Night Court: The Complete First Season

The '80s were a period when family-oriented sitcoms ruled the roost. Aside from a few exceptions (i.e., Cheers, Bosom Buddies, Newhart, Greatest American Hero), the first half of the decade was soaked in hugs and kisses, moral lessons and the teenage battles between Michael J. Fox and Kirk Cameron. And then there was Night Court, a quirky comedy set in a courtroom in the wee hours of the night. Created by Reinhold Weege (Barney Miller), the show was an offbeat winner that was carried by its unusual ensemble cast featuring some of the strangest, most entertaining characters television has ever seen. The judge, Harry T. Stone (Harry Anderson), was a young card-playing magician with a bizarre hard-on for Mel Torme and a "Peter Pan approach to justice." Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), the D.A., was an egotistical sex fiend who used the broom closet as his office while hitting on anything with a pulse. The two bailiffs were a truly odd couple: Bull (Richard Moll), a six-foot-plus gentle giant with a shaved head and a mean stare, and Selma (Selma Diamond), a grumpy 60-year-old woman half the size of her co-worker. In the first season, only the clerk and the prosecutor (played by Karen Austin and Paula Kelly) failed to join in on the laughs, though they would become much stronger roles when they were replaced in seasons two and three, respectively. In the 13 episodes, a lot of weird situations go down in the courtroom with some shady characters (a man who believes he's God, prostitutes galore) and just plain troubled innocents (Yakov Smirnoff, the aforementioned Michael J. Fox) in need of Harry's mallet. Often mixing sentiment with riotous laughs and provocative circumstances, Night Court was a wacky comedy and one of the best of its time. Also included in this double-disc set is the featurette "Comedy's Swing Shift," a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Weege and Anderson discussing how the film was created, each character's role in making the ensemble cast so effective and the show's recipe for success. Plus: pilot commentary. (Warner)