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Night Court

By Wikipedia

Night Court was a situation comedy that aired on NBC from January 1984 until May 1992. The show focused on the nutty antics during the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment courtoom, presided over by the young, unorthodox Judge Harold T. Stone (as played by Harry Anderson) and his cast of loonies. It was created by comedy writer Reinhold Weege, who had previously worked on the only slightly less-zany Barney Miller in the 1970s. The first season was released on DVD in the spring of 2005. Cable network TV Landbegan airing Night Court in August 2005.

The comedy style on Night Court could best be described as broad, almost slapstick comedy. Logic and realism were frequently abandoned for the sake of a joke: cartoon animal Wile E. Coyote once appeared in a brief gag as a defendant. A typical plot might have Judge Stone trying to stop a group of rival ventriloquists and their dummies from assaulting each other, (then NBC chairman) Brandon Tartikoff bailing out a Nielsen family, or Harry pushing the court staff to meet a deadline of 200 cases to be adjudicated before midnight. The show featured several defendants who appeared before the court again and again; notable were the Wheelers, Yugoslavians who pretended to be a hick family from West Virginia and, at one point, even ran a concession stand in the courthouse.

The main characters were slightly off-kilter. Harry was an amateur magician whose father (played by John Astin) was a former mental patient; Harry loved movies and fashions from the 1940s, and idolized crooner Mel Tormé. Assistant District Attorney Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) was a sex-obsessed narcissist who would do anything to get a woman to sleep with him. Bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll) was a (mostly) dim-witted hulk of a figure who was gentle and often childlike. Public Defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post), though attractive and voluptuous, was honest to a fault and somewhat naïve. Court clerk Mac Robinson (Charles Robinson), a veteran of the Vietnam War, was very sweet and would do anything for anyone. The various female bailiffs (the first two of whom died early in the show's run) were acerbic and comically gruff.

Night Court was originally developed as a vehicle for comedian/magician Harry Anderson. Anderson had developed a following with his performances on Saturday Night Live and made several successful appearances as "Harry the Hat" on the sitcom Cheers. For the first several years of its run, Night Court aired on NBC Thursday nights after Cheers.

Primary cast

  • Harry Anderson as Judge Harold T. Stone (entire run)
  • Paula Kelly as public defender Liz Williams (first season only)
  • Ellen Foley as public defender Billie Young (second season only)
  • Markie Post as public defender Christine Sullivan (third season until end)
  • John Larroquette as Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Daniel "Dan" Fielding (entire run)
  • Richard Moll as bailiff Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon (entire run)
  • Selma Diamondas bailiff Selma Hacker (first two seasons)
  • Florence Halop as bailiff Florence Kleiner (third season only)
  • Marsha Warfield as bailiff Rosalind "Roz" Russell (fourth season until the end)
  • Karen Austin as court clerk Lana Wagner (first season only)
  • Charles Robinson as court clerk Macintosh "Mac" Robinson (second season until end)
  • Denice Kumagai as Quon Lee Duck Robinson (occasional from second season on)
  • Mike Finneran as building facilities supervisor Art Fensterman (occasional the entire run)
  • Joleen Lutz as court reporter Lisette Hocheiser (occasional last 2 seasons)

Note: In addition to the regular cast, John Astin appeared as Harry's estranged father and Mel Tormé played himself in occasional roles. Brent Spiner (who later gained greater fame as Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation) played Bob Wheeler in a recurring role.

Trivia

  • Richard Moll had originally shaved his head for a role in the 1983 science fiction B-movie Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn. Producers liked the look for Bull, so he continued shaving his head for Night Court.
  • John Larroquette's character was called "Dan Fielding" almost exclusively, although his full name was quite different. When his parents came to visit, they mentioned that his last name was "Elmor" and his middle name was "Fielding". In a different episode, to Dan's embarrassment, a childhood friend revealed that his first name was "Reinhold". This last bit was a nod to the unusual first name of the show's creator, Reinhold Weege.
  • The first few seasons of Night Court had an unusually large number of cast changes for such a long-running series. The only actors to appear consistently throughout the show's run were Harry Anderson, John Larroquette, and Richard Moll. Selma Diamond and Florence Halop both played bailiffs alongside Moll; Diamond passed away after two seasons and Halop after one.
  • Larroquette won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Dan Fielding for four years consecutively between 1985 and 1988. He subsequently removed himself from competition. Harry Anderson was nominated for his role on the show but never won.
  • Although often portrayed as a simpleton, character Bull Shannon had a tested I.Q. of 181.
  • Harold T. Stone was the youngest judge appointed to the bench in New York. According to Stone, he was selected because the Mayor was filling all open seats, and he was the only nominee on the list at home to answer his phone (it was a Sunday). Some trivia pages list this as being Super Bowl Sunday, but that was never stated, and would not coincide with when the Mayor of New York's term would end.
  • Judge Stone's most frequent sentencing was "$50 and time served."

Night Court on DVD!
Night Court is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Night Court? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Most shows with "Art" the Janitor (the guy in the NY Yankies cap) was pretty funny. I never hear anything about his episodes nor does he seem to be mentioned in any synopsis. I don't think I've seen him in anything since yet the rest of the cast moved on. What happened?"

--norman_s._kamp

"This show was funny, touching, sincere, and smart. Judge Stone is one of the best characters on TV - ever. His humor, his whimsy, his concern, stand as beacons. Dan Fielding, as portrayed by John Larroquette, is simply briliant - rarely has an actor so completely created a unique character. And Markie Post - 'nuff said. Mac's understated authority and wit carried over to his "Buffalo Bill" role."

--davidmsc

"Night Court was one of the shows I faithfully watched through my childhood/pre-teens. Looking back on it, I didn't understand many of the jokes until watching the show on syndication later in life. The cast of characters on this sitcom were among the best characterizations I've had the pleasure to watch on television. Each one added to the chaos of the court room, but yet they also managed to add a human factor to the series in their own special way. Judge Harry Stone is one of my all-time favorite television characters. His character managed to balance goofiness, eccentricty, wisdom, maturity, hilarity all at once. Public Defender Christine Sullivan, who graduated near at the top of her class in law school -- second, in fact -- was intelligent with a thirst to protect the innocent but also proved to be very girlishly naive and just as eccentric as Harry in her own way. Christine's girlish naivety was almost a mirror of Harry's boyish energy that he had started out with. But just as Harry's boyish antics gave way to his eventual maturity, so did Christine's. Her girlishness remained throughout the series but her character grew to become more matured into a strong woman that eventually saw her through the birth of a son. The same types of characterizations could be seen in all of the rest of the cast. Eccentricities abound kept this cast of characters fun and exciting but their maturing through the show kept them interesting."

--Michelle

""Night Court" was really the only Awesome80s sitcom I regularly went out of my way to watch (well there was ALF). I particualry enjoyed episodes where Bull showed off his intelligence on the show because he was always my favorite. I also really enjoyed the way the cast interacted with one another. It seemed sort of real, like the way (funny stuff aside) any second shift or overnight shift made up of alot of different personalities would interact due to the offbeat nature of thier job/shift. "

--Anonymous

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: January 4, 1984 - July 1, 1992

Cast: John Larroquette, Harry Anderson, Karen Austin, Selma Diamond, Markie Post, Charlie Robinson

Network: NBC

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Image courtesy of NBC


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