Running for a total of eight years from 1984, the US sitcom Night Court was immensely popular at the time. Set on the night shift of a Manhattan Municipal Court, it set itself apart from the TV comedy competition.
Presided over by Harry Anderson’s Judge Harold T ‘Harry’ Stone, who was an unorthodox judge to say the least, recurring cast members on both the defence and prosecution included John Larroquette’s Dan Fielding, Charles Robinson’s Mac Robinson, Marsha Warfield’s Roz Russell and Richard Moll’s Bull Shannon.
Let’s take a look back at Night Court with some facts you almost certainly didn’t know about the show.
20. Markie Post worked on several game shows before becoming an actress
Before landing the role of Christine Sullivan on Night Court, Markie Post worked on several game shows.
She started out working as part of the production crew on Tom Kennedy’s version of Split Second.
She also worked as an associate producer on TV personality Alex Trebek’s show Double Dare.
On top of that, she appeared as a card dealer on NBC’s version of Card Sharks, hosted by Jim Perry.
Post also made frequent appearances as a celebrity contestant on game shows such as Pyramid and Password.
She landed her first acting role in 1979 on a TV movie called Frankie and Annette: The Second Time Around before landing the Night Court gig in 1985.
19. Michael Richards – aka Kramer from Seinfeld – appeared naked on one episode
Before Michael Richards shot to fame as Kramer from Seinfeld, he made a small appearance in a Night Court episode.
In the episode Take My Wife, Please, Richards appears as a man who believes he’s invisible.
He ends up going to court after being caught stealing in broad daylight, having thought that no one could see him.
At the end of the episode Richards walks into court stark naked as he believes his clothes were affecting his invisibility.
The episode aired in 1984, five years before he was cast as Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld.
Seinfeld has been lauded as one of the best sitcoms in TV history, with Richards bagging multiple Emmys for his performance.
18. Harry Anderson was cast because of Saturday Night Live
Harry Anderson starred as young judge and amateur magician Harry T Stone on Night Court.
Anderson was actually a magician in real life. He even had his own show dedicated to magic called Harry Anderson’s Sideshow.
He also made seven appearances on Saturday Night Live, where he caught the eye of Jeff Melman.
TV producer Melman saw a shot Anderson poking a needle through his arm and thought he’d be a good fit for magician-cum-judge Harry Stone.
“The name Harry and the fact that he did magic was a coincidence,” Reinhold Weege said on a 2002 documentary about the show.
“Harry said he was the guy, and I’ll be damned, he turned out to be the guy.”
17. An obscure sci-fi movie was behind Richard Moll’s bald head
Richard Moll was cast as gentle giant Aristotle Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon in Night Court back in 1983.
When he auditioned for the role, Moll had a shaved head as he’d come fresh from the set of a sci-fi film.
The obscure film – called Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn – saw Moll star as ‘Hurok,’ the leader of a group of nomad warriors.
Bull Shannon was never meant to have a bald head, but creator Weege liked the look when he saw Moll audition.
Speaking to People in 2003, Moll revealed that he was happy to remain bald for a little while longer.
“When I went in they said, ‘Oh, that’s great. We love the look. Will you shave your head for the role?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I’ll shave my legs for this role.’”
16. 30 Rock offered a conclusion to the series 16 years after its cancellation
Night Court ended abruptly after it was cancelled in 1992, leaving many storylines completely unresolved.
However, 16 years after the show’s cancellation, the show 30 Rock – set at the TV studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza – addressed the lack of closure in one episode called The One With The Cast of Night Court.
In the episode, cast members including Markie Post and Harry Anderson star as themselves as they stage a conclusion to Night Court at 30 Rock.
Christine and Judge Stone end up getting married – it was a poignant alternate ending, as the Christine-Harry-Dan love triangle was a serious plot point throughout the show’s ninth season.
John Larroquette did not appear on the episode as he was busy filming Boston Legal.
The episode received a mixed reception from critics, with some finding the Night Court cast cameos “not funny.”
15. The show’s creator was inspired by the stories told to him by real night court judges
Reinhold Weege, the creator of Night Court, was largely inspired to create the show after hearing stories from real New York City night court judges.
According to a 2002 E! documentary on the show, Weege had been approached by NBC and Warner Bros and asked to produced a courtroom comedy.
And so he spent a night sat on a bench at a Manhattan night court to get some ideas, and was amazed by what he saw.
Weege decided to centre the show around a wacky judge. “There were stories in the newspaper at the time of judges with serious emotional problems who the state had a hard time getting rid of,” he said in the documentary.
“I thought, gosh, it would be terrific if we could get a judge through the system who was a little off-center, a little wacky.”
Weege went on to say he was “moved by the craziness” of his experience at the night court.
