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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Lauren Lake is the judge on "Paternity Court," which starts Sept. 23 on WCGV-TV My 24. (PHOTO: Ron Jaffe / TM & Orion TV Productions, Inc. All rights reserved)

"Paternity Court" brings cases, relationship insights to My 24


Relationships can define who we are.

A new syndicated program that starts next week may seem pretty formulaic on the surface. However, it takes a deep dive into the connections that make people who they are.

"Paternity Court" with Lauren Lake is set to air on WCGV-TV My 24 at 9 and 9:30 a.m. weekdays.

"I'm very excited. This was the best mix of taking my legal experience and experience of being a counselor," Lake said of this latest television venture.

A member of the New York, New Jersey and Michigan bars with concentrations in family, criminal, entertainment law, Lake serves as the courtroom judge on the new half-hour show. She listens to the show participants as they have questions and issues regarding their connection with someone else.

"I'm the judge and the DNA is the jury," Lake said in a telephone interview last week. "It could be a case where the paternity of a child is in dispute, or where a pair of women wanted to find out if they were sisters."

I asked Lake about the show, and what sets it apart from other programs that we've seen with paternity cases and the big reveal in front of an audience.

"Well, with the courtroom component, there's a different decorum. As the judge, I keep control," she said.

But the show also goes deeper, she said, as it takes a look into the heart of each matter and the reasons behind why the show's guests are looking to the court system for resolution.

"We find out, 'how did you get here?' and 'what's the deep, dark secret?' that someone has been holding," Lake said. "We talk about what led to this point. Upon the reveal, whether are you or are you not the father, I talk about the legal obligations … and the moral responsibility."

"I go over with them the legal rights in the legal component. We want the a-ha moment to be the DNA evidence … then from the a-ha moment we work towards the future. We begin to empower then to understand where it stands right now."

Lake said that in some of the cases she's able to get the people to see what the heart says … that it takes the connection to be the father, but it takes love to make a daddy.

"Sometimes it is a generational, cyclical thing. Everyone deserves a second chance and understand the need and desire and apologize, ask for forgiveness, to bare all and share their shame," Lake said.

"I want that light bulb to get turned on. Through every disagreement, we move to what's in the best interest of the child … and hammer it home."

Lake credits her parents for shaping her upbringing and understands that in many cases that come before her, people didn't have both parents to help shape family connections.

On a personal level, Lake is looking forward to this next step in her television professional portfolio. She told me she became interested in television after being followed for a month by a British documentary crew that were creating a program on the real life of working professional women in New York. At that time, she was single, balancing her legal career, dating and singing backup for artists like Sean "Puffy" Combs.

She said that she had trouble balancing everything and was in awe of her mother who worked, made sure dinner was on the table by 6:30 and all the children were put to bed each night.

"I was a practicing attorney, background singer and dating … there was so much going on. I spoke honestly about it," Lake said.

Her appearance in the production landed her on the "Today" show on NBC. That started a professional career in television making appearances on CNN, HLN and a number of talk shows like "Dr. Phil," "Nancy Grace," "O'Reilly Factor," "Bill Cunningham," "Ricki Lake" and "The View."

"I spoke my truth. Not being fearful of speaking the truth, people related to me," she said. "Here (on 'Paternity Court') I tell people, 'don't be fearful of your truth.' All I know is if they speak the truth, you can't fault them for that."

When the show started production back in July, producers knew the show was going to air in the top 50 markets and had deals with more than 140 stations.

"The issue of paternity has long resonated with audiences across the country and 'Paternity Court' will tell the stories of emotionally life-changing issues beyond the parent/child relationship," said John Bryan, the president of domestic television distribution for MGM Television.

"Our hope is Lauren Lake's verdict will inspire litigants to take responsibility for the outcome and provide resolution. We've had an overwhelmingly positive response from our syndication partner stations and look forward to many successful broadcast seasons."

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