By Martin Renzhofer
Salt Lake Tribune 12/14/99
When CBS unveiled "Judging Amy" this fall, it was
likened to "Providence," which became a minor
midseason sensation for NBC in January.
The premise of each show dealt with a woman in her
mid-30s, at the crossroads of a career, who seeks the
comfort of the old hometown.
In "Judging Amy," which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Ch. 2
(KUTV), Amy Gray, played by Amy Brenneman, is a single
mother who leaves New York City to become a judge in
She lives with her strong-willed mother, Maxine, played by
Tyne Daly, a one-time social activist who continues to
keep a hawk-eye out for her daughter and granddaughter.
However, while "Providence" relies on character and
emotional gimmicks, including the spirit of a dead mother,
the less smarmy "Judging Amy" tries to create real
characters with sincere motivations.
The result? "Judging Amy," based on Brenneman's
mother, has continually flirted with the top 10 in Nielsen
"My mother is a superior court judge who is in juvenile
matters like the character I play," said Brenneman. "So, in
that way I am playing her job, although I probably have a
different style from her on the bench. But in the
relationship of me to Maxine, I am very much me.
"It was based on her and then, when [producer Barbara
Hall] wrote the script it became something else. And then
certainly when Tyne Daly came in it became something
else. So, it has become its own thing."
Brenneman, best known for playing Janice Licalsi on
"NYPD Blue," is a graduate of Harvard University, and
was born in New London, Conn. So she has the
educational and geographical background for the story.
The idea for "Judging Amy" came to Brenneman more
than three years ago during a birthday party for her
"I made a videotape for her, and part of that was I spent
three days in the Hartford court and kind of reacquainted
myself with a lot of people I had known growing up. Social
workers and judges and probation officers. And I hadn't
done any TV for a while, but I kept thinking, 'I think there's
a TV show here.'"
Brenneman pitched the idea to all of the networks, but
she received the most support from CBS.
The success of "Judging Amy" has had repercussions on
at least one other network. It forced ABC to keep "Once
and Again" on air in the "NYPD Blue" time slot. Initially
ABC scheduled "Once and Again," the story of two
40-something single parents, to air for a month before
taking it off until January.
But the show was a hit and ABC feared it would lose its
female demographic to "Judging Amy," and instead
pushed the season premier of "NYPD Blue" to January.
Now, "Once and Again" has faltered a bit in the ratings,
while "Judging Amy" is flourishing.
"You've got to go home at some point in your life," said
Brenneman. "Or you have to, even inside your spirit,
make some sense of it. I know for me, a lot of my 20s was
about going off and proving that I wasn't like my mother. I
was so different, I wasn't going to do anything like her.
And then we all know, you fall flat on your face, because
you are exactly like your parents."