Night Court review: all rise for this refreshing update

Night Court summons the past while embracing the future.

Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette in Night Court
(Image: © Jordin Althaus/NBC/Warner Bros. Television)

What to Watch Verdict

The verdict is in: Night Court has the heart of the original series and a bright future ahead.

Pros

  • +

    The same smart writing and razor-sharp wit of the original series

  • +

    An homage that sets the stage for the future

  • +

    Brilliant cast

Cons

  • -

    Moves so quickly that the punchlines can get glossed over

From the moment the new Night Court revival was announced, the pressure was on NBC to get it right. You can't resurrect a classic series that was darn near perfect and expect people to be excited about it —there's simply too much to lose. In this case, though, it was worth the risk. Not only did NBC get Night Court right, but they truly stuck the landing, too.  

When I think back to my childhood, I knew Night Court was a great show because I watched episode after episode in syndication and I knew it was funny but I had no idea why. Most of the jokes went over my head but I laughed anyway. I was too young to appreciate its seven Primetime Emmy wins and dozens of award nominations. I wasn't old enough to realize that real-life court wasn't even close to funny. But what I did realize is that for all its humor, the show had a lot of heart. 

The Night Court of old owed everything to its phenomenal cast led by the late great Harry Anderson as Judge Harry Stone, with the late Markie Post and John Larroquette squaring off as the public defender and district attorney, respectively. Richard Moll, Charles Robinson and Marsha Warfield rounded out a support staff that felt more like a family.

Could NBC resurrect the show and inject it with the same humor, quick wit, epic timing and, most importantly, the same amount of heart of the original series?

The answer is yes. Yes, they can. And they did. As a bonus, they even kept the original theme music.

This isn't Night Court 2.0. This is Night Court, The Next Generation. The gavel has been passed to Stone's daughter, Abby (Melissa Rausch). Like her father, Abby is idealistic and wants to see the best in everyone, even people who may — or may not — be guilty of the crimes that landed them in New York's night court in the first place. 

Abby is joined by her clerk, Neil (Kapil Talwalkar), Olivia (India de Beaufort) the district attorney and bailiff Gurgs (Lacretta). The public defender quits on Abby's first day on the job, so she turns to her father's old pal Dan Fielding (Larroquette) for help. Dan drags his feet, having left the district attorney's office behind years prior. He hints at lost love and his messy apartment and disheveled appearance signal that he's very much alone. 

By the end of the pilot episode, Dan returns to the courtroom in a classic Dan Fielding suit and after a reminder from Abby that he's now in the public defender role, everything falls right into place. 

There are plenty of nods to the show's past (Abby takes up her father’s old office and it’s a treasure trove of items from the original series) but there's also a very quick transition to the show's future and all the potential it has to create new magic.

Like Anderson, Rausch is a master of comedic timing and the perfect person to play his onscreen daughter. She balances Abby's generally friendly and laid-back demeanor with stern (but still gentle) reminders that she's the judge and what she says goes. 

Larroquette falls into the role of Dan Fielding like an old glove, and seeing him spar with Rausch is so very reminiscent of the old series that it's hard not to get emotional. His character has also had a gentle retcon. There's no way the old Dan Fielding would pass muster these days, but instead of reinventing him he's the same Dan but an older and wiser version, and as a public defender this time around, Larroquette will be able to bring out Dan's softer, sympathetic side.

As with the original series, the supporting cast is integral to the success of the show and everyone nails their roles. One episode in and you feel like you've known them forever.  

All of the elements are in place for Night Court to rise to the top of the primetime landscape. With a strong foundation and lots of heart from a cast that's determined to do right by the original series, there's no question that this court is in session and ready to tackle anything.

Night Court airs on NBC Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/PT, then streaming on Peacock a day later.

Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer

 

Sarabeth joined the Watch to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long.  


When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts a podcast dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She’s also very close to realizing her lifelong dream of publishing a novel.