Night Court: Paying Tribute to the Classic Sitcom

We review the revival of hit 1980s NBC sitcom Night Court starring Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette.

Last Updated on April 27, 2024

One of the saddest things about growing older is watching beloved icons pass away. Fans of Night Court have been hit harder than most, with a huge chunk of the leading cast having passed away in recent years. The show, which is now in the midst of a high rated revival on NBC (with surviving star John Larroquette reprising his role as Dan Fielding), still holds up very well. It’s currently streaming on Freevee, and some of the episodes brilliantly stand the test of time. Our own Dave Arroyo, show runner of Gone But Not Forgotten, penned a brilliant tribute to the show that you can watch embedded above.

The premise of the show, which premiered on NBC on January 4, 1984, and ended on May 31, 1992, was simple. Harry Anderson, who was well known as a comedian and magician at the time (known as Harry the Hat) played a young, optimistic judge named Harry Stone, who was put in charge of the titular Night Court. His night shift bailiff would be the hulking Bull Shannon (Richard Moll), Charles Robinson’s Mac would be his cynical, NAM-vet court clerk, while John Larroquette’s Dan Fielding would be the lascivious prosecutor.

The show, which came from Reinhold Weege, had a middling start in the ratings. Notably, the cast often changed in the first season, only really gelling when Markie Post joined as public defender Christine Sullivan in Season 3, while Marsha Warfield became Bull’s bailiff partner after both women who previously played the role (Selma Diamond and Florence Halop) died.

night court

From then on, the show was like a freight train, with Larroquette such a breakout star that he nabbed Emmy’s in four consecutive years, only for him to eventually take himself out of contention as he felt his co-stars weren’t getting enough credit. The show ended in 1992, and Anderson, Post and Robinson reunited on 30 Rock years later.

While a reboot of the series had been percolating for many years, by the time it made it to air, three legendary cast members had died. First, Harry Anderson, then Charles Robinson, and finally Markie Post. Just recently, Richard Moll, who many hoped would return in the Night Court sequel series, passed away. Of the main cast, besides Larroquette, there’s Marsha Warfield, who’s already shown up on the reboot series once, still around. Ironically, one of the oldest semi-regular cast members, John Astin, who played Harry’s father, is alive and well, having just recently retired for his second career as a University professor at Johns Hopkins.

In the meantime, season two of the Night Court reboot should enter production by the time the SAG strike ends. In the meantime, if you’re on the fence about watching it, here’s our critic Alex Maidy’s review:

Review: NBC’s Night Court is the latest classic series getting the revival treatment. While we have recently been critical of many reboots, many of us at are excited for this one, as the original Night Court holds a special place in our hearts. Initially running for nine seasons starting in 1984, Night Court boasted an excellent ensemble cast, including the late Harry Anderson and the . Revivals can be tricky, especially with multi-camera sitcoms, which look somewhat dated these days. Thankfully, I am happy to report that the new Night Court is a satisfying successor to the original comedy and boasts a bunch of new faces alongside returning star of the original, John Larroquette.

Night Court,NBC,Melissa Rauch,John Larroquette

Thirty years after the original series went off the air, Night Court is back with a sequel series that serves both as a continuation of the classic sitcom and a reboot. Taking the place of Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson) is his daughter Abby (Melissa Rauch). Following in her late father’s footsteps, Abby is a bubbly personality who wants to find goodness in the criminals in her courtroom. Rauch, who found great success on The Big Bang Theory, plays Abby as wholesome and friendly but with a more natural voice and personality than on her prior CBS sitcom. Abby is joined by a new Assistant District Attorney, Olivia, played by India de Beaufort, taking over for John Larroquette’s Dan Fielding. When the public defender quits, Abby finds Dan and convinces him to rejoin the night court but on the other side. Larroquette, who played Fielding as a womanizing snob, is still the same baritone smartass but one who has gained some perspective since the passing of his wife. After some convincing, Dan joins the crew, and the series is on its way.

The cast also includes Lacretta as Donna “Gurgs” Gurganis, the peppy bailiff who is a solid replacement for Marsha Warfield and Richard Moll. She is funny in a way that comes at times to come across as naive, but others show an intelligence that makes her much more interesting than a cliche, sassy sidekick. Replacing Charles Robinson’s clerk, Mac is Kapil Talwalkar as Neil, a lovelorn guy who wants to get out of the night court. The entire cast has good chemistry together, but the real champions of this series have always been the wacky criminals who come through and the weirdos hanging out around the courthouse. Like the original series, this new Night Court has plenty of kooky scene-stealers from the first episode and throughout the six made available for this review.

In the episodes I have seen, Night Court doesn’t miss a beat trying to replicate the classic series’s tone, look, and format. The set is a faithful recreation of the 1984 courthouse, and even the opening theme is a slightly updated (and truncated) version of the original. Interestingly, the pilot is the only episode that feels like it has to reintroduce these characters and comes off a little clunky, but the second episode of the series feels like it has been on the air for years. The cast all handle the material adeptly and make this feel like a natural continuation of where the first series left off in 1992. I will caution you that this series sticks to the traditional format of a “live in front of a studio audience” sitcom, with the characters mugging for applause and occasional moments of broadly over-the-top delivery of jokes. In short, if you expect this to be a 21st-century reboot, you will be disappointed.

The reboot of Night Court comes from the production team of Melissa Rauch, her husband Winston Rauch, and John Larroquette. All three are avid fans of the original series and have an invested interest in making this series feel like a worthwhile successor to the sitcom without turning it into a woke recreation. There are certainly references to many political events in recent years including the #MeToo movement, George Floyd protests, and more, but there never come across as preachy or impact the humor of the episodes. Showrunner and writer Dan Rubin, a veteran of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Scrubs, keeps his staff on the ball with episodes that are as wacky as the original series and consistently feel like they could have been storylines thirty years ago.

Night Court,NBC,Melissa Rauch,John Larroquette

Night Court is a broad, multi-camera sitcom that mugs for the camera, makes silly jokes, and manages to feel like an homage to all the funny shows we watched in the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike some recent reboots like Murphy Brown and Will & Grace, Night Court works because it blends the classic elements of the series that inspired it by bringing back legacy characters but also adding in a new main cast who echo the original series without being carbon copies. Fans of Night Court should enjoy this new series quite a bit, but I hesitate to think many new viewers will be as enamored by the old-school style and jokes of this throwback. Hopefully, enough people check this show out and enjoy it and trigger a resurgence for this type of comedy, but I will settle for anyone to take this as a reason to go back and discover the original Night Court.

Night Court (2023) premiered on NBC in January of 2023 and was renewed for a second season that started airing in December of the same year.



About the Author

3191 Articles Published