‘Night Court’ Review: NBC Sequel Series Deftly Updates the Zany Sitcom for 2023

John Larroquette’s Dan Fielding is a skirt-chasing Assistant D.A. no more


Thirty years after “Night Court” came to a decidedly dissatisfying conclusion following nine seasons, NBC is returning to the scene of the crime and punishment. A sequel rather than a reboot, the new series features Judge Abby Stone (Melissa Rauch of “The Big Bang Theory,” immensely appealing) — daughter of the zany but popular Judge Harry Stone (the late Harry Anderson), who anchored the original sitcom — wielding the gavel. She’s as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as he was, though not as deft a magician; during one trick, she gets a Constitution stuck in her bra.

A refresher: When we last left our kooky courtroom family, everyone essentially had decided to go their separate ways — defense attorney Christine Sullivan (the late Markie Post) to a newly elected post in Congress, womanizing assistant district attorney Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) to chase after Christine, court clerk Mac Robinson (the late Charles Robinson) to film school, and Harry, well, still in night court. Fans were so frustrated that even “30 Rock” attempted to rewrite the ending — see: Season 3’s “The One With the Cast of ‘Night Court’” — giving us the Harry and Christine wedding we’d long envisioned.

Rauch, who also exec-produces, and her fellow co-creators have smartly zeroed in on the elements that made “Night Court” the fan (if not critical) favorite that it always was: the sassy bailiff (Lacretta plays Donna “Gurgs” Gurganos); the court clerk who’s still searching for his true calling (Kapil Talwalkar as Neil); the nakedly ambitious ADA (comic dynamo India de Beaufort as Olivia); and, perhaps most important, Larroquette in the multi-Emmy-winning role that made him famous. (Fun fact: Along with Anderson and Richard Moll, who played beloved bald bailiff Bull, Larroquette was the only actor to appear in all 193 episodes of the original “Night Court.”) Also returning after three decades: Clarence, the plastic armadillo. Judge Abby rescues him from a box in episode 1.

Intriguingly, Dan is no longer the smarmy skirt-chasing prosecutor we once knew. (Though how could he be? The late-’80s Dan would be a lawsuit waiting to happen in 2023.) Now, he’s “Dan Fielding for the defense.” Five words you never thought you’d hear, right? Fortunately, the character has retained his signature cynicism and lack of social smarts: “The only family drama I care about,” he tells Abby’s mom, Gina (Faith Ford), “is ‘Succession.’ I’m rooting for the old man!” Abby lovingly refers to him as her “emotional support grouch.”

Through six episodes, the courtroom sees a psychic, a werewolf, a flasher, blood-thirsty twins, a senior claiming Satan speaks through her air fryer, and allegedly homicidal vampires. A visit from hapless Yugoslavians-slash-West-Virginians Bob and June Wheeler might be too much to hope for, but weirder, wackier cases wouldn’t be unwelcome. So far, this “Night Court” hasn’t quite reached the madcap, vaudevillian comic heights of its predecessor.

“Night Court” premieres with two episodes Jan. 17 on NBC, with new episodes airing weekly on Tuesdays.