STUDIO: Warner Brothers
MSRP: $29.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 526 minutes

The Pitch

Judge Harry Stone runs the night arraignment court for a certain section of New York City. He has a charming black sidekick that also double as a clerk. His baliffs are pretty interesting, but they have a habit of dying. Well, the female ones kick the bucket. Assistant District Attorney Dan Fielding continues to be a source of inspiration, while this season marks the debut of Markie Post. The third year also marked the turn from dramedy to outright comedy. There was also the issue of the WGA strike of 1986 that cut a few episodes out of the season.

The Humans

Harry Anderson, Markie Post, John Larroquette, Charles Robinson and Richard Moll

The Nutshell

Harry Stone, Dan Fielding and Christine Sullivan were the triple threat of NBC’s comedy line-up. Sure, you had those drunk bastards at Cheers and the creepy autistic kid at St. Elsewhere. This was the first season for Markie Post as public defender Christine Sullivan. The staff of writers hadn’t decided on making her a prude just yet, so you get some off-character elements early on. While the season might’ve turned Night Court into the wide comedy we’re familiar with, it was also the shortest season of the series. The WGA Strike killed about 8 episodes way back in 1986 or did it? I was doing some research and the WGA strike should’ve taken place in 1987. Which in turn leaves this weird 7-8 week gap between the final two episodes. I implore any classic television fans for insight into this matter. 

The Lowdown

The first two years of Night Court were semi-topical. Then, the success of Cosby, Cheers and the other NBC must-see sitcoms pushed the showrunners to go for the jokes. Larroquette’s Dan Fielding was the first breakout star and the winner of several Emmys. But, the showrunners decided to flesh out the absurdity of Mac and Harry. Hell, this is even when we started getting the weirder Bull elements. In hindsight, what made this season work?

That fucking hair.

Night Court is a sitcom classic. I’m not going to argue this point with people who think that all sitcoms began and ended with whatever Larry David pulled out of his ass. This series was becoming familiar with what it needed to do. The main cast was finally coming into its own. Then, you had the development of a strong team of supporting players. Brent Spiner was the patriarch of some hillbillies that camped out at the court. Homeless Phil was Dan Fielding’s spy and Harry’s strange stepfather loved to stop by for visits.

I know this shit used to drive the older guys wild, but what the fuck. The mullet doesn’t get you anywhere in the legal world.

Still, the majority of these Season 3 episodes are funny in the moment. Dan finds out that his former friend had a sex change. Larroquette acts squeamish and strangely attracted to the new she-male. America laughs at the confusion and then they wait for Family Ties to start. New characters come, old characters go and everything stays the same. What is so strange is how appealing the concept has become now.

The rise of the serial drama and the slow death of script television has left a portion of television viewers clamoring for something like this. Sure, the sheer amount of throwaway jokes and mainstream attempts at oddity birthed inferior clone shows. But, I have to commend a show that tried to do comedy with broad appeal while not coming across as stupid. A lot of this has to be credited back to Harry Anderson. The charming lead that provided a toothy innocence about what should be alarming criminal activity in downtown NYC.

Outside of Don Draper, Dan Fielding is my only substantial role model.

Earlier I made reference to what I thought was a Guild strike that caused a delay in later filming. I’m still looking into what caused the several weeks of missed filming between the March episode and the May season finale. It’s not like we missed any secrets of the show. Mark Pellegrino didn’t appear to tell us about the secrets of the New York Municipal Court system. Sure, the baliffs tended to die a lot. The season opener addresses the fact with semi-charmed special episode that reflects upon the dead and soon to-be departed. The lady in the screenshot below would die shortly after this season ended. 

I still can’t keep the dead ones straight from the Warfield.

The third season ends with four ladies getting ready to poop out babies during a Hurricane. People get up in arms and nerves are frazzled. You already know how it’s going to end. It’s not like any of the kids were born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their throats. Marsha Warfield would become the new baliff in the fourth season, but you don’t get any early cameos. They gave us some early Markie Post in Season 2, but I guess the Warfield doesn’t command the same respect. What a bunch of racists. 

Chat Roulette in 1986.

The Package

contains no special features. The A/V Quality is about as good as you can expect from a show shot on video in the 1980s. Everything looks like it’s soaked in yellows and whites. Plus, the rather flat Dolby 2.0 track isn’t quite providing a decent surround stage. If you’re a fan, it’s worth checking out.

6.2 out of 10