Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Introduced to NBC's Wednesday-night schedule as a mid-season replacement on January 4, 1984, the weekly 30-minute sitcom Night Court quickly built a large and appreciative audience, enabling the series to remain on the network for nine seasons. Harry Anderson, a comedian who had established his reputation as a smooth-talking, nimble-fingered street magician and self-styled con artist, was perfectly cast as affable, irreverent Manhattan night-court judge Harry T. Stone. Although he came across as an iconoclastic jokester who held standard legal procedure in contempt (in one episode, his verdict was based on the flip of a coin), Harry was a highly successful jurist with a well-honed sense of fair play, whose handling of the oddballs that paraded in and out of his court resulted in a gratifyingly low "return" rate and quite a few reformations. Even those who'd never stood before Judge Stone in court were familiar with his lovable eccentricities, including his fondness for faded blue jeans and his adoration of singer Mel Tormé. The supporting cast included John Larroquette as Assistant DA Dan Fielding, who spent as much time trying to score with the ladies in night court as he did trying to secure convictions, and Richard Moll as bald-headed bailiff "Bull" Shannon (Richard Moll), whose bark was worse than his bite, but not by much. During the series' first season, Paula Kelly was seen as legal-aid defense lawyer Liz Williams, who was alternately appalled and fascinated by Harry's unorthodox tactics; Karen Austin also appeared as court clerk Lana Wagner, who harbored a not-so-secret crush on Harry. In subsequent seasons, Liz was replaced by Billie Young (Ellen Foley), who in turn was replaced by Christine Sullivan (Markie Post); as for Lana, her replacement was Mac Robinson (Charles Robinson). Both Christine and Mac remained for the rest of the series; not so with Selma Diamond as abrasive jail matron Selma Hacker, a character who lasted only until Diamond's death. The actress' replacement, Florence Halop as Florence Kleiner, likewise passed away after only a short time on the series; she in turn was replaced by Marsha Warfield as Roz Russell, a character who stayed in place until the series' own demise. The on-again, off-again romance between Harry Stone and Christine Sullivan was definitely "off" during seasons seven and eight, when Christine was wed to undercover cop Tony Guillano (Ray Abruzzo), a union which produced a baby. After Christine divorced Tony, her relationship with Harry heated up considerably, but before long the ardor had cooled. Eventually, Christine was elected to congress, whereupon she was pursued not by Harry but by the ever-libidinous Dan Fielding. The final episode of Night Court, which set something of a record for the number of bizarre, surrealistic incidents occurring within a single half-hour, was broadcast on July 1, 1992.