After three decades, “Night Court” has returned to the bench.
The eight-year run of the comedy, which followed the oddball night shift of a New York City courtroom, ended in 1992. However, the sitcom will return to NBC on Tuesday (8 EST/PST) with a two-episode premiere.
The familiar courtroom remains, but the personnel has shifted. Many original “Night Court” cast members have passed away, including Markie Post (public defender Christine Sullivan) in 2021 and Harry Anderson, who passed away in 2018 and will be remembered by fans as the magic trick-loving Judge Harry T. Stone.
John Larroquette, 75, returns with a white beard after winning four Emmys for his role as narcissistic prosecutor Dan Fielding. The late Stone’s grown and equally eccentric daughter Abby, the new presiding judge, hires the burned-out Fielding as public defender (“Big Bang Theory” star Melissa Rauch).
“I’m no longer the 35-year-old who began playing that character. I can’t do physical comedy like I used to “Larroquette explains. “Hopefully, with his wit and intellect, we have discovered other ways for him to be funny than the clown he was in the 1980s. But this is a new world.”
What was it like to walk onto the courtroom set for the first time in 30 years?
The answer is emotional. Because you remember the people who were present. They did an excellent job of replicating and rebuilding the set. The cafeteria, courtroom, and hallways are all identical. It was like returning to your old school, but with more emotions because the main reasons for the show’s success and enjoyment had passed. When we were filming the (new) pilot, Markie, Harry, and Charlie Robinson (court clerk Mac Robinson) all died.
Dan now sits in the chair that Christine Sullivan occupied for years as a defence attorney. As a result, I frequently pay silent homage to Markie.
Is anyone from the original show present?
Definitely not in the cast. But I’m fortunate to have two original crew members with whom I share a history. On set, there were times when I could say, “Remember when Harry pulled the hamster from his nose right here?”
In the premiere, Fielding gives an emotional tribute while alone in Harry’s old office. Was that also a farewell to Harry Anderson?
The situation is complicated because the character and the real person share the same first name. Harry hasn’t been around for a while. To be honest, you want to remember people reverently without becoming maudlin. The character is the subject of that speech.
It’s now Abby’s office, and there have been some changes. Is there a Harry holdover you prefer?
I can assure you that it is the same couch. In the 1980s, I put a board under the cushions because they were too soft. The board was still in place. There are some amusing substitutions, such as removing the Jean Harlow photo and replacing it with a German shepherd, which is her dog. But that building has seen 30 years of legal activity. So there have been numerous changes.
Why is Melissa Rauch a good fit for her screen father Harry’s bench seat?
Melissa, with her pedigree, is a comedy actor, as am I. When we play together, we make good music. We know how to treat jokes while also making them real. Abby, like her father, is a prankster without the magic. You don’t want to overdo it. When the shenanigans are removed, both judges care about their jobs and seeking justice for people.
The “Night Court” theme song is instantly recognisable, but it is shorter. Why?
The theme song is a modernised version of the same tune. Actually, the series’ composer, my son Benjamin Larroquette, rerecorded it. He was alone in his recording studio. You used to have much longer opening credits on shows like ours, “Cheers,” or “Family Ties” back in the day. This is only about nine seconds long and shows a couple of shots of New York, the cast members, and getting into the show. You just don’t have much time to experiment with it. It’s simply a different era, 30 years later.
Have you talked about including Marsha Warfield and Richard Moll from the original cast?
In terms of the main cast members, only Marsha and Richard are still with us. Marsha and I had a conversation. It’s no secret that one or two of the elderly may appear as guests here. We do not yet know. Stephen Root, Brent Spiner, and Michael J. Fox were among the great comedic actors just starting out their careers who passed through those court doors. Nobody knows what the future holds.