TV review: 'Night Court' is same classic show, new jokes

Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette star in "Night Court." Photo courtesy of NBC/Warner Bros. Television
1 of 5 | Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette star in "Night Court." Photo courtesy of NBC/Warner Bros. Television

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Night Court, premiering Jan. 17 on NBC, revives a successful format with new characters and one re-formed one. The original series went through several cast changes, too, so this feels like the next faithful incarnation.

Abby Stone (Melissa Rauch) is the new Night Court judge. She meets sassy public defender Olivia Moore (India de Beaufort), gruff bailiff Donna Gurgs (Lacretta) and prankster clerk Neil (Kapil Talwalkar) on her first night.


The format is exactly like the classic show. It is a true situation comedy as cases come through the courtroom and episodic stories occur around them.

Judge Abby sees the best in defendants. Some cases are outrageous like public urination while wearing a plush costume, fraud psychics or a live-action role player arrested for public drunkenness with a clever pun about the situation. Some are realistic cases.

Either way, Abby wants to know what drove them to a crime. Sometimes that's well placed compassion; sometimes she digs herself in deeper. It always creates good situations on which to hang jokes each week.

The one returning character, Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), is in quite a different place than we last saw him. He has been married since the original show, but now is a widower.


When the city prosecutor quits, Abby asks Dan to take his old job. Dan gets to be the cynical elder statesman, which still exploits Larroquette's comedic strengths, and he gets to be a mentor to a young judge.

It's good Dan no longer is the horndog womanizer because that wouldn't be cute anymore. If any fans are wondering about Dan's current libido, Night Court addresses it in a clever Episode 3 story.

The entire court staff nails the rhythm of Night Court banter. All have their role to play in every premise, and they execute those roles impeccably.

There are some Easter eggs from Abby's father, the late Harry Stone (Harry Anderson's original character). There also are stories of Harry in the years between shows.

Some episodes address relevant issues like copaganda, failures of the judicial system and social justice protests. Some are as absurd as the original show, but perhaps a little edgier in 2022.

The new Night Court even gives fans a little bit of the classic theme song. It's only 10 seconds now, but that's an eternity in the current broadcast era of no theme songs.

Night Court is a faithful revival of a show that works, so it isn't broken and doesn't need fixing. The new characters give it new life, but it's the classic format that holds strong.


Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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