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Whatever Happened To Judge Reinhold?

In the 1980s, Judge Reinhold was hotter than the Nintendo Entertainment System. More popular than Cabbage Patch Kids. Cooler than the Walkman ... Okay, that's pushing it. Maybe he wasn't the biggest movie star in the world, but films such as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Beverly Hills Cop" proved he could hang with the A-list and not look out of place. Plus, it helped that those movies brought in more than a few pennies too.

Former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, once declared that Reinhold had all the tools to become a leading star in the business, and he received the chance with projects like 1988's "Vice Versa" and 1990's "Over Her Dead Body," but the actor largely disappeared in the '90s. Apart from "The Santa Clause" film series, he hasn't appeared in major productions and vanished from the limelight altogether. 

Reinhold doesn't have a fraction of the drawing power he once had in the '80s, and there are a variety of reasons his career never reached its full potential. Some of it can be chalked down to bad luck, while the rest is about choices in the moment. However, never say never in the entertainment business or write off Reinhold from making a comeback. All it takes is one film or television show, and he could be right back at the top of the mountain. We take a look at what happened to Judge Reinhold after his career heyday. 

Millennials don't know who Judge Reinhold is

Fame is fickle, and what's popular today might not necessarily be popular tomorrow. The same can be said of actors, many of whom go through peaks and troughs in their careers — just because they are popular for a time doesn't mean that will always be the case. That said, most audiences are still able to recognize well-known performers when they appear on screen, even when they aren't at the height of their star power. That is unless you're a millennial and come across the name of Judge Reinhold, according to Rolling Stone.

In 2013, the publication ran a poll and accompanying feature about 50 Things Millennials Have Never Heard Of. Reinhold found his name on the list alongside other relics of the past such as "Leisure Suit Larry" and floppy discs. While Rolling Stone gave Reinhold his flowers for being a bona fide star in the '80s, it also acknowledged how the '90s halted all his momentum for greatness.

A viewer is indeed more likely to instantly identify other '80s stars such as Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks before Reinhold; however, he's far from a nobody. Younger generations who are fans of "Beverly Hills Cop" and "The Santa Clause" films are sure to recognize and appreciate his work. Also, with the rise of streaming services and older films filling up the catalogs, there's less of a chance of him being forgotten altogether.

The Santa Clause brought him attention again

Despite movies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Gremlins," and "Beverly Hills Cop" turning him into a well-known actor throughout the '80s, the early '90s was a relatively quiet period for Judge Reinhold. He went back to being a supporting actor in lesser-known films, such as the 1991 erotic thriller "Zandalee" and 1993's "Bank Robber," while also making the odd television show appearance. In 1994, he had two big films, though, as he reprised his role as Detective Billy Rosewood in "Beverly Hills Cop III" and took the part of Dr. Neil Miller in "The Santa Clause." The latter proved to be a wise choice for him, as Reinhold returned for the sequels — "The Santa Clause 2" in 2002 and "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" in 2006.

All three films in "The Santa Clause" series turned humongous profits and established themselves as popular family-friendly flicks — especially over the holiday season. They also kept Reinhold relevant in a time in which the parts he received weren't exactly top-tier or anything to write home about. Lest we forget, his biggest films in the early 2000s were "Beethoven's 3rd" and "Beethoven's 4th," and by this point, even the beloved St. Bernard wanted to lift his leg on the atrocious scripts for those movies. Yet, "The Santa Clause" movies offered him a chance to keep his name in a mainstream franchise, while he held onto a glimmer of hope that "Beverly Hills Cop" could return too.

The North Hollywood project with Judd Apatow didn't happen

In the world of entertainment, a pilot being ordered offers no guarantees that the series will be picked up. However, it's valuable to keep an ear to the ground to figure out what the networks are specifically looking for. That's exactly what Judd Apatow did in 2001. As he explained to Vanity Fair, he heard ABC/Disney wanted to get into the business of "edgier comedy." So, he took inspiration from Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to create "North Hollywood," which centered on a group of people trying to get a foot in the door in showbiz. The pilot features the talents of a pre-famous Amy Poehler, Jason Siegel, and Kevin Hart — as well as Judge Reinhold who plays himself.

