Steve Harvey fans may not know this, but the comedian has long dreamt of becoming a TV judge.
“I came up with this idea 12 years ago and I just never told anybody,” the guy with the gavel behind ABC’s Judge Steve Harvey recently told reporters at the Television Critics Association virtual winter press tour. “I’ve never sat in a pitch room about it. I never met with a network about it. I never discussed it with my team, my production company, nothing. I just had this idea.”
And then Harvey, who doesn’t have a law degree, met with the network’s top brass during the pandemic. They wanted to pitch a potential sitcom to him, but he wasn’t interested. The Family Feud host already had a WB sitcom called The Steve Harvey Show, which ran for six seasons and ended in 2002, and he was looking for a change of pace. When he first mentioned his small-screen adjudicator aspirations, the Zoom call went quiet, but Harvey worked his magic.
“I told them, I wanted it to be funny. I wanted to be insightful,” he recalled. “I wanted it to not be about the verdict, but about the story — and the next day, they greenlit it.”
Entering its third week, Judge Steve Harvey (Tuesdays at 8/7c) has allowed its namesake to mediate all sorts of small-claims cases — including, but not limited to: neighbors suing one another over fallen trees, sisters bickering over misappropriated funeral funds, and a girlfriend suing her boyfriend of 20 years for not marrying her. Harvey was so moved by the plaintiff’s patience with her mate in the latter case that he awarded her more than she was suing for in order to throw herself a “knot married” party.
As part of another case, a frontline essential worker sued a deceptive event planner for misleading her about a raffle-ticket prize for an Atlantic City VIP hotel stay. In an attempt to be fair, Harvey decreased the judgment amount because the planner had paid back the plaintiff some of her money, then reached into his own pocket and treated the plaintiff and two of her friends to an all-expense paid Las Vegas vacation. It was an act of generosity similar to what he would often do on his eponymous syndicated talk show, which ran from 2012 to 2017.
Harvey even has a catchphrase — “and that’s the way I see it” — that he says following each ruling. Sometimes he is laughing so hard, he can barely get it out.
Daytime Emmy winner Myeshia Mizuno, the showrunner and executive producer whose previous credits include Judge Judy, Paternity Court and Divorce Court, said that although Harvey isn’t an official magistrate, his work and life experience made him a perfect fit for the genre.
“It’s a natural progression to have Mr. Harvey as a judge,” she said. “From his standup to the radio to his talk show to his sitcom, this is a natural progression. Him being able to speak on so many things and being able to relate to all types of people is why we know this show is going to be a success.”
What have you thought of Judge Steve Harvey so far? And will you keep watching? Drop your thoughts in the comments.