The verdict is in: Judge Judy is the new queen of daytime TV.
When longtime ratings champ Oprah Winfrey ended her syndicated talk show last year, she left a void at the top of the daytime ratings heap, and the tough-talking Brooklyn judge with the fancy lace collar was all too happy to fill it. "Judge Judy," now in its 16th season, averaged nearly 8 million viewers last month, which makes it the top syndicated program on daytime TV. And that's not all: Those numbers actually represent a 3 percent increase from last year, and are the highest sweeps ratings "Judy" has ever earned.
"Judge Judy," of course, centers on former family court judge Judith Sheindlin (69 years young!) deciding small-claims cases with her trademark brand of common-sense wisdom. And she gets paid very well to do it: As of 2010, Sheindlin was already pulling in a whopping $45 million a year from the show. As ridiculous as that sounds, with these ratings, it's entirely possible she's actually underpaid. (Have you tried watching any of those other courtroom shows? Yeah, we didn't think so.)
Watch Judge Judy discuss Octomom and Twitter in this ABC News interview:
Meanwhile, Oprah's disciple Dr. Phil has taken over the top slot among daytime talk shows, with his self-help series earning about 4 million viewers each weekday. He's followed in that category by fellow Oprah offshoot "Dr. Oz" (3 million viewers) and "Ellen" (2.7 million), whose ratings are also up this year in Oprah's absence.
And no need to use a lifeline to call Regis: "Live With Kelly" is doing just fine in the wake of longtime host Regis Philbin's departure last November, down only a tenth of a ratings point from last year while pairing Kelly Ripa with a rotating series of guest hosts.