The NBC revival is (slowly) finding its rhythm

Melissa Rauch and John Laroquette

Melissa Rauch and John Laroquette
picture: Jordyn Althaus/NBC/Warner Bros. Television

night court-the new night courtThis is a sequel to the old night court—He has a very big question on his hands, from the opening moments. And it’s one more than any of the legal cases to cross the bench of Judge Abby Stone (Melissa Rauch) as she presides over a courtroom full of nocturnal strangers: Why? Why a TV show that went off the air 31 years ago, that is remembered most at this point by hardcore sitcom geeks, is being revived — and why they’re doing it in a way that sometimes seems unnecessarily Indebted to those three-decade-old comedy beats?

The answers, as far as we know, are twofold. The first is that the Rauch-owned sitcom years later served as one of the funniest parts of it The Big Bang Theory— she sounds pretty damn good at the idea, going to great lengths to bring this sitcom husk to life. And the second, frankly: John Larroquette said “yes.”

no night court He wastes little time introducing us to either star, opening as it does with an ambitious (and wildly ill-advised) scene cut between Abe and former night court district attorney Dan Fielding on Judge Stone’s first day in court. (And yes: she’s a daughter that Judge Stone though Larroquette is the only original night court A regular to appear in the show’s first six episodes, the legacy of the late, great Harry Anderson is front and center for most of them.) An ill-advised happy scene Especially Because it’s one of the show’s great weaknesses: its editing, which often seems constrained and determined to suck the life out of every one of its many jokes. night court every minute on screen. This opening scene is what is meant to prove Abby and Dan’s contrasting views on the court; What it mostly does is instill an early sense of dread that takes a few episodes to wear off, as the show (mostly) finds its rhythm.

That especially includes the supporting cast, who all struggle at the start of the show with a bunch of scenarios that land somewhere in the territory between old-school broad comedy, and more modern broad comedy. Either way, we’re talking big, obvious jokes, and it’s a mixed bag of how each performer handles the material. At the low end, we have Kapil Talwalker as court clerk Neal, who delivers many of his lines with a disaffected impulse that sometimes serves up weak material less favorably. Finally, we have India de Beaufort as the court’s new plaintiff, Olivia. De Beaufort attacks the character with palpable intensity and that’s exactly the kind of “playing on fences” mentality the show’s throwback style requires.

Night court | Official Trailer | NBC

But the main draws night courtUnsurprisingly, they’re Rauch and La Roquette, both capable of that sitcom star trick of playing their characters at the same time as real people. And Fees. Though she struggles from time to time, Rauch largely avoids turning Abby — whose strong desire to see the good in each defendant drives much of the series’ plot — into a simple caricature of delight, giving her real human feelings behind the smile. and John Laroquette John Laroquette; The guy was winning sterling Emmys for making ultra-thin mono liners while most of his classmates were wearing diapers. Meanwhile, the aging Dan gives just enough gravitas and oomph to keep the entire show from orbiting.

The good news about Night Court is that it gets noticeably better as it works its way through its first season, and as the rest of the cast find enough grasp of their characters to begin, if not matching Rauch and Larroquette, then to at least not bog them down. The highlights, as with the original show, are often the courtroom scenes themselves: Rauch, Larroquette, and De Beaufort tossing zingers off of each other while weirdos parade through. What’s not to like? And while we’re not entirely sold on, say, an episode of Night Court that wrestles with how bailiff Gurgs (Lacretta) deals, as a Black woman, with being part of an often corrupt and inefficient legal system, it’s at least interesting to see the show wrestling with its status as a show about, y’know … a court.

The final question hanging over the Night Court revival, then, is who is it for? The old-school theme song and decidedly retro credits sequence suggest that there’s at least some nostalgia hunting going on, but that can’t explain the series’ whole existence. And there are laughs to be had here, even if they’re delivered less naturalistically than modern comedy fans might be used to (and even if the editing does not improve at the same pace as the cast). If you’re curious about it, don’t let the pilot throw you off, at least; check back in a few episodes later, once the show has actually hit its (often pretty funny) comedic stride.

Night Court premieres January 17 on NBC.

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