Night Court: Pilot
January 18, 2023 9:55 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Abby Stone, the daughter of the late Harry Stone, takes over the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment court and hires former prosecutor Dan Fielding as public defender.

Manhattan Criminal Court Part 2 is now in session!

As a first episode, the show is leaning heavily on the original series using what is supposed to be the same courtroom, same judge's office, same stuffed armadillo (hi Clarence!), and the same cafet-- whoa, what did they do to the cafeteria? Harry Anderson's Judge Stone looms heavily over the atmosphere despite being dead, largely because the new judge, his daughter Abby, continues to look up to his judicial example.

John Larroquette reprises Dan Fielding through a weary lens, although we see sparks of the wiseass from the original series break through a few times. I look forward to seeing what he can do with the character all these years later. I swear, Dan would let out his shocked gasp noise that was a recurring gag from the original series and I felt right back in that old courtroom again. Frankly, I don't think this would work without him.

Trivia and notes from TV Tropes (you've been warned):
  • John Larroquette was considering retirement when Melissa Rauch called, asking him to join the project. He was hesitant at first, but Rauch's promises that the original series' spirit would be kept while Dan would undergo character development intrigued him enough to sign on. Larroquette has mentioned that a very lucrative offer to come back as Dan Fielding was part of his motivation to return.
  • Dan is now a widower, having met and married a woman named Sarah in the years between the original series and this revival.
posted by Servo5678 (39 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is a very old-school sitcom (no indications of plot arcs, each character gets a couple of notes to define them), and everything about it is "good enough". I notice that they actively avoid saying anything about what happened to Harry other than that he's dead; I presume there will be more backstory filled in as they go along.

Also, Abby would have to be under 30 to have been born after the original series, which would have made her considerably younger than her father, who was canonically 34 and the youngest judge on the bench in the pilot (Melissa Rauch is actually older than Harry Anderson was when the original series ended).
posted by Etrigan at 10:44 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]

It was not great, but intriguing enough and had just barely enough callbacks to make me want more. And yes - Dan's gasp took me right back, too!
posted by davidmsc at 10:59 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Because Night Court (and that sweet sweet theme song) is a fond childhood memory from syndication reruns, I am rooting for this. When Shepherd made the comment about John Larroquette being the only one they could get for the remake, I replied, "Well, sweetie, 90% of the original cast is dead so it would have been tricky to get them back."
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on January 18 [16 favorites]

Having watched the first two, I think it fills a need for some disposable comedy for those low-brain days.
posted by Marticus at 2:12 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]

I went into this with low-to-no expectations, but, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. I mean, I laughed out loud more than once -- most sitcoms, even ones I like, get no more than smiles and the odd chuckle out of me when I'm an audience of one.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:38 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]

I absolutely adored this as a kid watching (probably) reruns.

I appreciate the cold open, hits the original beat - and the allusion to the original theme song poked me right in the right neural centers.

Dan/ Larroquette ... wait for it!

The bad matting for the intro cards was totally retro.

I like Melissa Rauch.

But the writing feels, for me, is for people 30 years ago. Will stick around to see where this goes?

Yeah, Dan's *yip* brought it all back.

Is NY "Duck Sauce" normally that red?
posted by porpoise at 9:27 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

It's totally a weave.
posted by amtho at 9:38 PM on January 18

Well, ok, but how does his daughter feel about Mel Torme?
posted by madajb at 11:25 PM on January 18 [10 favorites]

Also, no Bull or Roz?
posted by madajb at 11:26 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

The new bailiff Gurgs is a creepy physical combination of Roz and Bull. Not sure they needed that, but she’s funny so far.

The writing is cute, though they keep just dropping surreal lines without connecting to the characters or plot. Hopefully that’ll improve.

People keep asking who is this show for? It’s for ME. So refreshing to have a show targeting Gen X! It reminds me of Fuller House; some people said hey, let’s produce a nostalgia piece and have fun, nothing more, there’s enough room on the TV landscape these days to fit it in.

Loved the original; here’s hoping they bring back Brent Spiner.

And John Larroquette is 75?? He’s still making it look easy, and he must be having a blast (though it must be weird playing that part knowing that all of your castmates are dead).
posted by Melismata at 4:50 AM on January 19 [12 favorites]

Because of this thread, I've decided to give this show a chance. I was also a big fan as a kid -- why was that, that so many of us liked it then? It definitely wasn't for kids; I remember something about an erotic cake bakery, a concept that baffled me. (Still does, really.) I think it might have been Bull. I liked him best because he was big, dumb, and silly. It won't be the same without him, but what is? I'll take a look.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:42 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]

why was that, that so many of us liked it then?

