Sunday News

Beloved ’80s sitcom returns: Night Court is back in session

- James Croot

Along with Charles in Charge, Cheers and Alf, it was one of the defining US sitcoms of the 1980s. A feast of visual and verbal comedy that struck a chord with Kiwi viewers, thanks to its colourful characters and crazy conceits.

If the prank-loving, but passionate­ly liberal Harold T. Stone (Harry Anderson) was the heart of Night Court, then John Larroquett­e’s sex-obsessed, narcissist­ic prosecutor Dan Fielding was its subversive, somewhat edgy voice over the course of the series’ nine seasons and nearly 200 episodes.

It was a role that won Larroquett­e four consecutiv­e Emmys for Outstandin­g Supporting Actor from 1985, a domination that only ended after he withdrew his name from the 1989 ballot.

Now, more than three decades after Stone used his gavel for the final time, Night Court is back in session (debuting in New Zealand on Monday night at 9.30pm on Prime). And, thankfully, for fans of the original, this update/sequel is not half-bad, largely due to securing the return of Larroquett­e’s larrikin lawyer.

Opening with the arrival of the Manhattan Criminal Court’s new evening session judge Abby Stone

(The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa

Rauch), it tightly follows the template of focusing on the lives (and loves) of the employees, while showcasing the weird and wacky characters (and their sometimes mad misdemeano­urs) who pass through their doors.

Harry’s daughter, Abby is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps and see the defendants as more than just their crimes. “Anyone is capable of turning things around,” is her mantra.

Much to her chagrin though, it’s not a view shared by other key players in her courtroom.

Assistant district attorney Olivia (India de Beaufort) objects to Abby’s desire to dig into cases, preferring the traditiona­l, time-tested approach of her “making my case, you’re dazzled by my charm...and we move on”, while public defender Paul Grossman (Dave Thune) barely puts up a fight on behalf of his clients.

When pressed – and praised –

Grossman quits.

Fearing that any replacemen­t will be much the same, Abby decides to look up one of her Dad’s old friends, a man very familiar with that particular courtroom. However, Dan Fielding will require an awful lot of persuading, given that it would mean switching sides, being forced to fake caring and giving up his new role as a process server (“the look on someone’s face when you serve them at their kids’ flag football game – priceless,” he enthuses).

Initially sporting a Letterman-esque beard, Larroquett­e twinkles in his return to role that made his name and clearly looks to be having a ball. Whether its regaling Abby with tales of black market meat and thank you notes for the free legal advice he dispenses while potentiall­y more than ruining someone’s day, working undercover as a barista to dispense both hot drinks and snark (“Oat milk latte for Tad! A non-drink for a non-name,” he barks), or recounting how Harry’s antics meant he couldn’t eat canned nuts for a decade (“that man used to stuff spring snakes into everything,” he wistfully, but slightly bitterly, remembers), he delivers warm laughs, while retaining that more than a hint of cynicism that made Fielding such a hoot.

Yes, there is a sense that he and the show have adapted to these more timid times for mainstream comedy, but, fortunatel­y, neither has completely lost its sense of anarchy or quest to deliver slightly more adult-orientated humour than your average American network show played for laughs.

Night Court debuts on Prime at 9.30pm on Monday.

 ?? ?? After a 30-year break, John Larroquett­e is back playing lawyer Dan Fielding on Night Court.
After a 30-year break, John Larroquett­e is back playing lawyer Dan Fielding on Night Court.

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