Originally posted by Phil Lewis (Contributor)
When it was announced that “Judge Mathis,” the long-running court show hosted by Greg Mathis, had been canceled after over 20 years on air, fans immediately expressed dismay upon hearing the news — and at having to let their grandmothers know.
The verdict is in: Syndicated court staples “Judge Mathis” and “The People’s Court” will both end their run at the end of this season, Variety has confirmed. https://t.co/Yv7XvnKrnE3:24 PM ∙ Feb 18, 2023
“I started watching Judge Mathis with my grandmother,” said Candace Rogers, a Miami-based attorney. Her grandmother was also the first person she called when the news about the show broke.
For many, “Judge Mathis” was more than a show you happened to catch while you were home sick and absent from school. Black viewers told me they would watch the show with their parents and grandparents, a communal experience growing up that they fondly look back upon.
“If I’m off from work and I’ll go see my grandparents throughout the day, if ‘Judge Mathis’ is on, we’ll sit, watch it, and laugh,” Rogers explained. “It’s definitely something that I used to connect with my grandparents.”
“Judge Mathis” isn’t the first show of its kind. There was already a long history of arbitration-based reality court shows, beginning with “The People’s Court” in 1981. “Judge Judy,” which premiered in 1996 and was led by former Manhattan judge Judith Sheindlin, revived the genre and became the longest-running courtroom show in continuous production. Judge Joe Brown was the first Black man to preside over his own courtroom television show.
However, Greg Mathis holds the crown as the longest-running Black male host on TV. First airing in 1999, the show was the first introduction to the courtroom for many young Black watchers. They saw themselves represented on the small screen and found in him an authenticity to which they could relate.
Mathis was raised by a single mother in Detroit. He grew up in the infamous Herman Gardens neighborhood in the 1970s, a public housing project known for crime and drugs. After becoming involved with the notorious Errol Flynns street gang and getting incarcerated, he was able to turn his life around and attend Eastern Michigan University, where he discovered his passion for politics. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy and would later become the youngest district court judge in Michigan history.
“He wasn’t trying to be like some of the other judges, you know?” said Terry Dodd, an Illinois resident who was a frequent member of the show’s audience. “Hardly any judge talks about their background like Judge Mathis does. That’s what I like about him.”
In watching “Judge Mathis,” Dontrey Tatum said the show inspired him to pursue a career in the legal field. “I resonated with him because he, like much like myself, did not grow up in the best environment, and I was able to see what he could overcome,” said Tatum, an attorney in the Dallas area.
“Seeing an African-American man overcoming so much to become a practicing attorney and future judge made me see there’s more I could personally become and could do in life because of him.”