12 Facts About Night Court

Warner Bros. Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, Night Court was part of NBC’s illustrious Thursday night comedy block, which also included Cheers and, for a time, Family Ties. Ratings lagged in the first couple of seasons, then it became a top 10 show … until NBC started shuffling it around to new nights.

The workplace sitcom followed a group of misfits working at a Manhattan night court: Judge Harry T. Stone (the late Harry Anderson), a judge/magician who presided over the court; Christine Sullivan (Markie Post), a public defender and do-gooder (a few other women played a similar role before Post committed to Sullivan during the third season); womanizer/prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette); the sarcastic bailiff Roz Russell (Marsha Warfield); Mac Robinson, a moral court clerk (Charles Robinson); and Bull (Richard Moll), a bald, slightly dim bailiff.

Barney Miller alumnus Reinhold Weege created the show, which aired for nine seasons, from January 4, 1984 to May 31, 1992. Unlike a lot of sitcoms, the characters didn’t change much, and the show didn’t push heavy-handed issues onto its audience. It was simply a show filled with idiosyncratic characters and big laughs. In honor of its 35th anniversary, we're taking a look behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sitcom.

1. Real New York City judges inspired the series.

Night Court creator Reinhold Weege—who passed away in 2012—sat on the bench with a group of New York City night court judges and developed a story around them. “I was moved by the craziness of New York Manhattan night court,” he said in E!’s 2002 documentary TV Tales: Night Court. “There were stories in the newspaper at the time of judges with serious emotional problems who the state had a hard time getting rid of. I thought, gosh, it would be terrific if we could get a judge through the system who was a little off center, a little wacky.” On the show, Judge Stone’s a bit wacky, and is also the youngest judge in state history.

2. Saturday Night Live played a part in Harry Anderson's casting.

In real life, Harry Anderson—who passed away in April 2018—was a magician, and at the time of the show’s casting, he had a stint on Saturday Night Live (he’d also been on Cheers). One of Night Court’s producers, Jeff Melman, and his wife were watching Anderson stick a needle through his arm on SNL and thought he’d be good for the part.

“The name Harry and the fact that he did magic was a coincidence,” Weege said on TV Tales. “Harry said he was the guy, and I’ll be damned, he turned out to be the guy.”

3. Dan Fielding started out as a conservative character.

John Larroquette in 'Night Court'
Warner Bros. Entertainment

In the first couple of seasons, Dan Fielding’s not an arrogant womanizer like he is in later seasons. “If you look at the early episodes, my character was this sort of tight-lipped, vested, pipe-smoking, conservative fellow,” John Larroquette told The A.V. Club, “and of course I was putting garden hoses down my pants by the end of the series. I think what happens on a television series like that is that the creator of the show gets used to the characters and the actors playing them. They learn to write toward their strengths, which a good writer does. And Reinhold [Weege] saw that I was this maverick, crazy—that sounds self-inflating, but I have a rather acerbic sense of humor. Reinhold starting writing toward that and creating the character that everybody knows.”

4. The show didn't tackle heavy issues, and that was intentional.

Despite the judicial nature of the show, the point of Night Court was to make people laugh. “The show may not be in any way intellectual and we don’t make any pretense of dealing with issues that are impossible to address or solve in the sitcom format,” said Larroquette. “But if you just want to forget it all for a minute and laugh at pies in the face and pants around the ankles, that’s what we do very well.”

“We were so politically incorrect we would have had a cigarette sponsor if we came back next year,” executive producer Stu Kreisman told the Los Angeles Times.

5. Marsha Warfield broke the 'bailiff curse.'

Marsha Warfield in 'Night Court'
Warner Bros. Entertainment

For the first two seasons (36 episodes), Selma Diamond played Bailiff Selma Hacker. In 1985, at the age of 64, Diamond died of lung cancer. Florence Halop replaced Diamond and played Bailiff Florence Kleiner for 22 episodes, but she passed away in 1986 at age 63, also from lung cancer. Actress Marsha Warfield was in her early 30s when she was cast as Roz Russell, the next bailiff. “There’s no way to say this without sounding callous, but if the two women before me had been 33-year-old black women, I would have been really nervous about taking the part,” Warfield told People.

