Faith Jenkins wanted her corn. Sweet, roasted, piping hot corn on the cob, dipped in melted butter and covered with pepper.
If her new courtroom show, “Judge Faith,” gets a positive verdict from daytime audiences when it debuts Monday, she can come back to Minnesota next summer and fans will cart bushels of corn over to her. But on a cloudy late summer afternoon at this year’s State Fair, Jenkins was looking for just one ear of corn — and to pitch her show.
Her first visit to Minnesota was part of a nationwide publicity drive to promote the latest entry in one of TV’s most reliable genres. “Judge Faith” will be part of WUCW’s three-hour block of courtroom shows every weekday afternoon, joining “Judge Mathis,” “The People’s Court” and “Paternity Court.”
“I’m absolutely looking forward to being a positive influence on the younger generation,” Jenkins said before appearing at the CW booth at the fair. “That’s important to me. I’m often thinking about the message I’m sending.”
Every TV gavel pounder might be chasing Judge Judy Sheindlin — who, according to TV Guide, is TV’s highest paid star at about $47 million a year — but there’s apparently enough interest for a lot of players to thrive.
“They’ve replaced the soap opera,” said Hank Cohen, CEO of Trifecta Entertainment, which is producing “Judge Faith.” “We’ve got cases here with anger, sorrow, regret, humor. That’s what viewers used to get from their soaps, but why get the fake version when you can get the real thing?”
These courtroom soaps must be working. Their ratings were up 33 percent last season from a year ago, Cohen said.
Jenkins’ hook is, at 37, she is younger than others in her field and plans to tackle issues that would make Judge Wapner’s head spin. About half of the 70-plus cases she’s taped so far involve some kind of social-media component, such as the couple who met via Instagram and began to quarrel over property after they broke up or the man accused of running an iPhone-selling scam.
“People see me, and they think I’m younger than I really am,” said Jenkins, who, as Miss Louisiana, finished first runner-up in the 2001 Miss America pageant. “I don’t look like someone who has all this knowledge and experience, but when I start talking, I hold my own.”
Jenkins’ doesn’t shy away from being perceived as a role model. In one upcoming episode, she takes time to chastise a 26-year-old prostitute who is being sued by a john for not delivering on their agreement.
“I needed to send a message to her and to the audience, especially young women of color,” the judge said.
She was eager to prove herself to a national audience and — more immediately — to a State Fair jury that was gathering to hear her speak at the CW booth.
She knows a little bit about being in the spotlight. After her pageant days, she graduated from the Southern University Law Center and became a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She’s made many appearances on cable news programs and, in March, became a legal analyst for MSNBC.
But being in people’s home every weekday? That’s a different story.
“I don’t think I’m ready. I really can’t wrap my head around it,” she admitted in an interview. “I’m trying to figure out what it’ll be like to go to a city I’ve never been to and people knowing who I am.”
That still hasn’t happened, even as she stood out at the fair in her green cocktail dress and black shawl.
Jenkins’ Q&A session at the CW stand was sparsely attended, with many of the people there only to recharge their phones. Most of the questions came from her production team and CW staffers, including the guy handling the sound. One of the few queries from the public was from a young woman who wanted to know if Jenkins was single. (For the record, your honor, she is.)
Household fame still may be months away, but at least the judge finally found the Corn Roast booth.
Yes, after nearly a half-hour of hunting, she parked on a yellow bench, took off her shoes, finally put down her cellphone (she’d snapped pictures of butter sculptures, crop art and women on stilts) and bit into her long-awaited treat.
“It’s amazing. Best corn on the cob I’ve ever had,” she opined from the bench, as she pulled out a small makeup mirror to see if there were any kernels in her teeth. “Worth the wait.”