Night Court is an American television situation comedy that aired on NBC from January 4, 1984, to May 31, 1992. The setting was the night shift of a Manhattan municipal court, Criminal Court Part 2, presided over by a young, unorthodox judge, Harold T. "Harry" Stone (played by Harry Anderson). The series was created by comedy writer Reinhold Weege, who had previously worked on Barney Miller in the 1970s and early 1980s.
|Created by||Reinhold Weege|
|Opening theme||Jack Elliott|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||193 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||24 minutes (Seasons 1-8)
23 minutes (Season 9)
|Production company(s)||Starry Night Productions (1984–1989)
Warner Bros. Television
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||January 4, 1984 – May 31, 1992|
The following cast members appeared in the opening credits:
- The judge:
- Harry Anderson as Judge Harold "Harry" T. Stone, a young, baby-faced, good-humored jurist and an amateur magician whose parents were former mental patients. He was very young for a new judge, being only 34 when he took the bench at Criminal Court Part 2. He later explained cheerfully that he got his assignment because the outgoing Mayor of NYC made a huge number of appointments on his last day, and Harry was the only person on the judges' list who was home and was able to receive the call and accept his nomination. He loved old movies, was vocal in his disdain for modern music (especially Barry Manilow), and idolized actress Jean Harlow and crooner Mel Torme, both of whose photographs adorned Stone's chambers.
- The public defenders:
- Gail Strickland as public defender Sheila Gardner (pilot episode only).
- Paula Kelly as Liz Williams (Season 1, after the pilot); prior to the addition of Mac to the show.
- Ellen Foley as Billie Young (Season 2), a public defender and potential romantic interest for Harry Stone during Season 2.
- Markie Post as Christine Sullivan (Seasons 3–9). Her first appearance on the show was an early second-season episode ("Daddy for the Defense", originally aired October 4, 1984); she didn't become a regular until the third season (Post was starring on The Fall Guy at the time.) The character was attractive, honest to a fault, and somewhat naïve. She was the primary romantic interest for Stone and a regular target for Dan Fielding's lechery throughout the series' run. She had various Princess Diana memorabilia collections such as a set of porcelain thimbles.
- The prosecutor:
- John Larroquette as Reinhold Daniel Fielding Elmore, who used the name Daniel R. "Dan" Fielding, (although in the Season 2 Episode "Harry on Trial", he is referred to as Daniel K. Fielding) a sex-obsessed narcissistic prosecutor who would do almost anything to get a woman to sleep with him. It was hinted that he frequented dominatrices. He was the source of many witty and sometimes cruel remarks regarding almost every other character, although he occasionally showed compassion on critical occasions. When his homeless lackey Phil died, the ever greedy Dan was excited to discover that Phil was in fact wealthy and expected to be the beneficiary of his millions, only to learn that Phil's will put Dan in charge of the Phil Foundation, tasked to give away Phil's entire fortune to worthy causes. Dan revealed near the end of the third-season episode #22 "Hurricane (Part 2)" that his real first name was Reinhold (an obvious joke about the show's writer and producer of the same name), and that he began using the name Dan out of embarrassment when he started school. The other characters did not discover Dan's true name until the fifth-season episode #12 "Dan, The Walking Time Bomb". It was earlier discovered, in the second-season episode #13 "Dan's Parents", from Dan's parents Daddy-Bob (John McIntire) and Mucette (Jeanette Nolan), that he began using the last name Fielding when he went to college because he thought it sounded better for a lawyer. During the eighth season, it was revealed that he had a successful younger sister named Donna whose morals and life goals were similar to his own.
- The bailiffs:
- Richard Moll as Aristotle Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon, a seemingly dim-witted hulk of a figure who was actually patient, gentle and childlike. He was fiercely protective of Harry. Bull was known for his catchphrase, "Ooo-kay", and clapping a hand loudly to his forehead when he realized he had made a mistake. Moll had been filming a sci-fi movie and had shaved his head for the role; the producers loved the look and Moll kept his head shaven for the entirety of his run.
