Randy Douthit, Judy Justice Executive Producer and Director: How the man behind the scenes came to make a former criminal lawyer and family judge a household name and long running entertainment staple.
When Dolly Parton sang, “Working nine-to-five, what a way to make a livin’,” she certainly wasn’t referring to Randy Douthit’s day on the set of Judy Justice, his latest collaboration with legendary TV jurist Judge Judith Sheindlin.
The executive producer and director of the show, now streaming on Amazon Prime and its new ad-supported extension, Freevee, begins his shift after arriving at the Amazon Studios in Culver City, California, where crew call time is 9 a.m. Inevitably there are small fires to put out, urgent emails to be answered, and other minutia to tend to before the cameras roll.
“The days are long — 12 hours or so —and at the end of the day [Sheindlin] is still going strong,” says Randy Douthit.
Randy Douthit Is the Man Behind the Scenes
Douthit and Sheindlin have built a strong rapport based on their mutual trust and respect gained over 27 years of working together, starting with Judge Judy, which is the longest-running arbitration reality courtroom show based on the model of small claims court in the U.S.
Sheindlin is the talent, dispensing justice and wisdom from the TV bench.
We see her every day, but Randy Douthit is the man behind the scenes. He’s in the control room when the show is taping, calling the shots and making editing decisions. He’s in her VIP chambers discussing the cases yet to air.
Sheindlin selects the TV-worthy cases from batches brought in by line producers, and she relies on Douthit to make the right choices.
As the show-runner, Douthit holds the show together from idea to final gavel. The tough-talking Judge Judy is a multiple Emmy award winner and the author of Don’t Pee On My Leg And Tell Me It’s Raining, Keep It Simple, Stupid, and Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.
She’s a former criminal court prosecutor in Manhattan and a retired New York City family law judge appointed by then Mayor Ed Koch, who took a liking to the take-no-prisoners Brooklyn-born gal.
She’s also the producer of Tribunal, the latest entry in the genre, which features cases decided by a panel of three judges. It’s an unscripted show, and arguments between the judges, plaintiffs, and defendants can be quite amusing — as long as you’re not the one hit by the gavel.
The classic courtroom program is an inherently dramatic event, which cuts across the usual demographic borders.
‘Um Is Not an Answer’
A 2013 Reader’s Digest poll ranked Sheindlin as more trustworthy than the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sheindlin is noted for her cutting commentary — “Um is not an answer” is one of her greatest hits — and quick decisions, pounding down the gavel and calling for the next case.
Her experience in real courtroom cases has given her remarkable insight into the truth of the matters before her (she’s called herself a “truth machine”) and she easily separates the wheat from the chaff.
Her decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
While Sheindlin shares her side-splitting commentary, Randy Douthit heads a team of 50 and handles the production. He’s the showrunner, putting together the various elements for the enjoyment of viewers everywhere.
‘Do It Right the First Time’
Other television executive producers and directors pretty much work the same way as Douthit.
HBO’s The Newsroom was very good at demonstrating how an executive producer and director work in the control room. We can see behind the scenes as British-born actor Emily Mortimer keeps the “fake news” moving and on time.
TV moves quickly, so decisions and problems must be resolved in a flash. Douthit’s mantra since he first started in TV has been: “Do it right the first time and do it quickly.”
He had to be fast on his feet to fill in for a director at his first job, then went from the morning show Seattle Today to CNN, where he produced and directed Crossfire, the vaunted political discussion program that pitted one guest from the right of the ideological spectrum against one from the left.
He then went on to mount several presidential specials before taking on the job of Larry King Live. After a long run with King, he joined Sheindlin on Judge Judy, on the CBS network, and now Judy Justice, which is on Amazon Freevee.
“I talk with Judy about the cases and everything and anything in her dressing room. She’s enjoying her life right now,” he says.
A Week on Set With Randy Douthit
Douthit and Sheindlin put in the hours to bring their show to adoring fans. There are three days of preproduction and two days of taping.
The prep work behind the scenes is comprehensive. “We prep anything that needs to be done during shooting in each and every case,” Douthit says. “For example, there might be some photos or videos that will enhance the case either for the defendant or the plaintiff. We do prep to make sure that it’s ready.”
Sheindlin works tirelessly, says her colleague, capable of filming a week’s worth of cases in just one day. “She makes it interesting for me,” Douthit marvels.
Douthit assures fans that they will continue to be riveted to Judy Justice, now in its second season.
“We have some bigger cases, and you’ll want to tune in. [The] cases are really good.”