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). 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. Markie Post as a public defender and Marsha Warfield as a very deadpan baliff are great additions in later seasons (as shown here), but the series pulled off the rare feat of starting off superbly in its first season.
Fans of the series have been rightly displeased that after the first season of the show was released on DVD, instead of putting out a second season, the studio has instead released a set of "Court" episodes in this "best of" release, the sales of which will likely be used as a deciding factor whether to release future seasons. Making matters worse is the fact that this release also includes the pilot episode, which fans who bought the first season set already own. Also somewhat dismaying is the fact that, aside from the pilot episode, the other episodes are only from the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons, jumping over the second and third.
All that said, the episodes here are enjoyable, especially the core of the set, the two-parter "Her Honor". In the first part, Christine (Post) finds that she's been given one of the few open judge positions in the city. The problem? She's going to be filling in for Harry (Anderson), who the city has decided to give the boot. This is a very funny pair of episodes, with some great bits from Laroquette. The problem? This two-parter actually closed the fourth season and continued into the next season. So, at the end of the second episode, viewers will be left hanging, as the two-part conclusion isn't available here.
The other episodes offered here are also quite amusing, as well. "Death of a Baliff" (season 5) has Bull (Moll) getting hit by lightning and acting even weirder than normal as a result. "Who Was That Mashed Man" (season 5) has Dan (Laroquette) looking after his stern boss's niece (guest star Teri Hatcher, in an early performance) and trying to stay out of trouble while doing so. Finally, "Fire" (season 6) has the courtroom seeking shelter when there's a fire in the building - all but Dan, who continues to try and watch election results, since he's in the running.
VIDEO: The show is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame - it's original aspect ratio - again here. 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: None. Unfortunately, the commentary by creator Reinhold Weege that was offered on the pilot episode on the first season DVD set was not carried over here.
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. It's unfortunate that this "best of" is being released instead of a second season set, but if this set of episodes from later seasons sells well, a second season set will be more likely. Given that - reluctantly (given that fans will have to repurchase the pilot here, and the rest of the episodes if future seasons do get released) recommended.