In retrospect, I think that for me is that the characters were fundamentally decent - even Dan. Despite their low status (Night Court) and the unfortunates who appear in court, there was rarely(?) any punching down.

Bull (Richard Moll, bless his heart, see: 'But I'm a Cheerleader!' with Natasha Lyonne) was sweet and was really a bit more scatterbrained than slow witted.

Stone (Harry Anderson), also, was shown as being very compassionate and I really latched onto his goofiness and attempts to bring levity to sometimes grim situations.

Christine (Markie Post), who I had a massive crush on, as the court-appointed defense lawyer wasn't strictly, only a bleeding heart goody two shoes

iirc, I had a Grade 5 assignment to present a musical artist and a sample of their work to class - I chose Mel Torme, to my subsequent chagrin. But the teacher seemed to get a kick out of it.
posted by porpoise at 8:57 AM on January 19 [9 favorites]

I stopped watching about 10 minutes in...because I felt I needed to finish it with my wife because I was having such a good time. Then I couldn't wait and finished it over lunch. It definitely had me laughing out loud a number of times, and while I'm definitely a big fan of the original, it was just the silly humor that got me this time around. We don't have enough silly humor comedy shows around, like Scrubs or the Good Place and everything in between and before, where sometimes the humor pushes just beyond the chuckle to the slapstick silly.

I can't wait to watch the next episode.

Also, someone asked about Bull - he was abducted by aliens at the end of the last show, so he may not be in our star system at this time.
posted by Atreides at 10:34 AM on January 19 [8 favorites]

Oooh! Richard Moll is still kicking - and still working!
posted by porpoise at 11:48 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]

I legit thought Richard Moll was dead

My bad Richard Moll
posted by Kitteh at 1:25 PM on January 19 [4 favorites]

Marsha Warfield is also still with us!
posted by Preserver at 1:32 PM on January 19 [8 favorites]

Okay, now my first comment is starting to look real dumb, lol.
posted by Kitteh at 1:43 PM on January 19

If you include everyone who ever played a part in the show as "cast," you'd likely be correct...
posted by porpoise at 2:03 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

I first heard about this, like, an hour before it aired. Shows how much I don't watch network TV these days.

I immediately knew they'd have to de-louche Dan, because that's a major thing about the original series that will not and should not fly today. I think they chose a reasonable way to do it. Unfortunately, they put in some jokes at the expense of Romani folks in the first ep and I really wish they hadn't.

But I'm definitely giving it a chance. The new crew is fun, and I think it'll get better once the writers' room settles in some.
posted by humbug at 2:03 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

Crossing my fingers that Brent Spiner will return
posted by Ber at 3:02 PM on January 19 [14 favorites]

Ok, what did they do to that bass line in the intro?

I mean, I realize long show intros have gone by the wayside so networks can squeeze in another ad but c'mon.

If you're going to reuse an iconic theme song, don't butcher it like that.
posted by madajb at 5:01 PM on January 19 [4 favorites]

Hence my allusion to the intro song.

For old times sake

(edit: "More woodblock!")
posted by porpoise at 7:59 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

Ten years ago there were two buskers in the NYC subway, one on electric bass and one on saxophone. They generally played covers of Michael Jackson songs and other pop hits of the 80s.

I always wanted to ask them to play the Night Court theme, especially when they were at the Brooklyn Bridge stop on the Lexington line, but never quite worked up the courage.
posted by thecaddy at 8:52 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]

> Marsha Warfield is also still with us!

Not only is Marsha Warfield still with us but she's only 68; she was 31 when she started Night Court! She hadn't been active in acting since 1999 but then in 2021 did a 6-episode arc on something called 9-1-1. So maybe they can get her back, that would be nice. She also came out in 2017.
posted by guiseroom at 10:51 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]

John Larroquette is a native of New Orleans. Dan Fielding lives in apartment 504.
posted by guiseroom at 11:29 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]

Reading all this made me realize that I could no longer clearly distinguish in my memory the Night Court and Barney Miller themes. I had to go back and check and...yeah, they're of an era, aren't they?
posted by praemunire at 11:35 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Crossing my fingers that Brent Spiner will return

What are Bob and June Wheeler up to these days? I think for a while they ran the cafeteria in the show.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:43 PM on January 20 [3 favorites]

What are Bob and June Wheeler up to these days? I think for a while they ran the cafeteria in the show.

