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NIGHT COURT
Season Two

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Harry Anderson, Karen Austin, John Larroquette, Paula Kelly, Richard Moll, Selma Diamond
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Color Full Frame, Close-Captioned
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  Three discs, 525 minutes, 22 episodes
Release date:   February 3, 2009

“You didn’t invent whimsy you know, I’m not senile, I’ve been like this for fifty years.  So even if I do become senile, no one will ever know.  Come to think of it, I won’t know either, will I?”

“Listen, judge…”

“Shut up, I’m old and I can talk as long as I want!”

Shows ***

Well, it isn’t as controversial and crazy as All In The Family and not as funny or irreverent as MASH but John Larroquette and company have plenty of good material presented at a brisk pace to provide another season of Night Court.  Is it just me or do modern sit-com actors seem to have feet of clay?

Markie Post joins as Christine Sullivan the new public defender for one episode, and we wish she could stay longer, but she will return in future seasons.  Her addition pretty much cemented the lineup.  Ellen Foley plays public defender Billie Young for most of the season, resembling a more macho woman of the 80s but she is not even listed in the opening credits, since clearly the powers that be were not sold on her as a permanent addition to the cast.  Season Two features guest appearances by Lou Ferrigno, Stella Stevens, and Michael Richards, but one of the best episodes of the whole series features Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) as an older judge even more eccentric than Harry Stone (quoted above), and Vincent Schiavelli (subway ghost from Ghost) as an investigator for the state. 

The show is caught between the hip, lovable but flimsily written Friends of the 90s and the funky and unsafe comedies of the 70s.  We still hear an audience applaud at the end of a scene when someone gets what they deserve, reminding us of a bygone era in comedy.  Honestly the show has not aged too well but is still funny and still superior to most of the crop thus far in the new millennium.

There seem to be several episodes where we are made to feel sorry for streetwalkers, which has been done many times before, but Harry Anderson’s continuing portrayal of the compassionate judge who really just tries to help people is a welcome contrast to the never ending DNA seeking lawyers and macho cops of the modern era.  The show actually got better season by season, so it is frustrating that they are being released so slowly on DVD.  Season Two is full of stereotype-smashing, hard questions to answer, and gentle if predictable laughs, like a favorite snack that you crave after a long absence.

It is my opinion that many series are released slowly since the earlier seasons may not sell as well, which is because fans are waiting for the strongest seasons to come out, so fans should not be blamed for the slow release of classic shows.  The manufacturers need to move on these shows while their fans are still interested…and alive!!!   Why FOUR YEARS between the release of Season One and Two on DVD?

Episode list (hard to believe they used to make 22 shows per season!)  1) The Nun, 2) Christine and Mac (a.k.a. Daddy for the Defense) , 3) Billie and the Cat, 4) Pick a Number, 5) The Computer Kid, 6) Bull Gets a Kid, 7)  Harry on Trial, 8) Harry and the Madam, 9) Inside Harry Stone, 10) The Blizzard, 11) Take My Wife, Please, 12) The Birthday Visitor, 13) Dan's Parents, 14) Nuts About Harry, 15) An Old Flame, 16) The Gypsy, 17) Battling Bailiff, 18) Billie's Valentine, 19) Married Alive, 20) Mac and Quon Le: Together Again , 21) World War III, 22) Walk, Don't Wheel,

Video ***

The episodes themselves look remarkably good.  The only signs of graininess were in the show's actual cast introductions, this part is in terrible shape, presumably from the tape being played so many times for every episode. 

Audio ***

At least we have stereo now (Season One was in mono) and there are no problems or artifacts. 

Features (Zero Stars)

None. 

Summary:

Hopefully we will see more DVD releases of this perennially underrated show, more often than every four years.  Seriously!  And Season Three sees Markie Post permanently at her post as defense attorney, so the show goes up a star or two! 

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