Joseph Wapner, the retired judge who changed television as the judge on "The People's Court," has died. Wapner became an instant hit when the show debuted in September 1981. "The People's Court" was the first TV reality show, and it has since opened the door for many more, including several TV court shows.
Wapner was opinionated, passionate and irascible as he heard thousands of cases during his 12-year run. The show became a touchpoint for pop culture. It was parodied on "Saturday Night Live" and many other shows. Dustin Hoffman's "3 minutes to Wapner" in "Rain Man" became an iconic expression.
Wapner was hospitalized last week with breathing problems. His condition worsened to the point he was taken to his West L.A. home Friday under hospice care. Wapner died Sunday morning, he was 97-year-old. Wapner was married to wife Mickey for 70 years and had 3 kids.