6. After winning four Emmy Awards in a row, John Larroquette took himself out of contention.

Larroquette’s hilarious portrayal of Fielding resulted in the actor winning four straight Emmys, from 1985 to 1988. But after the fourth win, Larroquette asked the Television Academy not to consider him for more awards as Fielding. “It was a combination of two things,” Larroquette told The A.V. Club on why he removed himself. “Quite frankly and honestly, I didn’t think that the work that I had done was as good as it was, only partially because Reinhold had left by then, and new producers had come in. And more selfishly, quite honestly, I knew that the character had made a really deep impression on the American public, and on studios and producers and directors and writers, but it was going to end someday. I wanted to fade into the background with this guy a little bit, so that there would be a possibility of eventually doing something else.”

Larroquette also worried that he had been typecast. “Every role was some sleazy lawyer or some sleazy this or some sleazy that. It was sort of selfishly motivated. I loved the show, but it was time to move on.”

7. A low-budget sci-fi movie was the reasoning behind Bull's bald head.

Lou Ferrigno and Richard Moll in Night Court
Warner Bros. Entertainment

In 1983, Richard Moll starred in an obscure B-movie called Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, which required him to shave his head. Around the same time, Moll got called in to audition for Night Court. Weege said on E!’s TV Tales: Night Court that the 6’8” bald actor wasn’t what he’d envisioned for the character, but he liked Moll’s acting. “I remember saying to Richard, ‘I want you to keep that hair balding.’” Moll responded with, “Are you kidding? I’ll shave my legs for the part.”

8. Michael Richards appeared naked on Night Court.

In a second season episode titled “Take My Wife, Please,” a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards played Eugene Sleighbough, a man who thought he was invisible. He stood before the court, accused of robbing an apartment because he thought nobody could see him when, in fact, hundreds of people did. “They probably have some kind of heat sensing device,” Sleighbough offered. “Yes, it’s called sunlight,” Fielding retorted. At the end of the episode, Sleighbough returned to court, but this time in his birthday suit, as he thought his invisibility hadn’t worked because he'd been wearing clothes.

9. A few mash-ups and parodies of the theme song exist.

The instrumental Night Court theme song features a throbbing bass and a sax solo, and some people thought it worked well with other material. Musician Ramsey Ess mashed-up Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” with the Night Court theme song to form “Single Night Court Ladies.” A 2007 Family Guy episode called “Bill & Peter’s Bogus Journey” sees Bill Clinton playing the theme song on his sax; a YouTuber parodied Netflix’s Daredevil opening credits using Night Court’s theme.

10. The actors and producers were "screwed creatively" following a last-minute renewal.

Weege bowed out of running the show full-time at the end of the sixth season and tapped two former Night Court writers, Stuart Kreisman and Chris Cluess, to take creative control of the show. Later, NBC told them that season eight would be Night Court’s last, so they could end it any way they wanted—including writing a storyline where Christine and Judge Stone finally hook up.

“We felt like we were all done with it, and really how much more could we do?” Post said on TV Tales. “It looked like we were wrapping up, and sure enough before we ended the show, they came through with, like, jumbo buckets of money for the cast.”

NBC renewed the show for a ninth and final season, which involved untying stories. “When we found out we were going to go for another year, we were screwed creatively,” Kreisman told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “And it took us the first two or three episodes of this year to undo all the stuff we set up last year.”

11. The possibility of a syndication deal prevented a proper send-off.

A scene from 'Night Court'
Warner Bros. Entertainment

NBC officially canceled the show during the ninth season, but Warner Bros., who distributed the show, was in the process of trying to sell Night Court for first-run syndication. Because there was a possibility that the show might come back on another network, the final episode was cobbled together.

