Court shows judged best in 1999

'Judy,' 'Mathis,' 'Divorce' leading way in genre revival

The verdict was clear in 1999: Court shows ruled the syndicated roost.

Blame it partly on the continued success of “Judge Judy,” the Paramount gaveler that has spawned many imitators (with more on the way in 2000).

Even “Judge Judy” Sheindlin’s husband Jerry got into the act, taking over the bench on Warner Bros.’ “People’s Court.” Others joining the fray last year included Warner Bros.’ “Judge Greg Mathis” and Twentieth’s “Divorce Court,” which demonstrated the genre’s still-hot appeal by coming out of the gate strong.

‘Divorce’ popular

“Divorce Court” led November sweeps among all new firstrun syndicated series, posting a 2.5 weighted metered-market rating and 8 share, up 32% vs. its time period average the prior year.

New court entries in the works for 2000 include King World’s “Curtis Court” and Pearson’s “Judgment Day.”

On the flip side, talk suffered another dismal fall, as none of syndication’s first-run offerings managed to make much of an impact.

Newcomers flailing

New offerings “Leeza,” “Martin Short,” “Queen Latifah” and “The Joy Browne Show” were either flat or down vs. their lead-ins during the November book. Tribune’s “Richard Simmons’ DreamMaker” was the first casualty last fall.

Spawned by a decent daytime and strong primetime showing, the gameshow is also on the verge of making its long-awaited splash in syndication.

Joining old standbys “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” and newer entries “Hollywood Squares” and “Family Feud” in 2000 are Pearson’s “To Tell the Truth,” Carsey-Werner’s “You Don’t Know Jack” and the comedy/gameshow hybrid “Street Smarts” from Warner Bros.

Syndicated strip versions of ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and Fox’s “Greed” remain grist for the rumor mill.

New Year challenges

Syndication 2000 will have to contend with yet more consolidation, both on the buyer and seller side. Relaxed duopoly rules and more station group mergers mean fewer buyers, while merged distribution units will result in fewer sellers with less product.

“It’s getting more and more difficult every minute and every day of the week,” said Joe Scotti, president of domestic distribution and marketing at Pearson Television North America. “Nevertheless, even in a consolidated market, when you have a hit show your phone rings.”

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