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Night Court Review: NBC's Sitcom Revival Makes a Case for Old School Comedy

While it gets off to a rocky start, Night Court finds its rhythm over time

Kyle Fowle
Melissa Rauch, Night Court

Melissa Rauch, Night Court

Jordin Althaus/NBC/Warner Bros. Television

Late last year, Hulu debuted a new series called Reboot. The premise, in its very meta way, was about Hulu rebooting an old sitcom, bringing back the original cast while also hiring a new team of writers and a younger lead. Reboot wasn't particularly funny, but it did manage to mine some interesting territory when it comes to the nature of rebooting a classic sitcom. Who would be the audience? Do you stick to the jokes and rhythms that worked before, or do you need to cater to more modern sensibilities? How has the nature of comedy shifted, and can the old coexist with the new?

These are all questions that can rightly be directed at NBC's Night Court revival (or sequel, or whatever). The original Night Court, which aired from 1984-1992, was one of the all time great sitcoms, racking up 31 Emmy nominations and seven wins across its nine seasons on air. But who, exactly, would be interested in a revival? In its first few episodes, it would seem that Night Court isn't even all that sure what it wants to be or who its audience might be. 


Night Court


  • Classic sitcom feel
  • Rauch and Larroquette have great comedic chemistry


  • Comedy is too broad in first few episodes
  • Only some of the supporting cast works well

The premise that gets the new Night Court off the ground is that Abby Stone (Melissa Rauch), daughter of the late Judge Harry Stone (played in the original series by Harry Anderson), has come to work at the court in order to feel some sort of connection with her late father and to find some sense of purpose in her life. She's eager to change the culture of the system, to run a more compassionate and empathetic courtroom. When her public defender quits on her first day, she seeks out Harry's old friend Dan Fielding (John Larroquette, reprising his Emmy winning role) to fill the position. Throw in the career-driven, intense prosecutor Olivia (India de Beaufort), the shy clerk Neil (Kapil Talwalkar), and the optimistic and outgoing bailiff Gurgs (Lacretta) and you have a quirky ensemble to build from.

Night Court really takes its time to get going, though. The first few episodes lack any sort of real identity and feel much too broad in their approach to comedy. If you need to understand one thing about this revival, it's that the show is absolutely committed to a more old school approach to the sitcom. The line deliveries have more in common with the original Night Court and shows of its time than, say, something like Rauch's former sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. The opening credits alone tip you off to this comedic sensibility, their dated vibe clearly meant to set a tone for the entire series. But even as some of that approach works and is a nice change of pace in this TV landscape, Night Court is also clumsy in its punchlines. The delivery and pacing is good, but the actual jokes often land flat.

Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette, Night Court

Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette, Night Court

Jordin Althaus/NBC/Warner Bros. Television

Luckily, most of that seems to be growing pains, and over time Night Court finds its footing, fleshing out its characters and developing a more successful, funnier rhythm that pays homage to its predecessor. Rauch and Larroquette are the standouts here, their courtroom banter often the highlight of any episode, and the show does a good job sprinkling in some more emotional character arcs alongside the comedy. The supporting cast is hit or miss, but India de Beaufort deserves a shoutout for bringing just the right energy to Olivia; her performance understands that this style of sitcom is inherently cartoonish without being totally over the top. She finds the balance perfectly. 

Night Court isn't going to be for everybody, and honestly, it's tricky to pinpoint just what kind of audience the show will attract. But if you do tune in, whether it's because you loved the original series or because you're curious about why The Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch (who also executive produces) is so passionate about this specific project, give it some time and you'll be rewarded with a sitcom that, while never quite hitting the highs of the original, manages to stand out as a unique offering in a crowded field. 

Premieres: Tuesday Jan. 17 at 8/7c with back-to-back episodes on NBC
Who's in it: Melissa Rauch, John Larroquette, India de Beaufort, Lacretta, Kapil Talwalkar
Who's behind it: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch, and Dan Rubin (producers)
For fans of: Scrubs, NewsRadio, 2 Broke Girls, A.P. Bio
How many episodes we watched: