Exclusive: CTD's 'Hot Bench' Sold for Fall 2014

CBS Television Distribution’s Hot Bench, created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, is a go for fall 2014.

CTD has sold the half-hour strip to TV stations covering 75% of the country, said Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of the CBS Global Distribution Group. CTD has secured sales to the CBS Television Stations, Tribune Broadcasting Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Cox Media Group, Meredith Corp., LIN Television Corp., Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Journal Broadcast Group, Gray Television and Cowles Publishing Company.

“Judy Sheindlin has been a very important part of the CBS family for many years, and everyone at our company is excited to launch this new show and bring Judy’s creative vision to the air,” said Nuñez in a statement. “Court has traditionally been a strong performer for stations, and we’re sure this unique take on the genre will be a great addition to the lineups of our station partners.”

“I think good, entertaining court still has a fascination for the public,” said Sheindlin in an interview. “I think that what will interest people about these three judges is that they all come to the show with a perspective.”

Sheindlin said she thought of the idea for Hot Bench — a term used to refer to an active and engaged judge and also considered as the title for the show that is now Judge Judy — while on vacation in Ireland with her husband, Judge Jerry Sheindlin.

“We visited the Supreme Court in Ireland, which is a three-judge bench and the chief judge is a woman. I thought that would translate into an interesting concept for the next show in the court genre,” says Sheindlin.

The concept combines the current trend of panel talk shows — in which several people sit on a couch and chat about the news of the day, a la ABC’s The View, CBS’ The Talk or Warner Bros.’ upcoming The Real — with traditional talk.

“Appellate courts in this country form at least one third of the courts and they are all multiple court benches,” says Sheindlin. “The public has never seen that. Viewers have only seen single judge shows.”

Court shows have been dwindling of late. Last year, CTD’s second-ranked court show, Judge Joe Brown, ended its run after CTD couldn’t come to financial terms on the show with its star. After this season, Twentieth’s Judge Alex will depart, leaving only five court shows on the air, excluding Entertainment Studios’ batch of courtrooms. Those departures likely made time slots available for CTD's new court entry, although whether CTD would manage to clear the show for next fall had been in question.

Meanwhile, Judge Judy, in its 18th year on the air, is hotter than ever. In the week ended Jan. 12, it hit an 8.0 live plus same day household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, the show’s highest rating in 14 years.

Hot Bench’s trio of judges are Judge Patricia DiMango and attorneys Tanya Acker and Larry Bakman.

DiMango is a New York State Supreme Court Judge in Brooklyn. She was appointed to the bench by Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani in 1995. She graduated from St. John’s University School of Law and received her master’s degree in developmental psychology from Teacher’s College at Columbia University while teaching third grade at Public School 164 in Brooklyn.

Acker is a Los Angeles-based practicing attorney and political, social and legal commentator. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and earned her undergraduate degree at Howard University in Washington DC. Her television appearances include ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, CNBC’s CNBC Reports and other shows. 

Bakman, a member of the State Bar in California and New York, has had a private legal practice in Los Angeles since 1983. His practice focuses on defending clients charged with complex federal and state criminal violations, such as conspiracy, fraud, assaults and narcotic possession and distribution. Bakman is a graduate of Southwestern Law School and earned his undergraduate degree at UCLA.

Randy Douthit, who has executive produced Judge Judy for the past 14 years, will also executive produce Hot Bench. Sheindlin also will be on hand to guide the show in its early days.

“I’m going to set the template and let these people go and do their thing,” says Sheindlin. “They have their own capability but they’ve never done court TV before. My involvement will be to guide them as to how to tell the story. How to get it out of the litigants. How to form the questions so you can make a case as interesting to the audience watching as possible. Then I will step back because I have my own show to do.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.