“Hot Bench” renewed for second season; shifts to WBBM-TV


In an unusual move, at least in this day and age, freshman first-run strip Hot Bench is changing stations locally in the middle of the season.

As part of a CBS O&O deal, Hot Bench – syndicated by co-owned CBS Television Distribution – is shifting to WBBM-Ch.2 where it will air weekdays at 2 p.m effective as of March 30. In addition, CBS is upgrading Bench from its non-traditional affiliate stations to its primary outlets in early fringe in five other markets: New York (WCBS), Los Angeles (KCBS); Dallas (KTVT); Boston (WBZ); and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (WFOR)

Bench is also moving to CBS-owned KCNC in Denver, where its being slotted at 3 p.m., moving from Fox affiliate KDVR, where it airs at 2 p.m. The changes take effect also on March 30.

In the Chicago area, Bench airs at 11 a.m. weekdays on WCIU-DT 26.2, also known as The U Too. A secondary run airs on WCIU’s main channel at 5 a.m.

In these cases – including Chicago, Bench is replacing the canceled Queen Latifah Show, which is airing its final first-run episode in March. Laftiah is likely to finish out the remainder of her contract in overnight time slots – if the CBS-owned stations choose to do so.

Schedules changes in local stations lineups in midseason are increasingly rare – they were more commonplace in the 1980’s and 1990’s when stations would downgrade an underperforming show, replacing it with a stronger program. In recent times, stations stuck with programming throughout the season, preferring to make changes in September – even if the ratings tanked. But CBS wants to strike the iron while its hot – and Hot Bench is a hot show (no pun intended.)

In its freshman season, Hot Bench is averaging a 1.5 live-plus-same day household rating and 2 million viewers, ranking it far and away as the top-rated freshman show. During the November sweeps, Bench averaged a 1.7 household rating.

What makes Bench different from other courtroom shows is the use of three judges: Tanya Acker, Larry Bakman, and Patricia DiMango instead of one – to hear cases. After testimony, the cameras follows the trio to chambers where they discuss the case and reach a verdict. The series was created by Judy Sheindlin, who of course is known as Judge Judy. She came up with the idea from observing court cases with a three-judge panel while vacationing in Ireland with her husband (more proof that you can create programming anytime, anywhere.)

Her husband by the way, is Jerry Sheindlin, who presided over two seasons of The People’s Court from 1999-2001.