They bought the cafeteria newsstand in one of the season finales, but then over the summer Brent Spiner was cast as Data on Star Trek: TNG. After that, he was too busy to go back to court, and the characters just disappeared without mention. Here's a chance to follow up on that!
posted by Servo5678 at 3:53 PM on January 20 [9 favorites]

This was pretty good for a pilot! Turns out Mrs. Caddy did not grow up with Night Court and wasn’t as into it, but there were still at least two solid laughs.

Definitely in for a few more episodes, but man is it weird watching a show with a laugh track again.
posted by thecaddy at 7:33 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]

I was surprised to read that John Larroquette first auditioned for the judge in the original—somehow had always thought it was created for Harry Anderson in the build-a-sitcom-around-a-comic tradition.
posted by staggernation at 8:39 PM on January 20 [9 favorites]

Ok, what did they do to that bass line in the intro?

Also, no EZ-WIDER rolling paper display at the (also nonexistent) newsstand in the opening "ordinary sights of NYC" montage. Back then it was a nice, subversive touch which, I guess is irrelevant now, but you know, if we're going for nostalgia.

I'll go get a new onion for my belt now.
posted by mikelieman at 7:35 AM on January 21 [4 favorites]

Long live Selma Diamond!

I'll watch this anyway.
posted by not_on_display at 7:43 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Just watched it. They pretty much nailed the tone, the videoed look, the canned laughter, the actually funny and schticky dialogue... I haven't watched an episode of the original in at least 30 years, but this brought me straight back. The writers have their fingers on the pulse of that show. Maybe they were locked in the judge's chambers and forced to watch the entire run of the original for 4 months or so.
posted by not_on_display at 8:42 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]

also, that green leather couch in the judge's chambers really brought me back. And Laroquette looks great with a beard!
posted by not_on_display at 11:58 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

When Dan brought up Harry's springy snakes I knew it was going to play a role in him coming back, I saw it coming from a mile away, and it did, and it still worked on me, I'm in tears. I really like this show and hope it lasts as long as the people involved want it to last.
posted by JHarris at 11:36 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]

I love that this thread is such a love fest!
posted by porpoise at 6:56 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]

Well, considering many of these reboots of Gen-X shows are definitely not aimed at Gen-X sensibilities—that others want to add something "edgy for the sake of edginess" (as well as for the sake of $$$)—it's so refreshing to see that the Night Court runners have picked up almost exactly where the show left off. So much so, that watching them makes me feel like I'm a teenager again, when Cheers and Night Court were the "Thursday NBC witty funnies" and everything else mostly sucked. If this version were shown in the 1980's, it would have fit.

I don't mind that the sentiment is treacly in places, as long as the laughs come and we're not driven full speed into the "A My Name is Alex" very special episode area of the map. There are other avenues for that kind of TV-engagement. Sure, Dan Fielding will grow a little, as the concept of an overarching series arc has become expected in all TV genres and not just soaps.

But it's not like where they took, say, doofy-as-hell Fresh Prince and turned it into issue-driven serious-business Bel Air. I assume this iteration of Night Court isn't suddenly gonna get "serious" or "shock me"—and I am also glad it's not recalling outdated/racist/down-punching eighties tropes either. I feel like I can trust this show like I used to.

Don't get me wrong—I love a lot of what this "New-new Golden Age of Television" offers, but when they try to recapture the past, when they try to revive a beloved stupid old show, they usually strike out while swinging for the fences. In this case, Night Court got a single, stole second, and the team has enough fuel in the tank to keep a rally going. With other shows they've rebooted, they try to make it relevant. There are already enough, and better-suited "relevant shows" which are both funny but also serious social-issue sounding boards. Some would want to turn Night Court into an examination of the justice system. That's not why people watch Night Court, though.

I think why this is a love fest is because the execs didn't take a fond memory and fuck it up just to make a quick buck! Someone bet their career that Night Court could remain like it was and still appeal. And it originally had a pretty diverse cast to begin with, too; I am glad they kept that as well but didn't try to highlight it.

Jeez I loved that show. I got into Mel Torme because of that show. THE VELVET FOG, PEOPLE. I LOVED SLAYER AND MEL TORME CONCURRENTLY.
posted by not_on_display at 10:34 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]

I agree completely not_on_display!
posted by JHarris at 3:28 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Someone bet their career that Night Court could remain like it was and still appeal.

And also with current day tastes, they can always sprinkle some dramedy and social references over the top to spice it up.
posted by rhizome at 1:36 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]

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