Howver, the nationally syndicated program, which airs on 140 stations nationwide and is currently #1 in the ratings in the freshman category, beating “Bethenny,” “The Queen Latifah Show” and “The Arsenio Hall Show,” deviates from the “Maury” model by helping litigants resolve legal issues involving paternity in a manner that respects them, rather than turning them into a spectacle — a course of action that Lake, an attorney and legal advisor who’s regularly contributed to shows like “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “Today,” tells Zap2it.com was necessary in her taking the job.
It was not only a conscious decision, it was a condition. I would’ve not been a part of a project that didn’t represent families and children well. My entire career has been about empowering people, whether it’s through the law or empowering them to lives better lives, life coaching. Whatever I’m doing, it’s about helping people think outside the box and get to the next level of their lives,” Lake explains. “When David Armour, the creator, called me and said ‘I’ve got an idea to do Paternity Court,’ my first instinct was, ‘Now, you need to tell me a little bit more.’ And when he began to explain it, it spoke to me because he said, ‘I want to do paternity in a way it’s never been done. I want to give the legal angle to this.'”
“Look, we know people are interested in paternity. You know, ‘Maury’ and other shows, they’ve been doing ’em for years, but they haven’t been done they way we’re doing it,” she adds. “And I was excited about that because ultimately out show is about empowering families. It’s about helping families figure out their truth and then, ultimately, find out where to go from there.”
Part of what makes Lake’s work on “Paternity Court” stand out has been her willingness to continue contact with the litigants who’ve appeared on the show, highlighting a deeper respect and care for them than usually see on most shows of the sort.
”My interest in this project was not just about the regular a-ha moment of are you or are you not the father because that’s just one fact we deliver, but the real issue that fascinates me and intrigues me, and that I try to encourage our litigants on in every episode, is: Now that you have the truth, where do you go from this point?” she admits. “Because ultimately there is a child or a person at stake. And this truth, this DNA evidence is their missing piece. As it is sometimes in life, just like a puzzle, you may have all the pieces to the puzzle … but you still may just have the puzzle, all the pieces and don’t know how to put them together. So I’m excited about the fact that this show gives me the opportunity to help empower people to figure out how to put it together and I can give them that advice, I can give them that encouragement, that inspiration, that motivation and we also can provide counseling resources for them if they need it.”
As for why the show has soared to such heights in the ratings, Lake attributes that to the different and respectful approach the show has taken. “I think it’s because paternity has been that dirty little secret that so many people don’t want to talk about and because it has not been handled in the way we’ve handled it, I think it continued to be a dirty little secret, but because we’ve added a responsible, legal angle to this issue, and we have allowed people to come into our courtroom, and let’s be frank, with colorful stories. Lots of stuff going on. I mean, these people are in places most of us can’t imagine in our life ever being, and yet, there’s something we can find in common with them because of the we unfold the story,” she says. “Because I’m able to pull back the layers as the judge, as a person who’s practiced law for almost 20 years, I’m able to get past those moments and figure out not just the fact that you’re here, but how you got here because understanding that is what will set you up to do better in the future, and I think the viewer is responding to that. This show is about secrets, it’s about ridding yourself of shame, it’s about second chances, it’s about truth, it’s about family, it’s about relationships, it’s about children — and I think that resonates with our audience.”
“Paternity Court” airs five days a week. Check your local listings or the “Paternity Court” station finder to find out when it airs in your area.