The “Unsolved Mysteries” team of John Cosgrove and Terry Dunn Meurer attempt to uncover a mystery of a different sort in this would-be series pilot masquerading as a one-shot summer special: Just how likely are Americans to change their mind about such divisive issues as sexual harassment in the workplace, guns in the home and high-speed police pursuits after weighing arguments from both sides? Since there is no post-show polling, it’s destined to remain a mystery.
“You Be the Judge” thankfully refrains from leaving the impression that anything is actually being decided. Refreshingly, the only winner here is the concept of ambiguity. This is network primetime’s attempt to generate a national dialogue, albeit one illustrated with a maximum dosage of racy video footage and lurid reenactments. That’s simply the Cosgrove/Meurer way.
Anyone expecting a languid, thoughtful PBS-style approach, however, will come away disappointed. This is rock ‘n’ roll sensational all the way. As host Jerry Orbach warns at the outset, “You may get so mad you’ll want to throw something at your TV.” Hitting a button on the remote probably makes more financial sense, however.
Hour is broken into self-contained segs devoted to establishing pros and cons on the three issues in question. A man whose wife was killed when her car was broadsided by a fleeing suspect during a police pursuit over expired license plate tags pleads for the madness of cop chases to stop, while law enforcement officials counter that if you let the bad guys go unchecked, crime and chaos will reign.
When it comes to sexual harassment, it seems that women are as fed up with the unfounded charges as are men. A Gallup poll reports that 70% of males believe it has gone too far, as have 67% of females.
And with regard to keeping a gun in the home for self-defense, opponents note that the firearm is 43 times more likely to kill a friend or family member than an intruder. Proponents argue that guns save lives 2.5 million times every year. How they do the math remains a tad puzzling.
If “You Be the Judge” leaves in its wake an even thicker cloud of uncertainty, and tends to make its points with too heavy a hand, it is also well-packaged and sufficiently entertaining to mask the fact that it’s trying to teach something. On a dial dominated by partisanship and snap judgments, it’s somewhat heartening to find any show, even in the middle of August, that attempts to use balance as its center of gravity.