While Hollywood loves nothing more than projects about itself, Apatow revealed that ABC changed its mind about the direction of the show as they were shooting it. "They wanted it to be more retro, like 'Happy Days,'" he said. "And while we were shooting, we thought, 'They're never, ever gonna order this.' And they didn't."

Ultimately, "North Hollywood" never materialized, but the cast went on to have successful careers without it. Even so, it's worth pondering what the show could have done for someone like Reinhold at the time. Considering how smart comedies like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Arrested Development" proved to be smash hits of the era, "North Hollywood" could have been the start of the Reinhold renaissance, but it wasn't to be.

His sitcom was canceled after eight episodes

Despite the disappointment of "North Hollywood" not being picked up, Judge Reinhold found himself leading his own sitcom two years later in "The O'Keefes" in 2003. In the show, Reinhold plays Harry O'Keefe, who along with his wife, Ellie (Kirsten Nelson), homeschooled their children — Mark (Matt Weinberg), Danny (Joseph Cross), and Lauren (Tania Raymonde) — for most of their childhood. Now, as the kids encounter the outside world, they realize how unprepared they are for it and how sheltered they have been.

Right from the get-go, the sitcom faced heat for its depiction of homeschooling, with organizations encouraging the public to write to Warner Bros. to complain about the program. However, by the time the letters arrived at the studio executive's desks, it would have been too late, since the show barely lasted a month on air. Eight episodes of the sitcom were produced, but only five aired before the plug was pulled on it entirely. It didn't get good reviews either, and Bruce Fretts for CNN was particularly scathing of the star: "The eternally grating Judge Reinhold plays the father, so you know it's gonna be the pits."

For Reinhold, it was a bitter blow to any chance of establishing himself as a television star, especially with his film career also teetering on the edge. A decent run on "The O'Keefes" could have led to him receiving more offers for other sitcoms in the future and revitalised his career. Unfortunately, this all but affirmed the belief that he wasn't leading man material — for either film or television.

Judge Reinhold's Arrested Development cameo had potential

Judge Reinhold appears in "Arrested Development" Season 3 where he plays a fictional version of himself on the show. In the episode titled "Fakin' It," Reinhold finds out how much money Judge Judy makes from her series, so he decides he wants a piece of the action and ventures into the world of courtroom reality television as well. After much back and forth about the title of the program, he settles on the name "Mock Trial with J. Reinhold," and the Bluths feature in one of his mock trials. Expectedly, hilarity ensues and shenanigans run amok.

Reinhold leans into the archetypal humor of "Arrested Development" in this role, and the episode he features in was received fairly positively by fans and critics – Yardbarker even rated it as one of the best episodes from the entire series. Unfortunately, it didn't lead to a bigger part in the show or recurring appearances, which some may have expected based on the nature of his performance here.

It's also surprising how no one considered turning "Mock Trial with J. Reinhold" into a spin-off show whereby Reinhold could act as a judge and preside over mock trials in his own starring vehicle. A courtroom-themed sitcom like "Night Court" proved to be extremely successful in the past, and playing off Reinhold's name could have had a similar effect for another series. Alas, no one deemed it to be a good enough idea to pursue.

He was arrested in 2016

In December 2016, Judge Reinhold found his name in the papers and on television again. However, it wasn't for his acting work or for collecting a lifetime achievement award, instead, it was for his arrest at Dallas Love Field Airport. According to news reports, the actor refused to cooperate with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents who wanted to check his backpack as part of security protocol. He reportedly took off his shirt and used colorful language to express his dissatisfaction with their request. As a result, he was hauled off and charged with a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct. However, he took the opportunity to smile at the cameras and speak to the media as he was taken away by the authorities.

After his release, Reinhold apologized for the incident and said he was embarrassed about what had taken place. He blamed the event on a negative reaction he had to respiratory infection medication he had taken at the time.

A few days later, he took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to poke fun at the incident. In a follow-up post, he wrote: "'No man is poor who has friends!' Thanks my friends for your laughter and support through my misadventures of the past few days."

The Beverly Hills Cop TV show never happened

After "Beverly Hills Cop III" released in 1994, the plan was to do a fourth film. However, it bounced around in various stages of development for three decades. At one point, someone had the idea to instead do "Beverley Hills Cop" as a television series and the networks seemed to be on board.

