Written by Hombre Divertido
In the early 1980s the landscape of television situation comedies began to change from the trite stories that served to move from one punch line to the next that spotted the television horizon of the late ‘70s, to stories of depth that found humor in well-developed characters. Many series did not survive the transition. Night Court which began in January of 1984 managed to evolve and subsequently become a hit, breaking into the Neilson top-30 (#11) in 1985 and the top-10 (#7) from ‘86 to ‘88. Yes, the show certainly benefited from being a part of NBC’s stellar Thursday night lineup, but Night Court benefited more from growing along with the taste of the audience.
In the first few seasons, Night Court was more like a series from the ‘70s, driven by obvious “set up and punch” humor. As it matured, the characters were developed, an ensemble was formed and utilized, and the stories were allowed to drive the comedy rather than the other way around.
Warner Brothers Home Video has released the complete second season on DVD. Though this well packaged three-disc set is enjoyable, at this point in the show’s evolution, it is more reminiscent of a ‘70s sit-com than that of the time period in which it was aired, and thus has a more nostalgic feel to it than one might expect.
Following the goings-on at a New York Manhattan night court presided over by youthful Judge Harold T. Stone (Harry Anderson) who had a penchant for magic, jokes, and Mel Torme, Night Court not only featured a colorful cast of characters, but was consistently visited by some of the best comedic character actors in the business.
Anderson had made a name for himself in a few appearances on Cheers as con man “Harry the Hat,” and would anchor Night Court for its entire eight-year run. Also along for the entire run was John Larroquette, as assistant D.A. Reinhold “Dan” Fielding, who would manage to turn one of television’s most lecherous characters into a beloved comedic icon worthy of four Emmys, and Richard Moll as gentle giant bailiff Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon. The second season would also include Selma Diamond as wisecracking bailiff Selma Hacker, Charlie Robinson as court clerk Mac Robinson who was the calming influence in the room, and representing the accused was Billie Young played energetically by Ellen Foley.
This cast was good, but had yet to find its working chemistry this season. With respects to Ellen Foley who added much to the ensemble, the cast really came together with the addition of Markie Post as Christine Sullivan who appeared in one episode in season two and would become a regular the following season.
In season two much humor was generated by the constant flow of unusual characters through the courtroom on a nightly basis. These roles in season two included such stars as Michael Richards, Lou Ferrigno, John Astin, Stella Stevens, and many more.
The new release is packaged nicely and looks great, but includes no bonus material.
Recommendation: Though the series would get much better in future seasons and the constant set-up punch formula grows tiring, there is some fun here. It’s a nice addition to the collection of a true fan, or just someone who wants to hear what Dan or Selma our going to say next.