30 Years Ago: ‘Night Court’ Gets ‘Screwed’ With Ninth Season
In fall 2022, NBC will bring back Night Court, the viewer-beloved ‘80s sitcom that ran for nine seasons.
John Larroquette will return as sleazeball lawyer Dan Fielding, while The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will topline as Judge Abby Stone, the daughter of Harry Anderson’s original Night Court character. There’s no word yet on other cast returns, but both Richard “Bull” Moll and Marsha “Roz” Warfield are still working actors, so anything’s possible.
While it’s easy to see why NBC would want to bring Night Court, it is a bit surprising, considering how the network ended the series’ first run in 1992. The network had originally decided to end the show after eight seasons, and the series’ writers worked with that in mind, carefully crafting arcs that would lead to a satisfying overall conclusion in the Season Eight finale.
Watch the 'Night Court' Intro and Outro
Instead, buoyed by Night Court’s ratings uptick as the lead-in to Seinfeld, NBC decided to renew the show for a surprise ninth season. The writers scrambled to reconfigure all their plans, with executive producer Stu Kreisman telling the L.A. Times that “when we found out we were going to go for another year, we were screwed creatively, and it took us the first two or three episodes of this year to undo all the stuff we set up last year.”
Post and Larroquette also went on record with the Times, voicing their disappointment with the whimpering way Night Court concluded. Post said that the cast found out the show was being canceled only as they were filming the Season Nine finale, noting, “We read it in the paper, and we felt we deserved a little more than that.” Larroquette called the cancellation “a drag,” saying, “We weren’t allowed to turn to the audience, give a salute and say thanks.” (There are also rumors online that the cast was sent telegrams after the finale taped on a Friday, telling them their dressing rooms needed to be cleaned out by Monday or their belongings would be thrown away.)
Watch a TV Promo for 'Night Court'
To make matters worse, NBC aired Night Court’s final three episodes out of sequence, pushing what was supposed to be the third-to-last episode into the series finale position, a move that made little sense to the show’s overall arc. Though “The 1992 Boat Show” technically aired last, on May 31, 1992, “Opportunity Knock-Knocks,” parts one and two, were originally meant to wrap up the season — if not the series.
Though Night Court had a relatively successful run, it wasn’t exactly a critical favorite. That same Times article said the show was “as durable as a polyester suit but just as unfashionable,” while an Entertainment Weekly piece about the show’s departure didn’t pull a single punch, with writer Ken Tucker saying, “This week, after nine years, Night Court passes its last set of unfunny sentences on unfunny criminals, and one can only hope that its mostly unfunny cast can retire in syndicated splendor.” (The show did head to syndication.)
In truth, Night Court was never really meant to be challenging or even all that interesting. It never breached hot topics of the day, like safe sex, the Gulf War or environmental awareness. Instead, its biggest star was Larroquette’s loutish, womanizing Fielding, a character that’s certainly going to have to undergo some sort of deep emotional changes before he shows up on the reboot. Executive Producer Stuart Kreisman told the Times that the show was “so politically incorrect” that he thought it “would have had a cigarette sponsor if we came back next year.” Larroquette has seemed fine with the show’s direction, telling the Times, "You don’t do sitcoms for respect. You do them for laughs."
Watch a Scene From 'Night Court'
Night Court did command at least some respect in the awards world, garnering 31 Emmy nominations over its run and taking home seven. Four of those went to Larroquette, who won four consecutive awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series before asking to be removed from contention, reportedly in part because he was worried about becoming typecast after the series ended.
Other shows have poked some fun at Night Court, with 30 Rock creating a whole episode, “The One With the Cast of Night Court,” around the premise that Kenneth the Page’s biggest dream was to see the thwarted onscreen wedding of Judge Harry Stone and public defender Christine Sullivan. Tracy Morgan’s character then arranges for a cast reunion featuring Anderson, Post and Charles P. Robinson, who played court clerk Mac, convincing them to stage a Night Court wedding solely for Kenneth. The three — who have all since died — seem game enough, especially considering that Jane Krakowski’s Jenna is notably disappointed she wasn’t included, despite once playing a “were-lawyer” on the series just around the time it jumped the shark.
Another fun Night Court tribute came courtesy of Dan Harmon, creator of Community and cocreator of Rick & Morty. Some years ago on his podcast Harmontown, Harmon sang what he thought should be the lyrics to Night Court’s famously bass-heavy instrumental opening, and he nailed it.
Hear Dan Harmon Invent Lyrics to 'Night Court' Theme
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Gallery Credit: Corey Irwin