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A Long Divorce

2/01/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern

She was doing it before Dr. Phil hit the airwaves, and Divorce Court's Judge Mablean Ephriam is approaching her 1,000th episode with the same no-nonsense approach to life, marriage and advice that she started out with in 1999.

"I say things to people that their mother needed to tell them, and I tell them things they need to change," Ephriam says. "I also give them some direction so they can begin living a fruitful and productive life."

The show's 1,000th episode airs this Thursday and will review Ephriam's five-year reign over her TV courtroom.

"We have some of the most memorable guests, some unusual arbitrations and some heart-wrenching clips, and we surprise Mablean at the end with some clips we put together where she is very emotional," says executive producer Laura Gelles. "I think Mablean has just really come into her own. She knows exactly what to say now."

Besides serving as the show's outspoken judge, Ephriam serves as the show's in-house counselor to people who are seeking to end their marriage or at least resolve issues that have been plaguing it. Viewers have seen Ephriam go through changes in her own life, including losing 70 pounds and talking publicly about her own experience with domestic abuse and divorce.

The show has been a solid performer for Twentieth Television, maintaining a stable 2.7 household rating year-to-year, according to Nielsen Media Research. The higher profile of bailiff Joe Catalano, who last May began counseling men on the program, has given the show a boost among the key male demographics, especially among men 18-34, in which the show has logged a nearly 30% jump over last year.

Divorce Court
is down a bit among young women but is maintaining in the key female demos of women 18-49 and women 25-54. Last month, Twentieth renewed the show for a sixth season.

"I think what we've learned is that viewers like to hear the story unfold," says Twentieth Television President Bob Cook. "It has to revolve around divorce, but there has to be some interesting twists and turns, and they like to hear Mablean give advice."