- Female bailiffs:
- Selma Diamond as Selma Hacker (Seasons 1 and 2), a chain-smoking (like the actress who played her) older bailiff; her surname was a tongue-in-cheek reference. In one episode she admitted to having had as many as six husbands, one of whom was a contortionist. Diamond died of cancer shortly after Season 2, and the character's death was acknowledged on a subsequent episode.
- Florence Halop as Florence "Flo" Kleiner (Season 3), Selma's replacement. She was similar in age and personality to Selma, but loved motorcycles and heavy metal music. Halop died shortly after Season 3, also of cancer like Diamond. In the opening episode of Season 4, Harry Stone acknowledged that Florence Kleiner had also died. ("When Selma died, I felt loss. When Florence died, I felt loss.")
- Marsha Warfield as Rosalind "Roz" Russell (Seasons 4–9), the third bailiff, a tall, tough, no-nonsense African-American. She usually projected a fearsome image. Sharp-tongued, in time she became close to her coworkers. Warfield stayed on the show for the rest of its run.
- The court clerks:
- Karen Austin as Lana Wagner (Season 1). The original romantic interest for Harry Stone. Although Austin left the show[why?] after ten episodes, she was seen in the opening credits of all 13 first-season episodes.
- Charles Robinson as Macintosh "Mac" Robinson (Seasons 2–9), a Vietnam War veteran. Easy-going and pragmatic, he was probably the most "normal" character. He had a good sense of humor, frequently having the last laugh at Dan, and was a loyal friend to his coworkers. He always wore a cardigan, plaid shirt, and knit tie. By the end of the series, he left his job to pursue his dream of going to film school and becoming a director.
- Mike Finneran as Art Fensterman, a bumbling "fix-it man" attached to the courthouse. His attempts to fix the courthouse often disrupted Harry's proceedings in the courtroom. Seen in 37 episodes across all 9 seasons.
- Martin Garner as Bernie (Seasons 1–3), the operator of the concession stand in the cafeteria, who had a crush on Selma and was often seen trying to persuade her to stop smoking. After Selma died, he tried to court Flo. (When Bernie was not at the stand various extras could be seen running it, including Al Rosen, best known as "Al" on Cheers.)
- Terry Kiser as Al Craven (Seasons 1 and 2), an obnoxious, pushy tabloid reporter who sometimes hung around the courtroom in hopes of discovering a scandalous story.
- Jason Bernard as Judge Willard (Seasons 1 and 2), an arrogant, humorless Judge who didn't approve of Harry's antics and tried to have him removed from the bench.
- Rita Taggart as Carla Bouvier (Seasons 1 and 2), more commonly known as "Carla B," a prostitute who frequently appeared as a defendant and who had a crush on Harry.
- Ron Ross as Dirk, a wimpy bailiff.
- Denice Kumagai as Quon Le Duc Robinson (Seasons 2–9), Mac's wife, a refugee from Vietnam, where she met Mac during his service in the Vietnam War when her family let Mac stay at their home while injured. Quon Le was naive about America and its customs, but was loving and devoted to Mac. Mac originally married her to keep her in the country, claiming he was not in love with her, but that quickly changed. She didn't understand the concept of 'buy now, pay later', very well, but became more financially responsible after opening a restaurant in Season 3. In Season 4, moments after being sworn in as an American citizen, Quon Le gave birth to her and Mac's daughter, Renee Flicka Robinson.
- John Astin as Buddy Ryan (Seasons 3–9), Harry's eccentric stepfather and a former patient in a psychiatric hospital. His catchphrase was the capper to stories involving his hospital stay or past strange behavior: "...but I'm feeling much better now," accompanied by a huge leering grin. He was later revealed to be Harry's biological father, admitting he'd kept it a secret for fear that the truth would bring Harry's judicial ability into question.
- Mel Tormé as himself. In the first episode, Harry Stone was revealed as an almost fanatical admirer of Tormé. The two crossed paths, but Tormé grew to dislike the judge because Harry almost always ended up somehow causing misfortune or problems for his idol. Tormé once played Harry's guardian angel in an episode modeled after the film "It's A Wonderful Life", where the angel shows Harry how his colleagues could have ended up had he never become a judge.
