Judging Amy: A different kind of reality TV


PASADENA, Calif. -- "Judging Amy" has gone beyond the courtroom to be a compelling drama about genuine family conflicts and the love to resolve them.

"What I hear from people is they love the making of family relationships, the humor and the more dramatic stuff," said Emmy nominee Amy Brenneman - the star and one of the executive producers.

She has a technical adviser she can trust - her mother, the third female judge in the history of Connecticut. But Brenneman said her character, Judge Amy Gray, isn't based on the star's mother.

"Judging Amy," which is consistently in the 30 highest-rated shows, will remain in its 10 p.m. Tuesday EDT time slot on CBS.

The series' second season will begin Oct. 3. Donna Kozlowski-Pant, who had a recurring role last season, is joining the cast full time as overeager court clerk Jillian Armenante.

One reason for the drama's success is its realism, Brenneman said during at interview at a CBS press party in Pasadena. She cited a script in which her character turns down a superior court appointment because she feels she can do more good by staying in family court.

Many judges see family court as a weak step for a career. But Brenneman added family court judges like their jobs because they make decisions that can radically improve a young person's life.

"There's no jury; the judge can make a judgment," Brenneman said.

She said she's glad her series is addressing the problems of abused children.

One of the strongest elements of "Judging Amy" is the blunt but compassionate relationship between Amy Gray and her mother, Maxine Gray. The latter role led Tyne Daly this year to her 10th Emmy nomination.

This season, the characters will have more empathy for each other. "They'll get on each other's sides more," Brenneman said.

Daly told reporters she loves that "Judging Amy" puts a widowed grandmother, a divorced mother and a young daughter - Lauren Cassidy, played by Karle Warren - all in the same house. "I'm interested in the generational dynamic.

"I find myself, now, wishing that I lived in some kind of African kraal, where the family was all sort of circled together," Daly said.

"My mother is about to be 80; my ex-mother-in-law, whom I still like a lot, is 84. They live in apartments, by themselves, and I sometimes yearn for them to be a little closer because I do believe in the value of older people and younger people."

Society can benefit from both children's and senior citizens' views of the world, Daly said. She celebrated her 50th birthday by shaving her head and growing new hair as a sign of rebirth.

Daly, who found fame on "Cagney & Lacey," said she has heard of no plans for a reunion movie. She said she's not blasi about having won so many Emmys.

"What they mean is that there is some kind of peer approval," Daly said. "As you know, with the Emmys, actors vote for actors, directors vote for directors, and writers vote for writers. So it means that my act is still working for people who do it. And that's important to me."

Daly said her Emmys are on a shelf at her mother's home.

"She took them off the piano because they annoyed my siblings so much," Daly said. "My kid brother Timmy got robbed! I really was hoping for a nomination for him for 'Execution of Justice,' which was, I thought, a wonderful (Showtime) film."

Her brother, who starred in NBC's long-time sitcom "Wings," will return to broadcast TV this fall as the star of CBS' "The Fugitive." It will air at 8 p.m. Fridays on CBS and will premiere Oct. 6.