“The only thing I’m angry about is that Warner Bros. wouldn’t allow us to definitively end the show,” Larroquette told the Los Angeles Times. “Because at the last minute, NBC was thinking about renewing the show. Then Warner was trying to sell it elsewhere. So they didn’t want a definitive ending. That sort of tied our hands. It was a drag. We weren’t allowed to turn to the audience, give a salute and say thanks.”

“After nine years, a memo was handed out—Friday—that we got just before the [final] taping saying, ‘Please have your dressing rooms empty by Monday,’” Anderson said on TV Tales. “That was how the show was canceled. And I thought, that’s not very classy.”

12. 30 Rock created its own ending for the show.

The Night Court series finale found Dan realizing that Christine was the love of his life instead of Christine and Harry finally admitting their feelings for each other. In 2008, 16 years after Night Court signed off, 30 Rock created what should’ve happened in Night Court’s finale in the episode entitled “The One With The Cast of Night Court.” Post, Robinson, and Anderson made appearances as their famed characters, but apparently Larroquette wasn’t asked to be on the show.

“From what I hear, when the idea came up, it was automatically dismissed, like, ‘Larroquette won’t do this, so don’t even call him,’” he told Backstage. “I was doing Boston Legal at the time, so it would have been difficult. And looking at the story they built, if my character was there, it would have been a whole different thing.”

In the episode, Kenneth is disappointed about the ending of Night Court, and he also doesn’t want to wear his new page uniform. Tracy Jordan gets Post and Anderson to come to 30 Rock and stage a Christine/Judge Stone wedding. “And the new ending is Harry and I get together but we have a big fight in the middle of rehearsals and it shatters Kenneth’s dreams,” Post told Patch.com. “Absurd, but they built the entire set exactly so when Harry and I went on, it was weird. We were right back in mode. That was fun."

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2016.

7 Fast Facts About RollerCoaster Tycoon

Amazon
Amazon

For Windows gamers, 1999 was dominated by RollerCoaster Tycoon, a now-classic strategy and building game that tasked users with erecting an amusement park and gauging the popularity of rides while maintaining a profit margin and keeping patrons from barfing all over the landscape. For the game’s 20th anniversary, check out some facts about its origins, its association with pizza, and how it became a pinball machine.

1. The first RollerCoaster Tycoon sold 4 million copies.

RollerCoaster Tycoon was the brainchild of Scottish programmer Chris Sawyer, who had enjoyed success with his line of Transport Tycoon games in the 1990s that allowed players to build and operate their own railroad, truck, and ship lines. Sawyer decided to marry that concept with his love of roller coasters. An independent effort—Sawyer enlisted only two collaborators, artist Simon Foster and musician Allister Brimble—the first Tycoon game that was released in 1999 sold a staggering 4 million copies.

2. RollerCoaster Tycoon came free with frozen pizza.

In the early 2000s, packaged food companies offered products that came with promotional offers for CD-ROMs. In 2003, Pillsbury offered a free copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon to anyone who sent in proof of purchase barcodes from specially-marked boxes of Totino’s Pizza Rolls or Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.

3. There’s a RollerCoaster Tycoon pinball machine.

A pinball machine released to coincide with 2002’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 took the spiraling coasters of the game and put them under glass. Players could try and direct the pinball—a substitute for the park guest—around and through coasters like The Flying Ghost and The Rocket.

4. RollerCoaster Tycoon helped inspire Minecraft.

If you or a loved one has spent countless hours absorbed in the popular world-building game Minecraft, you have RollerCoaster Tycoon to thank. Minecraft creator Markus Persson was a fan of Tycoon for the way it allowed players to construct elaborate designs. He also enjoyed Dungeon Keeper, which had a fantasy element. Together, the two games encouraged him to develop Minecraft. The game debuted in 2009 and went on to become one of the biggest interactive success stories of all time.

