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Disorder in the court: “Night Court” is back in session after three decades.
The comedy’s eight-year run chronicling the oddball-filled night shift of a New York City courtroom ended in 1992. But the sitcom returns to NBC Tuesday (8 EST/PST) with a double-episode premiere.
The familiar courtroom is the same, but the personnel has changed. Many original “Night Court” cast members have died, including Markie Post (public defender Christine Sullivan) in 2021, and Harry Anderson, who died in 2018 and will forever remembered by fans as the magic trick-loving Judge Harry T. Stone.
John Larroquette, 75, who won four Emmys playing narcissistic prosecutor Dan Fielding, returns with a white beard. Burned-out Fielding is recruited as public defender by the new presiding judge, the late Stone’s grown and equally eccentric daughter Abby (“Big Bang Theory” star Melissa Rauch).
“I’m now 75, not the 35-year-old who started playing that character. I can’t do the physical comedy I used to do,” says Larroquette. “Hopefully, with wit and intellect, we have found other ways for him to be funny, not just the clown that he was in the ’80s. But it’s a new world.”
Larroquette spoke to USA TODAY about answering the “Night Court” call.
RIP Harry Anderson: Quirky Judge Harry Stone on ‘Night Court’ dies at 65
Question: What was it like walking onto the courtroom set for the first time after 30 years?
John Larroquette: Emotional. Because you when you think about the people that were there. They did a very good job replicating and rebuilding the set. The cafeteria, the courtroom, the hallways are the same. It was like going back to your old school but with more emotions, because the main reasons the show was so successful and such a pleasure to do had passed. Markie and Harry and Charlie Robinson (court clerk Mac Robinson) died when we were doing the (new) pilot.
As defense attorney, Dan now sits in the chair that Christine Sullivan sat in for years. So I often pay silent tribute to Markie.
Is there anyone from the original show?
Certainly not in the cast. But I’m lucky to have two crew members from the original who share a history. There were times I could be in a place on set and say, “Remember when Harry pulled the hamster from his nose right here?”
‘Night Court’ mourns:John Larroquette is ‘heartsick’ over Harry Anderson; stars pay tribute
When alone in Harry’s old office, Fielding gives an emotional tribute in the premiere. Was that a farewell to Harry Anderson as well?
It’s tricky here, because the character and the real person have the same first name. Harry’s not been with us for a while now. You want to reverentially remember people, but not get maudlin, frankly. That speech is about the character.
It’s now Abby’s office, with noticeable changes. Is there a favorite Harry holdover?
It’s the same couch, I can tell you that. I put a board under the cushions in the ’80s because it was too soft. The board was still there. There are some funny substitutions, taking the Jean Harlow photo down and replacing it was a German shepherd, because that’s her dog. But there’s been 30 years of law going through that building. So there’s been a lot of changes.
Why is Melissa Rauch a good fit taking her screen father Harry’s seat on the bench?
I’m a comedy actor, and so is Melissa with her pedigree. It’s good music when we play together. We know how to treat the jokes but also make it real. Abby is a bit of a prankster like her dad, without the magic. You don’t want to repeat too much. But strip away the shenanigans, and both judges care about the job and pursuing justice for people.
The “Night Court” theme song is instantly familiar, but shorter. Why?
The theme song is the same tune, modernized. Actually my son, Benjamin Larroquette, who is the series’ composer, re-recorded it. Just him in his recording studio. Back in the day, with show like ours, “Cheers,” or “Family Ties,” you had much longer opening credits. This is, like, nine seconds showing a couple of shots New York, the cast members and get into the show. You just don’t have a lot of time to play with it. It’s just a different time, 30 years later.
Have you discussed appearances for other original surviving cast members, Marsha Warfield and Richard Moll?
As far as the main cast members, it’s just Marcia and Richard who are still with us. Marsha and I have talked. No secret, we may see one or two of the old people come about here as guest stars. We don’t know yet. But there was a cavalcade of great comedic actors just starting out their career coming through those court doors, Stephen Root, Brent Spiner, and Michael J. Fox. Who knows what the future will hold