- William Utay as Phil Sanders, Dan's homeless lackey. Later in the series, Phil was killed in an accident involving a large musical instrument. (Due to his fear of musical instruments, he had a special clause in his substantial life insurance policy providing additional benefit in the event of accidental death caused by a musical instrument.) Just before his death, it was revealed that Phil was actually extremely wealthy but chose to live among the poor (a former stockbroker suffering from Howard Hughes syndrome)—in fact, the show cleverly suggested the New York Harmonic Orchestra was known as the "PHILharmonic Orchestra" because Phil was one of its greatest patrons. Utay later played Phil's evil twin brother Will, who befriended Dan in order to steal all of the Phil Foundation's money. Will later returned what he'd stolen along with a lot of additional cash from successful investing and devoted the rest of his life to doing good deeds on Dan's behalf.
- Brent Spiner and Annie O'Donnell as Bob and June Wheeler, down-on-their-luck stereotypical Appalachian yokels, who later reveal they are Yugoslavian, although they continue to speak the same way. Bob was a frequent defendant in Harry's courtroom, usually as the result of a series of freak disasters befalling his family. At one point they ran a concession stand in the courthouse, for which they spent the entire inheritance ($250,000), which "Granny" (oft-mentioned but never seen) had left them, forcing them to charge astronomical prices.
- Leslie Bevis as Sheila, an exotic nymphomaniac who often appeared to entice Dan into a sexual liaison during or after court to his detriment, causing him to suffer a coma in one episode. In her final appearance Sheila rejected Dan for a man who talked very, very slowly. She tells Dan she needs someone who "knows how to take his time." In total Sheila appeared in four episodes.
- Yakov Smirnoff as Russian immigrant Yakov Korolenko, another frequent visitor to the courtroom. In the first season Harry saved a distraught Yakov from a suicide attempt, and they became good friends ever after. Yakov eventually tried to bring his brother to America, succeeded in getting his wife Sonja and kids out of the Soviet Union, and got his father to immigrate after the Cold War's end. A running joke on the series was when Judge Stone would mention jail, which had a completely different import to the Soviet immigrant, who would respond with obvious fear: "Jay-ul? Oh, noooo! No jay-ul!"
- Eugene Roche as Jack Sullivan, Christine's overbearing, blue-collar father. He referred to Harry as "that nut".
- Daniel Frishman played Dan's boss, District Attorney Vincent Daniels, in several episodes. Though initially underestimated because he was a little person, he had an extremely tough personality and often had it in for Dan.
- Bumper Robinson as Leon, an orphan who becomes close to Harry.
- Ray Abruzzo as Tony Giuliano, a police detective and Christine's ex-husband.
- Mary Cadorette as Margaret Turner, Harry's girlfriend/fiance during season 8.
- S. Marc Jordan as Jack Griffin (Seasons 8 and 9), the blind operator of the concession stand in the cafeteria.
- Joleen Lutz as Lisette Hocheiser (Seasons 8 and 9), the ditzy court stenographer.
- Gilbert Gottfried as Oscar Brown (Season 9), an attorney who filled in for Dan when he was missing.
- Florence Stanley as Judge Margaret Wilbur who occasionally filled in for Harry; she did not tolerate the staff's usual eccentricities. (Wilbur was a cross-over character from the NBC situation comedy, My Two Dads, where Bull Shannon had made guest appearances in two episodes.)
The only actors to appear consistently throughout the show's run were Anderson, Larroquette, and Moll.
Every episode of Night Court opens and closes with a jazz-influenced, bass-heavy theme tune composed by Jack Elliott, featuring Ernie Watts on saxophone while featuring video footage of prominent New York City landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York County Courthouse.
Night Court's theme was used in the season 5 Family Guy episode "Bill & Peter's Bogus Journey", featuring animations of former US president Bill Clinton playing saxophone along with Secret Service musicians playing backup.
