So first, there was The People's Court in the US, which was a game show in which small claims court cases are diverted from a genuine court to be "tried" under legal principles with an "award" by a genuine judge given to the winner of the case.

The format became rather popular and soon there were copycat versions, the most famous of which was Judge Judy, a fiery, Jewish lady who intimidated a collection of Jerry Springer types suing each other over petty things.

There's an inherent problem with these kinds of shows, and that's that nobody wants to try a case of any reasonable import on a game show, meaning that the cases aren't exactly the most thrilling or high-stakes.

Some people would like to go down and watch a court proceeding, and some do. But not enough to garner an audience.

So the attraction of these shows, whether it's Judge Judy or Judge Joe Brown or any of a number of folks who've tried to copy the formula - is that you get to watch someone in authority tell an idiot they're an idiot. And the people who show up on the off chance that they can get their money (given that the judgment is paid by the show as a prize, they're 100% likely to collect) tend not to be the sharpest knives in the drawer. "I shouldn't have to reimburse her for the car I destroyed because I told her to declare bankruptcy so she wouldn't have to pay and she didn't do that so it isn't my problem" sort of thing.

In comes the UK. In 2014 Robert Rinder, a barrister from London and a flaming homosexual (this isn't a value judgment but comes into play later) was rather incensed that he believed that the "Judge Judy" format was "ruled" based more on emotion rather than actual legal principles and wanted to "do it right" in the UK.

So ITV agrees. They dubbed him "Judge Rinder" (even though he is not a civil court judge, and wasn't representing himself legally as such) and built a set resembling a civil court in the UK. For dramatic purposes they gave him a gavel (which isn't in use in such courts) and his outfit is a barrister's robe minus wig as opposed to a judge's robes.

And assigned him a "bailiff" (a nice lady named "Hassan") and a gallery/studio audience.

And to his credit, when explaining a ruling, he simplifies the law enough to explain it both to the people "suing" each other and the audience at home. There is a certain educational quality to it being explained for example (more than once through several cases) that when a friend buys something for another friend without any written agreement for repayment for that item, there is no enforceable contract to have that repaid, regardless of what they may have understood.

But the joy of it is that as a flamboyantly gay man with close-cropped bleached short hair, he mugs, gurns, makes exaggerated facial expressions, and uses all manner of snippy, camp, and Kenneth Williams-style "acid drops" towards one or either litigant. His use of the shout "Talking!" as an interjection to interrupt someone trying to interrupt him became a catch-phrase.

This is not to say that the cases don't involve interesting people or some interesting cases (I think in one clip I saw someone was suing someone else over a mankini) but overall the dry legal material is elevated and made much more palatable by the absolutely fabulous way in which Robert Rinder flourishes and swishes through the case.

And of course, because it isn't a real court, though he does demand and expect respect towards it from the litigants, Rinder is within his rights and privileges to make sarcastic and snippy comments about the people standing before him in that peculiar way that only a campy British gay man can look down his nose judgmentally at someone's hair or shoes. But when it gets serious or something comes up which requires a certain amount of delicacy, he immediately settles into a very compassionate, empathic mode.

And it's far better television than Judge Judy's hawkish demeanor, frankly. No disrespect at all to America's judicial sweetheart, but check out some clips on YouTube. This guy's a hoot.

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