A very enjoyable comedy that comes to DVD on its 20th anniversary, "Night Court" started in 1984 and ran for eight successful years until 1992. The series starred Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone, a judge that, as the series opens, takes his place in a rather run-down urban courtroom. Joining him are a cast of wacky associates, including a self-centered, sarcastic District Attorney (John Laroquette) and a towering court officer (Richard Moll). You can see a young Michael J. Fox guest starring as a runaway in the second episode. The show's concept allowed the series to bring in a wealth of different characters to do bits each week with new defendants coming in front of the judge for various crimes and misdemeanors.
I always liked the show when I watched it growing up in the 80's, but after not seeing it for years, I'm surprised how well the series has held up - not only has it held up well, but it was actually quite a bit better than I remembered it being. The characters are terrific, as the cast really created memorable characters and the dialogue is still wonderful, not sounding dated. The ensemble cast has great chemistry with one another and their performances are superb - Anderson and Laroquette are definitely highlights. The first season is a short run of only thirteen episodes and there are a few key cast members that didn't arrive yet (Markie Post as a public defender and Marsha Warfield as a very deadpan baliff), but the series does get off on the right foot, with some classic episodes here.
1. All You Need Is Love
2. Santa Goes Downtown
3. The Former Harry Stone
4. Welcome Back, Momma
5. The Eye of the Beholder
6. Death Threat
7. Once in Love With Harry
8. Quadrangle of Love
9. Wonder Drugs
10. Some Like It Hot
11. Harry and the Rock Star
12. Bull's Baby
13. Hi Honey, I'm Home
VIDEO: The show is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame on this first season set. The show appears to have been shot on tape. The pilot episode looks a little darker and a little softer, but the other episodes seemed to perk up a bit, looking more vivid and a little crisper. Sharpness and detail overall was satisfactory - fine details were not really visible, but the picture remained pretty consistently crisp and clear for the majority.
As for flaws, there really weren't many. Some slight traces of pixelation were visible at times, but no edge enhancement was seen. The elements appeared slightly worn, but otherwise in fairly good shape, considering the age. The show's color palette was pretty subdued, and the presentation reflects that accurately.
SOUND: The mono soundtrack presented clear dialogue and sound effects. There really weren't any quality concerns as the audio seems to have held up pretty well.
EXTRAS: Creator Reinhold Weege offers an audio commentary for the pilot episode. This is an excellent commentary that offers a great overview of how the show was created - we learn more about the accuracy of the production design and details, creating characters, casting and how the creators went about introducing the audience to the series within the first episode(s).
Also included on the last disc is "Night Court: Comedy's Swing Shift", which is an 18-minute retrospective documentary. Creator Reinhold Weege, actor Harry Anderson and others are interviewed, and recall their days in "Court".
Final Thoughts: "Night Court" is a terrific, hilarious and wonderful series - it's impressive how much better it was than I'd remembered it (and I used to enjoy it.) It's too bad that the show seems to have faded out a bit in the discussion of great TV shows, because it's definitely a classic. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD set, with nice audio/video and a good supplement. Recommended.