Well, TV has done it again – bringing a dead TV show back to life with a reboot of NBC’s old sitcom Night Court. It’s just the latest in a large string of Hollywood reboots that might have looked better on paper than it does on the small screen. Unlike a remake or reimagining which attempts to retell a story with a whole new cast, characters or new plot direction, a reboot attempts to reignite the same “magic” that was created with some, or in some cases, most of the original cast members. Murphy Brown, Beverly Hills 90210 and Gilmore Girls all attempted revivals, but they didn’t really work. Other shows have been in the works for years but got cancelled somewhere down the line. Those include reboots of Coach with Craig T. Nelson, L.A. Law with Blair Underwood and Corbin Bernson, Lizzie McGuire with Hilary Duff and NYPD Blue with Kim Delaney and Bill Brochtrup.
I may be speaking too soon, but making a Night Court reboot is like trying to squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube before tossing it away for good. Like the original, it’s a bit spotty but it shows some promise if the creators can get out of their own way. From the very beginning, the original Night Court was never a consistent show. Debuting on January 4, 1984, the sitcom finished its first season in 41st place jumping up to 7th place during is 4th and 5th seasons and then finishing up the series in 46th place.
Unlike most sitcoms, Night Court had a rotating cast of characters. Of the show’s 193 episodes, only Harry Anderson (the show’s lead star playing the honorable Judge Harry Stone), John Larroquette (the show’s only prosecutor) and Richard Moll (as one of the baliffs) stuck it out for all nine seasons. The court clerks were played by Karen Austin (season 1) and Charles Robinson (seasons 2 through 9). Markie Post is best known for playing the show’s public defender, but she didn’t join the show until season 3. The show’s first two public defenders were played by Paula Kelly (season 1) and Ellen Foley (season 2). Moll shared the bailiff spotlight with Selma Diamond (seasons 1 and 2), Florence Halop (season 3) and Marsha Warfield (seasons 4 through 9).
Over the show’s 193 episodes, Night Court was nominated for 31 Emmy Awards winning seven, four of which were given to John Larroquette for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. So it only makes that NBC would cast Larroquette in that role once again. In fact, I suspect that the 2023 version would never made it on air without him.
(L-R) Kapil Talwalkar, Lacretta and India de Beaufort (NBC)
The new show, call it a sequel if you like, stars Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) as Abby Stone, Harry Stone’s daughter who convinces Larroquette’s Dan Fielding to return to courtroom many years later. The two are joined by assistant district attorney Olivia (India de Beaufort), Bailiff Donna (Lacretta) and court clerk Neil (Kapil Talwalkar). Like her father, Abby is an optimistic person looking for the best in people. The pilot episode explains that she always wanted to be a judge after many stories from her father growing up. As luck would have it, she ends up working the night shift at the very same Manhattan arraignment court that her dad worked.
The shows looks and feels like the original (including a truncated opening theme song), which is both a help and a hindrance. Rauch and Larroquette make a good pair of sparring partners, just as Anderson and Larroquette did in the original, but this time around, Dan is playing for the other team as a public defender. It’s a nice twist. There is also another change here. The “early version” of Dan Fielding was man also looking for his next sexual conquest or at least wanted to look like it. Since that type of character wouldn’t fly these days (and thank God for that), the show relies on his other narcissistic tendencies while trying to stay opened to Abby’s philosophy. It’s a challenge, but he excels at it. Rauch on the other hand is likable, but maybe a little too perky. We’ll see how this plays out over the next few episodes.
Beaufort plays Olivia, Dan’s new nemesis. You might remember her from Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but she’s a lot funnier here. She’s a woman who feels that working the night shift is beneath her, but sees it as a necessary hurdle to get to the top as a woman breaking the glass ceiling.
NBC describes Neil as a man who “loved that his job came with low expectations” before the “new idealistic judge showed up.” There’s not much to this guy, but then again, it’s hard to make his role a funny one. Sadly, Donna is the weakest developed character. She has a larger-than-life personality which at times is so over the top, that none of her lines come off as funny as NBC thinks they do.
Is the new Night Court worth a view? Maybe. There’s certainly worse things on the air to watch, but then again, that isn’t exactly giving the show high praise. The sad thing though, with very little promotion ahead of time, it doesn’t appear that NBC has much faith in the show. Then again, Le Brea is still on the air, so who knows.
Main image: NBC
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