Whatever you feel about litigants parrying in your living room, American-style courtroom television seems set to take root in Hong Kong. The first show of its kind, The People's Court, made its debut on TVB Pearl last Saturday. During the one-hour programme, local viewers saw an explicit show of emotions and ferocious argument between plaintiffs and defendants, as well as a torrent of orders from a sharp-tongued judge. First on the show were a couple suing their son's ex-girlfriend over the alleged theft of some furniture. Then there was the man who claimed his girlfriend lied her way into a relationship with him and fooled him into paying for her 'divorce', when she was still happily married. If any distinction is to be drawn between People's Court and its rival, Judge Judy, it would be the younger and 'sexier' presiding judge, Marilyn Milian. The 41-year-old Hispanic is the first woman in charge of the gavel in the series, which was first shown in 1981. Like Judy Sheindlin in her show, there is no shortage of acerbity from Milian. Her one-liners include, 'You're gonna be hand-carried outta here if you call me 'miss' again.' And like Sheindlin, Milian has attracted mixed reviews. Some criticise her for her 'blatantly sexist distrust of men' while others compliment her sense of humour and unflinching directness. Regardless of the controversy, TVB believes the Hong Kong audience will take to the programme. 'Hong Kong people lead a stressful life and they need to see something that doesn't feature in their life to relax,' says TVB assistant programme controller Cecilia Tan Sui-cheng. 'Through this show, you can take a look at the American culture of suing over trivial matters. It's an eye-opener and also a form of escape.' But public response has been lukewarm so far. According to pollster ACNielsen, the first episode in Hong Kong attracted only 59,000 viewers. Tan says it is too early to tell, given that the debut was screened during the holiday season. Veteran TV executive Robert Chua Wah-peng, chairman of China Entertainment Television, also has faith. He has based his own show, You Be The Judge, on the format of The People's Court. But instead of a courtroom, guests will argue their case at the scene of the dispute. And instead of a judge, viewers will use mobile phones to text-message their verdict and the size of any financial award. The show will be launched in three months in Singapore and Chua is planning to tap into Hong Kong later this year. 'The show will be more interesting than the American ones because you can play the judge as long as you have a mobile phone,' he says.