Night Court's theme was sampled for the remix to Cam'Ron's 1998 single "Horse & Carriage". It was produced by Darrell "Digga" Branch and Featured Big Pun, Charli Baltimore, Wyclef Jean and Silkk the Shocker.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||13||January 4, 1984||May 31, 1984||N/A||N/A|
|2||22||September 27, 1984||May 9, 1985||20||17.6|
|3||22||September 26, 1985||May 8, 1986||11||20.9|
|4||22||October 2, 1986||May 6, 1987||7||23.2|
|5||22||September 17, 1987||May 12, 1988||7||20.8|
|6||22||October 26, 1988||May 3, 1989||21||16.9|
|7||24||September 27, 1989||May 2, 1990||28||14.5
(Tied with The Simpsons and Doogie Howser, M.D.)
|8||24||September 28, 1990||May 8, 1991||N/A||N/A|
|9||22||September 18, 1991||May 31, 1992||N/A||N/A|
Awards and honorsEdit
Night Court received a number of awards and nominations. Both Selma Diamond (in 1985) and John Larroquette (in 1988) earned Golden Globe nominations, but lost to Faye Dunaway and Rutger Hauer respectively. Paula Kelly was nominated for an Emmy after the first season. Larroquette won four consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series from 1985 to 1988, before he withdrew his name from the ballot in 1989. Selma Diamond was nominated in 1985, and Anderson received three nominations in 1985, 1986 and 1987. The series received three nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1985, 1987, and 1988. The series also received many awards and nominations in the areas of lighting, editing, sound mixing, and technical direction. The show was nominated for thirty-one Emmys, winning seven.
After its primary run in broadcast syndication, the series aired on cable's A&E Network for many years. It was briefly seen later on TV Land from 2005 to 2008, then began airing on Encore Classic on December 2, 2013. Beginning at the end of 2015, the show airs nationally on the Laff digital subchannel.
Aired weekdays on both Comedy Gold and JoyTV.
|DVD Name||Ep. #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||13||February 8, 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||22||February 3, 2009|
|The Complete Third Season||22||February 23, 2010|
|The Complete Fourth Season||22||March 1, 2011 (Amazon.com)
September 1, 2011 (WBShop.com)
|The Complete Fifth Season||22||October 25, 2011|
|The Complete Sixth Season||22||June 26, 2012|
|The Complete Seventh Season||22||November 6, 2012|
|The Complete Eighth Season||24||January 29, 2013|
|The Complete Ninth Season||22||June 11, 2013|
|DVD Name||Release Date||Ep. #|
|Television Favorites||February 28, 2006||6|
The Television Favorites compilation DVD included the pilot episode, "All You Need Is Love"; both parts of the fourth-season finale, "Her Honor"; the fifth-season episodes "Death of a Bailiff" and "Who Was That Mashed Man?"; and the sixth-season episode "Fire", which marked the beginning of Harry's relationship with Christine.
Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Robinson appeared in the 30 Rock episode, "The One with the Cast of Night Court". John Larroquette is also mentioned: Harry says he had just spoken to John, which annoys Markie (who hasn't had recent contact with her absent former co-star) and begins an argument between them that lasts for most of the story.
- 13 judicious facts about Night Court - Mental Floss.com
- Night Court: Where are they now? - Entertainment Weekly
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1690-1692. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- "Night Court DVD news: Announcement for Night Court - The Complete 9th Season - TVShowsOnDVD.com".
- "Night Court: The Complete First Season". DVDEmpire.
- "Night Court: The Complete Second Season". DVDEmpire.
- "Night Court: The Complete Third Season". DVDEmpire.
- "Night Court: The Complete Fourth Season". www.WBShop.com.
- "Night Court: The Complete Fifth Season". www.WBShop.com.
- "Night Court: The Complete Sixth Season". www.WBShop.com.
- "Night Court: The Complete Seventh Season". www.WBShop.com.
- "Night Court: The Complete Eighth Season (MOD)". www.WBShop.com. Retrieved 2015-09-02.
- "Night Court: The Complete Ninth Season (MOD)". www.WBShop.com. Retrieved 2015-09-02.