NBC brought back two of its classic series from the Eighties. One is Quantum Leap, based on the anthology series starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell. The other is a reboot of the comedy series, Night Court, starring Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone.

Night Court ran from 1984 to 1992, a nine season run. For any TV series, especially of the era, nine seasons is a good run. Along with Anderson, the series also starred John Larroquette as the prosecutor Dan Fielding, Markie Post as public defender Christine Sullivan, Charles Robinson as court clerk Mac Robinson, Richard Moll as bailiff “Bull” Shannon, and Marcia Warfield as bailiff Roz Russell. The cast changed up a few times; before Mac, Lana Wagner, played by Karen Austin, was the court clerk. Bull’s first partner as bailiff was Selma, played by Selma Diamond. When Diamond passed away after the second season from lung cancer caused by a lifetime of smoking, her character was written out the same way. Her replacement, Flo, was also written off the same way for the same reason; Halop died from lung cancer caused by a lifetime of smoking. The writers had Bull worried about Roz’s health when she first appeared.

The series had a number of recurring characters. Among the more memorable are Bob and June Wheeler, played by Brent Spiner and Annie O’Donnell, a hard-luck couple that if anything goes wrong, it happens to them. John Astin played Buddy Ryan, Harry’s stepfather and former psychiatric patient. Denice Kumagal played Quon Le Duc Robinson, a Vietnamese refugee who married Mac.

The focus of the comedy was on the courthouse. New York City, in order to get through the sheer number of court cases, runs the courts through the night. In the first episode, Harry becomes the latest judicial appointment by being at home when the call comes in. The cases that come through at night aren’t the big ones as seen on Law & Order. Instead, the cases are for petty crimes, such as littering, prostitution, and petty theft.

The earlier seasons focused more on the hijinks at court, but as the series progressed, more of the characters’ lives were brought in, from Harry meeting his stepfather to Mac and Quan Li getting married and having a child together, to Christine’s short-lived marriage. There were hints of a possible relationship between Harry and Christine, one that would not be allowed due to potential conflict of interest.

Night Court came to an end like all TV series eventually do. The series went into second run syndication and eventually streaming. Audiences could tune in to watch favourite episodes or even see how the show started, given how long Night Court was on the air.

In the years since, the cast has gone on to different projects. Larroquette went on to star in The John Larroquette Show, and has kept acting since then. Anderson went on to star in Dave’s World then returned to his roots as a stage magician. Time wasn’t kind, though. Harry Anderson passed away in 2014 of complications from influenza. Markie Post died in 2021 of cancer.

In 2020, Melissa Rauch, coming off ten years on The Big Bang Theory, approached Warner Bros. with a proposal for a sequal series, with John Larroquette reprising his role as Dan Fielding. Originally, Rauch was going to be just the showrunner, but she eventually was cast as Judge Abby Stone, Harry’s daughter. Joining Rauch and Larroquette are India de Beaufort as Olivia, the prosecutor, Kapil Talwalkar as Neil, Abby’s clerk, and Lacretta as Gurgs, the bailiff.

Notice the lack of public defender. The first two episodes do some heavy lifting setting up the rest of the series. The public defender in Abby’s court quits, leaving the position open. Abby needs to find a replacement and finds her solution – Dan Fielding, who appears to be working in the court cafeteria. Dan, however, isn’t working at the cafeteria; his job is process server, serving papers for lawsuits. He retired from law after the death of his wife. Abby sees Dan as listless and without direction and convinces him to fill in as the public defender. It takes Dan some time to break old habits, but he does start working as the public defender.

Comedies tend to start slow. Some long runners like MASH, Cheers, and Big Bang Theory needed time to for writers and actors settle in with the characters. Dramas can get away with plot carrying the first few episodes, letting the character dynamics work themselves out in the background. Comedies live and die on the characters. The new Night Court has an advantage; Larroquette is reprising his old role. Even there, though, this Dan is one who has gone through thirty years of maturing, of finding and losing his soulmate. He is not the lecherous, ambitious Dan Fielding of the original. Time has passed for him. Larroquette is more than capable of showing the changes of three decades of life. Becoming the public defender of Abby’s court is a change for him, one to adjust to.

The series does find its feet and by the eights episode, “Blood Moon Binga”, has hit its stride. “Blood Moon Binga” brings back a staple of the original series, the night of themed weird cases, in this episode, the theme is the supernatural. There is a balance of courtroom antics and personal crises, as Abby’s mother, played by Faith Ford, visits.

The new Night Court is worth risking a look. The first few episodes set up the premise and pays a tribute to Harry Anderson as Harry Stone, along with setting up the character dynamics. The new series fits with original, but Abby isn’t Harry, Gurgs isn’t Roz, Neil has different motives from Mac, Olivia isn’t a gender-flipped version of the old Dan Fielding, and Dan isn’t his old self. Expectations are high, but the cast, writers, and crew are capable of reaching them and have met many already.


This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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