Plot: The eternally optimistic Abby Stone follows in the footsteps of her revered late father, Judge Harry Stone, as she takes on the challenge of overseeing the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment court.
Review: NBC’s Night Court is the latest classic series getting the revival treatment. While we have recently been critical of many reboots, many of us at JoBlo.com are excited for this one, as the original Night Court holds a special place in our hearts. Initially running for nine seasons starting in 1984, Night Court boasted an excellent ensemble cast, including the late Harry Anderson and the late Markie Post. Revivals can be tricky, especially with multi-camera sitcoms, which look somewhat dated these days. Thankfully, I am happy to report that the new Night Court is a satisfying successor to the original comedy and boasts a bunch of new faces alongside returning star of the original, John Larroquette.
Thirty years after the original series went off the air, Night Court is back with a sequel series that serves both as a continuation of the classic sitcom and a reboot. Taking the place of Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson) is his daughter Abby (Melissa Rauch). Following in her late father’s footsteps, Abby is a bubbly personality who wants to find goodness in the criminals in her courtroom. Rauch, who found great success on The Big Bang Theory, plays Abby as wholesome and friendly but with a more natural voice and personality than on her prior CBS sitcom. Abby is joined by a new Assistant District Attorney, Olivia, played by India de Beaufort, taking over for John Larroquette’s Dan Fielding. When the public defender quits, Abby finds Dan and convinces him to rejoin the night court but on the other side. Larroquette, who played Fielding as a womanizing snob, is still the same baritone smartass but one who has gained some perspective since the passing of his wife. After some convincing, Dan joins the crew, and the series is on its way.
The cast also includes Lacretta as Donna “Gurgs” Gurganis, the peppy bailiff who is a solid replacement for Marsha Warfield and Richard Moll. She is funny in a way that comes at times to come across as naive, but others show an intelligence that makes her much more interesting than a cliche, sassy sidekick. Replacing Charles Robinson’s clerk, Mac is Kapil Talwalkar as Neil, a lovelorn guy who wants to get out of the night court. The entire cast has good chemistry together, but the real champions of this series have always been the wacky criminals who come through and the weirdos hanging out around the courthouse. Like the original series, this new Night Court has plenty of kooky scene-stealers from the first episode and throughout the six made available for this review.
In the episodes I have seen, Night Court doesn’t miss a beat trying to replicate the classic series’s tone, look, and format. The set is a faithful recreation of the 1984 courthouse, and even the opening theme is a slightly updated (and truncated) version of the original. Interestingly, the pilot is the only episode that feels like it has to reintroduce these characters and comes off a little clunky, but the second episode of the series feels like it has been on the air for years. The cast all handle the material adeptly and make this feel like a natural continuation of where the first series left off in 1992. I will caution you that this series sticks to the traditional format of a “live in front of a studio audience” sitcom, with the characters mugging for applause and occasional moments of broadly over-the-top delivery of jokes. In short, if you expect this to be a 21st-century reboot, you will be disappointed.
The reboot of Night Court comes from the production team of Melissa Rauch, her husband Winston Rauch, and John Larroquette. All three are avid fans of the original series and have an invested interest in making this series feel like a worthwhile successor to the sitcom without turning it into a woke recreation. There are certainly references to many political events in recent years including the #MeToo movement, George Floyd protests, and more, but there never come across as preachy or impact the humor of the episodes. Showrunner and writer Dan Rubin, a veteran of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Scrubs, keeps his staff on the ball with episodes that are as wacky as the original series and consistently feel like they could have been storylines thirty years ago.
Night Court is a broad, multi-camera sitcom that mugs for the camera, makes silly jokes, and manages to feel like an homage to all the funny shows we watched in the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike some recent reboots like Murphy Brown and Will & Grace, Night Court works because it blends the classic elements of the series that inspired it by bringing back legacy characters but also adding in a new main cast who echo the original series without being carbon copies. Fans of Night Court should enjoy this new series quite a bit, but I hesitate to think many new viewers will be as enamored by the old-school style and jokes of this throwback. Hopefully, enough people check this show out and enjoy it and trigger a resurgence for this type of comedy, but I will settle for anyone to take this as a reason to go back and discover the original Night Court.
Night Court premieres on January 21st on NBC.