Retro T.V. Review: Night Court (1984)
Updated: Mar 25
Show Name: Night Court
Created by: Reinhold Weege
Starring: Harry Anderson, John Larroquette, Richard Moll, Selma Diamond, Florence Halop, Charles Robinson, Markie Post, Marsha Warfield, Ellen Foley
Number of Seasons: 9
Number of Episodes: 193
Original Release: January 4, 1984 to May 31, 1992
I have nothing interesting to say to start this. I just thought that this show deserved its due and I wanted to review it. I always had fond memories of this show. These memories ranged from the naive antics of Bull to the womanizing of Dan Fielding.
So I decided to look into one of the best sitcoms ever made. I was actually surprised that it lasted so long.
Let us see the background and take a look at this classic TV show.
The show was created by one of Barney Miller's (TV show) veteran's in Reinhold Weege. However, the how was not an original concept. In fact, there was a short lived TV show with the exact same premise, that was called Sirota's Court (1976). That was not a very big success as the show only lasted 13 episodes where 3 were unaired.
Sirota's Court Theme
Although the theme is not bad, the show was unfortunately not that memorable and the ratings reflected that.
On the other hand Night Court was more popular. It included such actors as Harry Anderson and John Larroquette.
Other than Harry T. Stone in this role, Harry Anderson is probably best known for being a comedic magician. He was intrigued by magic at a very young age. In fact, at only 17 years old he was making money as a street magician in San Francisco. Later on in his career he would tour with his funny magical act.
In his early years, Anderson was seen on SNL and that was the break that he needed. He then would make appearances on Cheers. He had a recurring character called Harry "The Hat" Gittes. Then that eventually led to his role in Night Court as Harry T. Stone. I am sure that it did not hinder his career making numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Johhny Carson.
Then you have John Larroquette who plays a sleazy womanizer prosecutor named Dan Fielding. Before Night Court, John had some roles on TV. He played in Baa Baa Black Sheep as a fighter pilot named Lt. Bob Anderson.
Richard Moll who played the character of Bull, was my favourite. Bull was a gentle giant that would sometimes make mistakes. One of his most recognizable catchphrases was "oooooo-kay". He was also known for slapping his forehead when he figured out that he had made a mistake.
When doing research, I found this tidbit of information cool. When he was hired for the role of Bull, Moll, had shaved his head for a previous role. It seems that the producers loved the look so much that he stayed with the shaved look for the entirety of the show.
There were a few characters that did not make it through the whole series due to illness. Florence Halop (Flo) and Selma Diamond (Selma Hacker) both died of cancer. Although these characters were here for only a few seasons, viewers still remember them fondly.
Another character that people remember was Roz (played by Marsha Warfield). She played the tough as nails bailiff. She had a no nonsense attitude and she had a dry humour. She came in starting in season 4 and stayed until the last episode.
The last memorable character from this series is Charles Robinson who played the character of Mac. He only came in, in season 2 after Karen Austin left the show after season 1. There's not much about why she left the show. As far as I can tell, she was just replaced in season 2. I guess the producers was not liking the direction that the character was taking.
Night Court has one of the most memorable theme songs of all time. It has that bluesy smooth jazz funk feel.
The theme was composed by Jack Ellitott. What I love about the video tat accompanies the music is that it is really a snapshot of how New York was in the early 1980's. Since the show has been off the air, the city has cleaned up its act a lot. However, back then, New York had a really nasty reputation. It also featured some of New York's iconic landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge.
Although the approach to the theme was different
Night Court Theme
The theme also had its outro equivalent, that was slightly slower and even funkier. I personally prefer the main theme to the outro.
The show revolves around characters that work in a New York City court house during the night shift. Hence the name Night Court.
Most episodes would start with court being in session and there would be the prosecution (Dan Fielding) and defence (Christine Sullivan) would go at it. There were a few character changes but in general these were the main characters that I remember the most.
Does this show still hold up after all these years (18 years)? The answer is surprisingly yes. I never thought that the show would still be as good. Yes, some of the jokes can be outdated, but in general the jokes still pack a punch.
After all these years, I still love Bull. No matter what happened to him, you always want him to have the happy ending. I know that was the purpose of the character to make him dimwitted, but Moll, played the character to perfection. I cannot think of anyone else playing that role.
Harry Anderson as well played Judge Harry T. Stone to perfection. It always seemed like this role was written for him. After his stint on this show he did have other shows such as Dave's World. However, I always thought none of his acting gigs after captured his immense talent.
I think that the actors had freedom in terms of character development. The reason that I say this is that in the show some of the characters had the actor's personal touch. For example with Harry, he was a comedic magician. That was incorporated in his on screen role. He would demonstrate it from time to time. Harry Anderson also loved Mel Torme in real life and in the show. In fact, Torme would make guest appearances on the show from time to time.
The cast just really gelled together no matter who was on the show. There were characters that changed around due to unforeseen circumstances but instead of replacing the character, it felt more like they hired a new employee. Similar approach to Law & Order. For example Roz was much different then Selma. However, they both had that special something with the show.
One of the best that I remember is the episode, Giving Thanks. Dan saves Christine's life while she is choking some something. She is forever grateful and Dan takes advantage of the situation. He says that her payback would be to sleep with him. She does everything she can to not sleep with him. This episode for me is comedy gold.
What I liked about this show is how opposites do attract. For example, most characters had their polar opposite on the case. Then there were a few neutral. Bull was the fun loving guy with a heart of gold. Dan on the other hand, was the complete opposite. He did not care much for others. He was always looking for number one.
Harry was the level headed judge that would think things through. However, Christine was most of the time irrational and would act on impulse. Roz and Mac were more neutral. They would comment from the outside looking in and that was awesome to see. I always loved Selma and Roz as they had their own sense of humour.
One of the reasons that I did not mention Christine (Markie Post) in the Background section is because I find that she is the least memorable character on the show. If you watch episodes, she is part of most of them, however years later, I had to think about who was that character. I do not think that Post played the character badly, I just think that it was one of the weaker characters on the show.
I think this show is worth a watch. The characters are still fun to watch and for me it has a sense of nostalgia as I used to watch this when I was very young. Having watched some shows after all these years, I can still say that this show is still great. It has that sitcom spirit that is lost in today's shows.
You can find it on Amazon.
Let us know what you think. Are we off base or do you agree with us. Let us know.