14. Two deaths gave rise to talk of the “Bailiff Curse”
Selma Diamond started off in the show as bailiff Selma Hacker before passing away after the show’s second season.
She was replaced by Florence Halop who portrayed the character Florence Kleiner, another bailiff. She too died shortly after making her debut on the show.
This led to talk of the “Bailiff Curse,” given the close succession of the tragic deaths.
The studio then looked for a significantly younger actor to fill the spot on the cast list.
They settled on Marsha Warfield who joined the show’s ranks to play no-nonsense bailiff Roz Russell.
Warfield stuck with the show right through to its bitter end, breaking the so-called Bailiff Curse.
13. It took a long time to settle on an actress for the female lead
Before the show established itself, many other actresses played the female lead before the studio settled on Markie Post, according to IMDb.
Gail Strickland featured as the female lead in the show’s pilot episode before being replaced by Paula Kelly.
Kelly was then replaced in the show’s second season by actress and singer Ellen Foley who played Billie Young.
Christine’s character was only introduced as a regular in the third season after the departure of Foley.
Post actually made her first appearance in the show’s second season but was unable to commit to frequent appearances as she was working on another series at the time.
The only cast members to have stuck with the series from its pilot to its finale are Harry Anderson, John Larroquette, and Richard Moll.
12. A throwaway line led to a series of Mel Tormé cameos
In the show’s first episode, young judge Harry Stone is revealed to be a massive fan of the jazz singer Mel Tormé.
Tormé’s friends and family informed him of the reference, and he was so honoured that he agreed to appear on the show.
Tormé went on to feature in the show as himself six times and believes that he found popularity with a younger audience thanks to the show.
Funnily enough, Harry Anderson himself was a huge fan of Tormé, just like his character Harry Stone.
Weege has stated that the similarities between Anderson and his character – both are also into magic and share the same first name – were total coincidences.
Anderson went on to attend Tormé’s funeral and delivered a moving eulogy after he passed away in 1999.
11. A former Gomez Addams had a regular role on the show
Night Court and The Addams Family series don’t have much in common – apart from the fact that both feature John Astin.
Astin starred as doting husband and father Gomez Addams, the Addams Family patriarch in the 60s TV series.
He later played Harry Stone’s ‘stepfather’ Buddy Ryan on Night Court. It later emerges that Buddy is actually Harry’s biological father.
The series ends with Buddy happily married and embarking on a new and happy chapter of life.
Astin made another appearance on the show back in its second season as a completely different character too.
He featured in the episode titled Inside Harry Stone as a hospital patient named Kenny.
10. John Larroquette won so many awards for the show he eventually asked his name to be taken out of consideration
John Larroquette won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Show for four years in a row for his turn on Night Court as Dan Fielding.
After his fourth win in 1988, Larroquette did something a little unorthodox.
Larroquette actually asked that his name be taken out of consideration for future nominations, a truly selfless and humble gesture.
“I wanted to fade into the background with this guy a little bit, so that there would be a possibility of eventually doing something else,” Larroquette told The AV Club in 2008.
“It was sort of selfishly motivated. I loved the show, but it was time to move on.”
“And after four [Emmys] in a row, I felt the rumblings; it seemed sort of piggish to continue that, so I thought it best just to not nominate myself any more.”
9. There’s a Texas Chainsaw Massacre Easter egg in one episode
In one episode, John Larroquette’s character Dan Fielding gets stuck in a motel room with a psychotic woman.
Dan turns on the TV in order to distract the woman, but flips channels when he sees he Texas Chainsaw Massacre is on, claiming he’s already seen it.
It might be more accurate to say he’s in it, considering Larroquette provides the voice of the narrator in the 1974 horror classic.
The voiceover was Larroquette’s first Hollywood acting role – something he only did as a favour to director Tobe Hooper.
Hooper and Larroquette had been firm friends since meeting in Colorado in the summer of 1969.
“I went into a studio, saw the piece of paper, read it for him, recorded it, said adios […] and that was that,’ Larroquette said, recalling the experience with The AV Club in 2008.
8. The show was part of NBC’s legendary ‘Must-See Thursday’
Must-See Thursday was NBC’s legendary Thursday evening of hit shows that millions would tune in to every week without fail.
NBC’s Must-See Thursdays began in 1982, featuring Cheers and Taxi, and continued right up until 2006.
The decline came naturally after Friends wrapped up in 2004. Will & Grace, another must-see show, was also declining in popularity.
By 2006 they dropped the Must-See Thursday slogan and attempted to rebrand their Thursday schedule as ‘Comedy Night Done Right’.
Still, Night Court played a very important part in the ‘golden age’ of NBC’s Must-See Thursdays in the 80s and 90s.