"The Shield" showrunner Shawn Ryan joined the CBS production, which would have been styled as a police procedural and focused on Axel Foley's son, Aaron, as he joins the police force. In the lead role, Brandon T. Jackson would have played Aaron.

Judge Reinhold signed up for the pilot, reprising his role as Billy Rosewood from the movies, while Eddie Murphy also cameoed as Axel. Unfortunately, the show didn't get picked up by the network because Murphy wasn't interested in having a recurring role at all. "The reason that didn't get picked up was because [the studio] thought that I was going to be in this show, because [the lead] was my son: 'And you're going to pop in every now and then,'" Murphy told IndieWire. "I was like, 'I ain't popping in s***.' 'Well, we ain't making this TV show.' I was in the pilot, but they wanted me to be there every week." Murphy added that the pilot tested well, but he had no desire to regularly appear on the show. Ultimately, this sank the deal, as well as Reinhold's chances of appearing in the series.

He started taking smaller roles

After failing to land prominent roles in film and television, Judge Reinhold didn't pack it in and call it a day. Instead, he took whatever came his way and did the best with the material and size of the role on offer.

Critics noticed it as well, as he received positive words in the Los Angeles Times' review of the 2016 comedy series "The Detour." Reviewer Robert Lloyd wrote: "The small, in-passing parts, including Judge Reinhold as a scruffy garage mechanic, are well-conceived and cast and carried off."

He also plays a prominent role in the 2017 indie comedy "Bad Grandmas," where he portrays the criminal Harry Lovelace who faces off against four grandmothers after they accidentally kill his partner. The film also stars Florence Henderson and Pam Grier. Later that year, he also appeared as Russ Peterson in the holiday Lifetime film "Four Christmases and a Wedding," which also features Arielle Kebbel and Corey Sevier. While it might not have been a mainstream or celebrated release, it was a paycheck in tough economic times.

Judge Reinhold returned for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley

After the "Beverly Hills Cop" television show didn't get the green light from CBS, no one would begrudge Judge Reinhold for thinking his time in Axel Foley's orbit would be over. It wasn't only the disappointment of the show not moving ahead, but also the fact the fourth film was stuck in development hell for three decades. At this point, it was like the cinematic equivalent of Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy," whereby it's seen more as a mythical legend rather than a reality. That said, "Beverly Hills Cop 4" languished in uncertainty for far longer than the fabled rock album ever did.

Yet, like "Chinese Democracy," the fourth film did eventually enter and wrap production. Written by Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten, and directed by Mark Malloy, "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" sees the return of Eddie Murphy as the wise-cracking detective with an unmistakable laugh. Joining him on another adventure is his old pal and partner Billy Rosewood, who will be played once again by Judge Reinhold. Speaking to THV11, Reinhold spoke about the delay in getting the sequel done, saying: "Eddie was very determined to wait until we had a really great script, and I'm glad he did."

Whether it proves to be the last ride for Foley or Rosewood, no one knows right now — but it at least puts them back on screen together and lets them close the story how they deem fit.

He could still appear in The Santa Clauses TV series

Taking into account how Judge Reinhold featured in "The Santa Clause" movies, the expectation was always that he would return to play Dr. Neil Miller if the franchise ever made a comeback. While it stayed dormant for over 15 years after 2006's "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," it eventually returned as a Disney+ series titled "The Santa Clauses" in 2022, which features Tim Allen returning as Scott Calvin/Santa Claus and Elizabeth Mitchell as Carol Calvin/Mrs. Claus.

However, the first season came and went without an appearance from Reinhold's Dr. Miller — something that puzzled fans of the original film series. Speaking to TheWrap in November 2022, Allen explained why Reinhold and other major stars didn't feature. "We weren't able to get Wendy Crewson and [Judge] Reinhold ... yet," he said. "And we weren't able to get Spencer Breslin and the legendary figures. There was just too many people. There's just too much story."

Reinhold didn't appear in the second season of the show, either. However, it's entirely possible he may have had a scheduling conflict due to him filming "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" in late 2022. Considering how Allen hasn't shut the door on Dr. Miller appearing once again, it's highly likely that Judge Reinhold will reprise his role in "The Santa Clauses" — just as long as it stays in active production.