When Melissa Rauch, formerly “Bernadette” of the syndicated sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” announced her next project would be a reboot of “Night Court,” I raised an eyebrow. When Rauch announced she would be an executive producer in addition to starring in the series, I blinked a couple of times in surprise. Any fan of the original series that lasted over a decade will gladly tell you stepping into Harry Anderson’s chambers for Manhattan Criminal Court Part 2 is an extremely tall order for any actor.
Which is why Rauch’s approach—calling this new series a “newboot”—works so well. In fact, two episodes in and I already feel at home in that dingy courtroom again.
Rauch plays Judge Abby Stone, daughter of the late Judge Harry Stone, who arrives to take up her father’s old job. Her first night in doesn’t exactly go as planned when the public defender quits after the first case of the evening.
Fortunately Abby finds the address for Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) in a box of her father’s old belongings and pleads with Fielding to come out of retirement and work on the other side of the courtroom. Fielding is different these days. Gone is the smug, lecherous narcissist of an Assistant DA, replaced by a misanthropic curmudgeon who can’t bear the thought of representing “everyone who is guilty.” Something about Judge Abby convinces Fielding to give it a shot anyway, and we’re off to the proverbial races.
“Night Court” works if the cast meshes well and it certainly does here. You have Olivia, the Assistant DA who is only biding her time in Night Court until the next big job offer comes along. Neil, Judge Abby’s assistant, possesses the go-getter attitude of Mac Robinson but adds a certain millennial envy of those who make it through life without caring. Gurgs the Bailiff will give viewers serious “Roz” vibes as she channels her own version of Marsha Warfield’s iconic character.
And there’s the motley assortment of individuals ranging from handymen to the Defendants that make each night so memorable.
It’s tough in today’s TV landscape to find something that will make you laugh, forget about life for a little while, and just allow for a diversion that wraps everything up in a nice 30 minute package but “Night Court” pulls it off. And they’re really trying to win over lawyers or other people in the justice system when characters start referencing New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rule (CPLR).
It’s definitely worth checking out if you had fond memories of Judge Harry Stone’s days on the bench.
A brief note on Rauch’s character is worth mentioning. Judge Abby Stone lacks the playful mischievousness her father brought to Night Court. What she lacks in this area is made up in pluck and unbridled optimism. In Judge Abby Stone’s courtroom every defendant is a good person inside who’s gotten a bad break and deserves to be treated with kindness when she hands down a sentence of 50 hours community service.
You can really tell Rauch is trying to do right by Harry Anderson’s legacy in carrying on with what she thinks her on screen “Dad” would have wanted.
Larroquette is the only returning cast member from the original series and he delivers with his new take on Dan Fielding. Watching an ADA who’s spent his life believing those at the defense table were beneath him now represent those same people is a barrel of laughs all by itself.
Go check out “Night Court” on Tuesdays at 8 on NBC. The premiere already has the highest total audience for a comedy series since ABC debuted “The Conners” in 2018.
You just might have some fun if you do.
Happy Friday everyone! If you plan to celebrate Scotch o Clock today please join me and pour one for Jay Briscoe, who tragically passed at 38 Tuesday night in a car accident. Jay was a family man to the bone and his two daughters are still hospitalized as of this writing so if you’re the praying sort that whole family could use some.
We’ll see you next week!