Judge Judy Producer, Randy Douthit Talks About Producing During A Pandemic

After 25 years of Judge Judy and completing part 1 of the first streaming season of Judy Justice, veteran television producer Randy Douthit and Judge Judy Sheindlin are coming back for more.

Douthit says the small-claims courtroom show Judy Justice, produced by Amazon Studios after the original Judge Judy spent a quarter of a century on CBS, will be back for part 2 in 2022 after completing the first part of the run during pandemic-plagued 2021. “So that’s big,” Douthit says. “This last round with Judy, with Amazon, we had to do 120 episodes in three months. It was a lot.”

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Making It Work

It is a lot. But Randy Douthit has been doing this for a long time. With experience comes knowledge. And speed. “The biggest challenge is to make sure that the production runs smoothly,” Douthit says. “But I’m very fast at what I do. If you don’t do something correctly, it causes all kinds of problems. So, be quick about it and get it right the first time.”

While working at speed may be an old hat to Douthit at this point in his career, like everyone else, he had to start somewhere. And that somewhere certainly was not a highly rated and beloved arbitration-based reality court show.

“I started in local television,” Douthit recalls. “I was very young. I was still going to school at the time. But one thing I did was: I was always there. I was always willing to do whatever it takes to get a show on the air. Just do the job.”

He says he was able to put the hours in because he enjoyed what he was doing (we should all be so lucky!). “I loved doing it and therefore I did it well,” he says. “And I think if people enjoy doing it, they’ll also do it well. If they’re complaining they don’t like it, they should probably do something else.”

How Randy Douthit Started His Career

After his beginnings in local TV and before his multi-decade stint working with Judy Sheindlin, Randy Douthit was at a fledgling cable network that was hoping to change the news business by providing 24-hour coverage of the events of the day. That new network, run out of Atlanta, was known as Cable News Network. We know it as CNN.

“I actually joined CNN right in the beginning,” Douthit says. “I was doing feature stories in New York. I did news talk shows in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Then I started a program called Crossfire.

Crossfire, a current events debate program featuring two pundits, one from the political right and one from the left, premiered in 1982 in the 11:30 p.m. slot on CNN, with Randy Douthit as the original producer.

The show’s initial duo was former CIA official and journalist Tom Braden, representing the “left,” and conservative political operative, politician, and broadcaster Pat Buchanan picking up the mantle for the “right.”

“Pat Buchanan was very conservative,” Douthit says. “He worked in the Nixon White House as a speechwriter. Tom Braden was an author. He’s Mr. Eight is Enough.” Eight is Enough — based on Braden’s autobiographical book of the same name — ran from 1977 to 1981 on ABC.

While politics has always had a bit of a sharp edge in the United States, Douthit says the dynamic between the two original hosts allowed for civil conversation. “Off camera, they [Buchanan and Braden] were friends,” he says. “They’d go and have a drink together. They were quite peaceful. It could be a problem if they weren’t.”

He also says civility isn’t likely in today’s political climate. “Yeah,” Douthit says. “It’s too much. The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction .”

Pandemic TV

After the original Judge Judy aired its final episode on July 23, 2021, Douthit turned his attention to Judy Justice, which was picked up for 120 episodes by Amazon Studios in November 2020 and premiered on Nov. 1, 2021. The 120-episode pickup was the largest ever initial order for a first-run series.

Douthit is director and executive producer of the program; executive producer Scott Koondel and co-executive producer Amy Freisleben are also a part of the Judy Justice team. As Douthit mentioned, the Judy Justice team would need to film 120 episodes in three months. During a pandemic.

Even for a producer with Douthit’s level of experience, the challenge was daunting. “Everyone has to roll up their sleeves and make sure it gets done,” he says. “And we got it done.” But getting it done wasn’t without pandemic-induced hiccups that threatened to slow down a well-oiled machine.

“It’s added costs,” Douthit says. “It’s also [about] being very careful. Everyone on set is vaccinated; everyone gets checked. This adds hours involved in putting the show together. But it’s important that everyone be aware.”

The show and its participants were also not immune to the masking/testing/vaccination squabbles that gripped school board meetings and airlines over the last two years. “Those who were reluctant about getting a test early on, after seeing some situations, they were the first to get those tests,” says Douthit.

Randy Douthit And Judge Judy – A Winning Team

Randy Douthit has worked side by side with Judge Judy Sheindlin for over a quarter of a century. Sheindlin, a former Manhattan family court judge with a tough reputation, offered to take over for the retiring Judge Joseph Wapner on the long-running The People’s Court in 1993. That didn’t come to pass, but Judge Judy premiered in September 1996 — and the rest is history.

“She’s a very warmhearted person,” Douthit says. “She’s got five kids, grown kids, and like 13 grandchildren. And she loves each and every one of them. She’s very devoted to her family.” The second 60 episodes of the first season of Judy Justice premiered Jan. 24 on IMDb TV.

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