5. RollerCoaster Tycoon inspired real roller coaster designers.

The laborious construction undertaken by players of RollerCoaster Tycoon weaned a number of players on the excitement of the amusement industry. Park designers hoping to break into the industry have used screen shots from the game as examples of their design prowess at trade shows.

6. You can get a spooky update of RollerCoaster Tycoon in time for Halloween.

Atari distributes an Android and iOS version of RollerCoaster Tycoon for mobile phone users. For 2019, the company is offering a Six Flags Fright Fest update to the game that adds a Halloween component. Players can add Skull Mountain, an actual Six Flags coaster, as well as a Demon Rock statue.

7. A RollerCoaster Tycoon fan spent 10 years building a park.

In 2017, a Reddit user declared he was finished building out his own custom park on RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The 34 coasters and 255 attractions were all minutely detailed, offering a sprawling virtual park with themed areas covering everything from Egyptian attractions to a forest. In comparison, it took only four years to build the actual Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

10 Wild Scooby-Doo Fan Theories

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

For 50 years, the hard-working teens (and dog) of Mystery, Inc. have been investigating the paranormal. What began as a single Hanna-Barbera cartoon series—Scooby Doo, Where Are You!—in the 1960s quickly morphed into a franchise with multiple spin-off shows, comic books, and a few questionable movies. That adds up to a lot of spooky stories, which have inspired fans to come up with their own creepy (or just plain crazed) tales about Scooby and the gang. Here are some of their best theories, including one that somehow connects to Patrick Stewart.

1. Scooby is a Soviet space dog.

For all the cases that Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy solved, they never got to the bottom of the show’s most enduring mystery: How and why does Scooby Doo talk? Some fans think he can’t really speak—that it’s just something his buddy Shaggy imagines while he’s high. But one Redditor has a much more complicated and compelling theory based on the show’s 1960s setting. At that time, America and the USSR were locked in the so-called “Space Race,” competing to see who could claim the first achievements in spaceflight. The Russians famously shot Yuri Gagarin into the stratosphere in 1961, but he wasn’t the first Soviet in space. Canine cosmonauts like Laika beat him by several years, and if the USSR was willing to put a dog in a rocket, who’s to say they didn’t experiment on him first?

According to this fan theory, Scooby is a runaway from the Soviets’ classified space dog program, designed to breed pups capable of operating satellites and understanding radio commands. Scooby was the best of the bunch, the rare test subject who could understand and imitate human speech. Naturally, one of the scientists got attached and defected with Scooby to the USA. When that scientist died, Scooby found a new family with a group of friendly teenagers. But the CIA never stopped searching for this Soviet wunderpup, which is why Mystery, Inc. is constantly traveling by van—and why the original show is called Scooby Doo, Where Are You!

2. The show takes place during an economic depression.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

A classic Scooby-Doo mystery might take place at a theme park, museum, or mine—so long as it’s grimy and deserted. That’s a weird coincidence when you think about it: why are all these places so rundown? Well, that tends to happen when you’re weathering a financial collapse, and many clues indicate that’s just what’s happening in the world of Scooby-Doo. The towns he and his friends visit never seem to be doing well. No one has any money: Not the many scientists posing as monsters for cash, not the operators of every haunted attraction the gang investigates, and certainly not Shaggy and Scooby, who gorge on dog treats and lose their minds whenever they so much as smell a burger.

3. Mystery, Inc. is actually a cult.

Let’s break down the core members of the gang: You have Fred, the handsome and friendly frontman of the group. Then there’s Daphne, the fashionable and pretty one who mostly follows Fred around. Velma has the brains and Shaggy has full-blown conversations with a dog. When you really think about, doesn’t this all sound a bit like a cult? Fred would obviously be the cult leader, who recruits groupies like Daphne to obey his every command. Velma’s intelligence makes her a useful addition, and she could also be seeking acceptance from the “cool” kids. As for Shaggy, well, men who claim dogs can talk to them have a famously disturbing history—much like cult members.

