People's Court; Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy; and Judge Joe Brown of the show by the same name.
"Yo, I am so excited about this, dawg," said Brown. "And having Judge Larry on as a contestant...wow. The dude just gives me chills. Brilliant. He's one of the most natural judges I've ever seen. Love him. Amazing."
Wapner, generally regarded as the "dean" of TV judges, was equally pleased to have been selected for the panel. "Thish will be great. Like Dustin Hoffman ushed to say, 'Fifteen minutesh t'me'! What an honor t'be part of a show like thish. I am shooo excited to be back with my incredible--yet dyshfunctional--family of TV judgesh to dishcover the TV judge talent of the fushure."
Judge Judy, although equally happy to have been chosen, sounded considerably less enthusiastic. "Look, Wapner is drunk and out of control, and he doesn't belong on a program like this one," she snapped. "I don't care what everyone else thinks of Judge Larry, either. I'm the one who has to determine what is fair. And personally, I think he ought to be ashamed of himself. He thinks he's a judge? Yeah, right, and I was born in 1965! He is one of the most pathetic excuses for a judge that I have ever seen."
When told what Judge Judy had to say about Seidlin, Wapner retorted, "Ah, sheesh jush upshet becush she tinks people'll hear da name 'Sheidlin' and tink hesh related t'her. Nonshensh. Anyone c'n tell, hish name is 'Sheidlin' an' hershh ish...uh, what is 'er name again? I forget!"
Judge Judy's response to his remark was even more pointed. "That drunken sot has no clue how I'm going to vote. But one thing I can tell you, this is not going to be 'Let's Make a Deal,' and I'm not going to be Monty Hall. I fully intend to judge this competition on the merits of the contestants. And if I think Judge Larry is a sorry joke, I will say so. It will have nothing to do with his last name. It will be my vote, and I can say what I want. And I will be right. I'm always right. I mean, is the word 'stupid' written across my forehead? I would say to Wapner, 'Don't spit on my cupcake and tell me it's frosting.' Does he come from a long line of idiots?"
As for Seidlin, he was thrilled to hear about the concept. "Maybe this eccentric judge is just what TV needs," he said. "They had me with a box of tissues when I found out about it. To think of a guy from Hunter College like me, having a crack at stardom!
"I know I said these hearings will take as long as they need to, but if we need to cut to the chase so I can be on this show, then so be it. I mean, the decisions our fighting sons and daughters are making in Iraq are way more life-threatening."
He added that he plans to look his best when on the program. "It'll be like back when I used to teach tennis. I wore white shorts and a white top. I looked good."
Seidlin continued, "I will try my best to win and get my own series, of course. But don't think I'm buying the Brooklyn Bridge here. I mean, we're having things changing, changing...and to succeed in life, you have to keep changing with those changes. Otherwise, you fail.
"But if I don't, it'll be just like Haldeman said to Erlichmann: 'What are we doing here? We're just...in the wind.'
"The wheels of justice aren't always round, those wheels," he explained. "Sometimes they're a little bit square, and it's a bumpy ride, like the Old West, where it's a bumpy ride, and I'm not always gonna be on that ride with ya. But I hope I win anyway."