Did you grow up watching the show Night Court? It was one of the best sitcoms of its time and still remains a classic to this day. It was a rather long-running sitcom due to its tremendous success as it managed to run for 9 seasons and 193 episodes
The show was certainly a challenge to write and sustain over such a long time. But with the backing of its creator Reinhold Weege, the shows’ writers, and its fantastic cast it managed to stay on the air for 8 years!
Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end. But what was it that caused Night Court to finally end its session?
Join FactsVerse to look back at the scene that took Night Court off the air for good…
COURT IS IN SESSION
Night Court was the brainchild of Reinhold Weege who had experience creating sitcoms before, most notably, Barney Miller.
Barney Miller was a show that showed the comedic side of police procedural. It starred Hal Linden as the eponymous character and he was supported by a rag-tag ensemble of great actors and actresses. This formula made the show a huge hit and it was clear that audiences wanted to see such a show.
This was a show that showed part of the legal procedure – something that Americans were curious about. The show also was a satire of the whole legal procedure and showed those involved as buffoons on occasion – something that gives us more ease perhaps? Plus, the formula of having one central character for the rest of the cast to bounce off was also a huge success.
Reinhold Weege had tremendous success with Barney Miller and he knew he had to follow-up with this formula for another show. His next step was to leave the police station and enter the courtroom.
Night Court premiered on January 4, 1984. It was set in the Manhattan municipal court. The court was presided by Judge Harry Stone played by actor Harry Anderson – who won the role off his fame from Saturday Night Live.
The show had a great ensemble cast that soon became part of our families as Americans tuned in each night to see what was happening in the courtroom.
These cast members included:
- John Laroquette as Dan Fielding, the prosecutor
- Paula Kelly as Liz Williams and Ellen Foley as Billie Young were public defenders in the first and second seasons respectively.
- Markie Post played Christine Sullivan, public defender, from the third season to the final season.
- The bailiffs were played by actors such as Richard Moll as Bull Shannon, Selma Diamond as Selma Hacker, Florence Halop as Florence Kleiner, and Marsha Warfield as Roz Russell!
- The court clerks were played by Karen Austin as Lana Wagner in the first season and Charles Robinson as Mac Robinson in the remaining seasons.
This fantastic cast along with the brilliant team of writers all with Reinhold Weege’s supervision created this fantastic show.
Night Court was almost an instant success. The show made stars of the cast members, especially Harry Anderson, John Laroquette, and Richard Moll. With each season, the show got better and better and became the defining show of the 1980s. It had wit, cleverness, a mix of family-friendly and risqué humor, and a uniquely American take on the world. The show’s continued success of 9 seasons is why it’s still considered a classic to this day.
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ORDER IN THE COURT
So, what are the fascinating details that made Night Court such a successful show?
Let’s look at how at how the show’s creator and writers were able to come up with the concept of the show. While we all have an idea of how a courtroom works, most of us don’t know about the daily lives of judges as well as the behind the scenes of each case.
Reinhold Weege met with actual New York city judges and learned about their personal lives as well as their cases. The writers would also read about the inner workings of real-life ‘night courts’ and the judges who oversaw these courts. This gave inspiration to the writers to churn out scripts without issue. While it became difficult during the final season, they managed to create fascinating stories over close to 200 episodes and these episodes are still worth watching to this day!
Another great aspect of the series was how the cast members too control of their roles and influenced their characters.
For example, Harry Anderson had experience playing comedy roles throughout his career and especially during his stint on Saturday Night Live. That helped him craft the character of Harry Jones – a judge who was trying to be serious but also had to find a way to be taken seriously.
John Laroquette really worked wonders to craft Dan Fielding. The character was originally bland and rather conservative. But John Laroquette always liked taking on challenging roles and adding his own personality to his characters.
John made Dan Fielding into an arrogant character. He made him into a womanizer. In other words, he helped shape Dan Fielding into one of the most memorable characters from the show – perhaps in American sitcom history.
The various ladies who played the public defenders did the same. While we didn’t see Paula Kelly after the first season one can’t forget about her memorable role in the show. She had a reputation for playing vivacious characters, especially Leggy Peggy in Uptown Saturday Night.
Markie Post became a huge star with her role as Christine Sullivan. She played a bold character but also one that showed her softer side – particularly in the 7th season when she had an onscreen romance with the Detective Tony character.
Richard Moll also became a huge star with his role as the Bailiff Bull Shannon. While he had developed a reputation for playing tough guy characters in films, with Night Court his character was intimidating but lovable. Perhaps Hoss from Bonanza was part of the inspiration for such a character. While Richard Moll has had a prolific career, his role as Bull Shannon is still one of his most celebrated roles.
There were also several guest stars on Night Court including:
- Michael Richards
- John Astin
- Lou Ferrigno
- James Cromwell
- Fran Descher
- Wil E. Coyote – yes, that’s correct – blink and you’ll miss it. Actually, you won’t as he’s not chasing the roadrunner
- Michael J. Fox
And Pam Grier! In fact, Pam Grier’s cameo appearance in the show was arguably one of the best episodes of the series. She appeared in the two-part series called “Hurricane.” In this episode, a group of women are stuck in the courthouse and have to unexpectedly give birth. Pam Grier was one of the women in this group.
In the previous decade, Pam Grier had made her name as one of the foremost bad girls of cinema. She was the face of blaxpoitation cinema and there were few female characters like Coffy or Foxy Brown. She was a huge star and her role added to the dynamism of Night Court. Without a doubt, this is perhaps one of her best roles apart from her work in mainstream cinema.
As you can see, Night Court was the talk of the town. It won awards and secured nomination after nomination.
The show would eventually have a resurgence on retro TV channels and on streaming platforms and there’s even a reboot of the show. This classic show produced hit after hit and the audiences loved watching it for almost a decade.
So much so, that even the show 30 Rock, in 2008 reunited with some of the cast members to create their own episode of Night Court.
But alas, all good things have to come to an end…
THE SCENE THAT TOOK NIGHT COURT OFF THE AIR FOR GOOD
So, what was it that caused the show to come to an end? What was the scene that took Night Court off the air for good?
Around the ninth season, the writers were having difficulty writing the scripts and coming up with better stories. The characters all had interesting stories – especially the love triangle among Harry, Christine, and Dan.
One would hope that a series finale would resolve all these issues in one go. But the show’s ratings had dropped and we didn’t get the series finale that we would have wanted.
The scene that took night court off the air for good was the very last scene of the episode ‘The 1992 Boat Show.’ After the filming of this episode ended, the cast members were all sent a telegram and told that the show was over and they had the weekend to clear out their dressing rooms.
Naturally, many of them were disappointed – though it seems John Laroquette took it in his stride and was ready to move on. After all, he won 4 Emmy awards for his role!
The show ended in a manner that we wouldn’t have liked but we remember it as one of the best sitcoms in history and that’s how we should always remember it. Night Court ran for 8 years and we believe that it could have gone on even longer but we take joy in the fact that we have 193 episodes to watch again and again.
If you haven’t seen Night Court – watch it now. If you have, the instructions are the same!
Now, let’s hear from you:
Did you grow up watching Night Court? Did you feel the show ended the way you would have wished?
In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think that newer generations know about Night Court?
Or has it largely faded away from our modern zeitgeist today and isn’t as popular?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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