4. They’re all draft dodgers.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premiered in 1969. Also happening that year? The Vietnam War. As able-bodied men (seemingly) over 18, Fred and Shaggy would both be eligible for the draft, which begs the obvious question: is Mystery, Inc. just a bunch of draft dodgers? The boys could be driving that van straight to Canada to avoid deployment, along with Fred’s fiancée Daphne and their antiwar activist friend Velma. Scooby’s stance on the war remains unclear, but he’s along for the ride.

5. Scooby Snacks alter your genes.

What if Scooby’s preferred treat is really a steroid capable of editing genetic code? It would explain why Scooby—and other members of his canine family, like Scrappy-Doo and Scooby-Dum—can talk, as well as their ability to perform “completely ridiculous stunts.” (Also, if Scrappy-Doo is on steroids, it would explain why he’s always trying to fight.) But what about its effect on humans? As far as we know, Shaggy is the only person who eats Scooby Snacks, and he seems to have a freakishly high metabolism, considering the mile-high sandwiches he eats and his super skinny frame.

6. Fred drives the Mystery Machine because the real owner is too high.

Whenever the gang piles into the Mystery Machine, there’s only one person behind the wheel: Fred. Mystery, Inc.’s de facto leader is constantly driving his friends from one haunted house to the next, which would imply that the Mystery Machine is his car. But why would a clean-shaven, preppy kid like Fred own a lime green van with flowers plastered over the doors? That car obviously belongs to a hippie, and in this group, that’s Shaggy. His hippie lifestyle, however, may be the reason Shaggy never drives. He’s either lost his license from driving under the influence, or Fred is worried he will, so someone else serves as his designated driver.

7. Shaggy is Captain America’s son.

This theory starts with small coincidences, like the fact that Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and Steve Rogers share a last name. Then it builds to something bigger when you factor in a detail from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While out on a morning run, Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon) claims that Steve can run 13 miles in half an hour, a rate that breaks down to 26 mph. Shaggy, meanwhile, frequently keeps pace with Scooby, a Great Dane. Those dogs run up to 30 mph. Ergo, Shaggy is Steve’s son.

8. Monsters really do exist in the Scooby-Doo universe.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

Each time the gang catches a new “monster,” it always turns out to be a human in disguise, grumbling about how they “would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” Monsters, the show tells us over and over again, are not real. But this Reddit theory poses an important question: If monsters don’t exist, why is there a business dedicated to catching the fake ones? The fact that Mystery, Inc. keeps getting calls implies that “supernatural fraud” is an entire category of crime, one that wouldn’t make sense or work if people didn’t believe in monsters. Everyone in the Scooby-Doo universe also seems to accept monsters as a normal and everyday occurrence, suggesting that monsters are real—the gang has just never caught one.

9. Shaggy and Scooby are actors.

When danger calls, Shaggy and Scooby tend to run the other way. But what if the group’s most cowardly members were actually actors pretending to be scared of ghosts, monsters, and other paranormal entities? According to this fan theory, Shaggy and Scooby are faking their over-the-top fear in order to draw the monsters out. By posing as easy targets, they know they’ll get spooked first, and thus make it easier for Mystery, Inc. to trap the ghost/witch/pirate. That’s why Fred always pairs Shaggy with Scooby when they split up to investigate, and it’s why after many years of investigating the supernatural, the two of them still don’t seem remotely used to it.

10. Green Room is just a gritty Scooby-Doo reboot.

The 2015 horror movie Green Room is about a band with a van that squares off against an evil old Nazi. The Scooby-Doo franchise is about a team (that was supposed to be a band) with a van that squares off against evil old men (who could also, theoretically, be Nazis). You do the math.

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