The new broke yesterday: 80s NBC sitcom Night Court is getting a revival, with original series star John Larroquette reprising his 4-time Emmy-winning role as the lecherous creep prosecutor Dan Fielding and Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) serving as executive producer for a sequel series. It bears remembering why that show lasted for nine seasons, even though it doesn't enjoy quite the same glowing reputation as its contemporary comedies, and why its return is welcome.
The show had some stumbling blocks out of the gate, taking time to settle on its cast, and in its later seasons, it started to lose its way. When it was clicking in its prime, though, as part of the mega-hit NBC Thursday night comedy block that included a lead-in from Cheers, it was gleefully goofy, cleverly screwball, and unafraid to get lowbrow, and yet it could still deliver emotional moments like the one in this clip from Season 3 in 1985.
Judge Harold T. Stone (the late Harry Anderson) is generally a fun-loving young judge with a great moral compass, but when he's legally bound to side with sleazeballs, resulting in an unstable kid becoming homeless, he takes it hard. When that kid later gets shot as a direct result of the ruling, Stone quits his job entirely and retreats to drinking in a pool hall.
In most circumstances, Dan Fielding was a loathsome human being. He was a groveling weasel, a career suck-up, and a self-centered jerk, and bad things happening to him were the source of unending comedy for the show, because they were usually things he brought on himself. He was also wildly sexually inappropriate, and if he's coming back, there's going to have to be a reckoning about that (and since the new reboot synopsis describes him as a "former" prosecutor, we may see that his behavior finally caught up to him).
But on occasion he would prove that he wasn't 100% sleazebag by summoning enough gravitas to tackle weighty problems, as he does here when he hits Harry with hard truths about what the job is while driving home the point that the potential good he can do shouldn't be discarded because of the good he can't do. The tough love worked, and Harry came back to work, and the next episode could just as easily have had Dan take a pie to the face or get caught in Harry's office in his underwear for some reason. Such was the way of Night Court.
If writer Dan Rubin (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) can strike the right balance of slapstick silly and earnest compassion in this workplace comedy, there's no reason not to have more Night Court in our vast ocean of television options.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.