7. Harry Stone finds Wile E Coyote guilty of harassing the Road Runner
In one episode of Night Court, Still Another Day In The Life, a very special guest star appears in the court.
The episode features a cameo from none other than the dastardly Wile E Coyote from the Road Runner cartoons.
This is a nod to Warner Bros, the studio that produced Night Court as well as Wile E’s animated exploits.
In the episode the cunning coyote appears as a defendant in court, with Judge Stone berating him for harassing the Road Runner.
Wile E Coyote is ultimately found guilty, with Stone suggesting that he go to a restaurant or grocery store to satiate his hunger instead of preying on the poor Road Runner.
Given the fact the Wile E Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons are still going, it doesn’t seem as though Coyote took Harry’s words on board.
6. Christine settled down and got pregnant because actress Markie Post got pregnant in real life
Markie Post found out that she was pregnant near the start of filming the show’s seventh season.
Rather than try to hide the pregnancy, the Night Court showrunners instead created a whole new and very convenient story arc for Christine.
Ultimately, the public defender ended up marrying Detective Tony Giuliano and getting pregnant to explain Post’s bump.
Christine gives birth in the seventh season finale after going into labour while trapped in an elevator with Harry’s father Buddy.
Christine’s marriage to Tony, meanwhile, was ill-fated and short lived and by the end of season eight the relationship was over.
Post’s real-life daughter Daisy was born on 30 March 1990, not long after shooting wrapped for season seven.
5. The show’s prostitutes and pimps were named after the creator’s friends
It’s always tempting to give your friends a shout out if you find yourself in the spotlight.
Show creator Reinhold Weege is no different and was keen to name drop his friends on Night Court in some way.
To do this, he named many of the prostitutes and pimps that appear throughout the show’s run after his friends just to give them a mention on air.
According to Weege on an early DVD commentary, this was his way of saying “hello” to his friends.
We wonder how his friends felt about being named after these characters – hopefully they were just honoured that Weege thought of them!
If anything, this is a pretty cool claim to fame. Not many people can say they’ve been named after a pimp on Night Court.
4. There wasn’t supposed to be a ninth season
Stuart Kreisman and Chris Cluess took over showrunner duties after Reinhold Weege left in season six.
They were so sure there wasn’t going to be a ninth season of Night Court that they planned for season eight to be the finale.
But then, at the last minute, NBC unexpectedly renewed the series for a ninth and final season.
Kreisman and Cluess had to ditch all the storylines that were supposed to tie the series up in season eight.
According to Kreisman himself, it took “the first two or three episodes” of season nine to undo what they’d plotted out in season eight.
However, the show was cancelled so abruptly that several major storylines in the ninth season never really got resolved.
3. The show was intentionally apolitical
In all its 193 episodes, Night Court never once tried to broach serious topics or make any political statement.
The shows only purpose was to make people laugh and to entertain people, rather than provide any cutting social commentary.
John Larroquette stressed this in a 1988 interview with The Times: “The show may not be in any way intellectual and we don’t make any pretense of dealing with issues that are impossible to address or solve in the sitcom format.”
“But if you just want to forget it all for a minute and laugh at pies in the face and pants around the ankles, that’s what we do very well.”
Executive producer Stuart Kreisman reiterated this in the LA Times in 1992: “We were so politically incorrect we would have had a cigarette sponsor if we came back next year.”
Larroquette also added in this 1992 interview: “You don’t do sitcoms for respect. You do them for laughs.”
2. The show never really ended
Although the show had 193 episodes in which to wrap things up, the Night Court showrunners ended their series without really ending it at all.
In 1992, John Larroquette told the LA Times that “at the last minute, NBC was thinking about renewing the show.”
“Then Warner was trying to sell it elsewhere. So they didn’t want a definitive ending.”
It was for this reason that the cast and crew were never “allowed to turn to the audience, give a salute and say thanks.”
The lack of an ending was such an issue for fans that 30 Rock, also an NBC sitcom, staged its own Night Court ending.
The 2008 episode entitled The One With The Cast of Night Court sees Christine and Dan finally marry.
1. The cast found out the show was cancelled when they were suddenly asked to clear out their dressing rooms
The way the late Harry Anderson told it, the cast of Night Court discovered the show had been cancelled in the most discourteous of ways.
“After nine years, a memo was handed out,” Anderson said on TV Tales, recalling the final days on set.
“We got [it] just before the [final] taping saying, ‘Please have your dressing rooms empty by Monday.'”
“That was how the show was canceled. And I thought, that’s not very classy,” he said.
The cast were reportedly told that if they hadn’t cleared their rooms in time their belongings would simply be thrown away.
The cast must have been devastated to end their journey on the show in such an abrupt manner.