With an underwritten ensemble and a lack of interesting guest characters, the Night Court reboot is a disappointing continuation of the classic series. While the sitcom has proven a big hit for NBC and has already been renewed for season 2, it has drawn criticism for favoring its lead actors, Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette, in terms of story focus. While this makes sense, given their popularity, the Night Court reboot has failed to develop the rest of the cast to the same level as Judge Abby Stone and Public Defender Dan Fielding.
One of the most endearing features of the original Night Court series was the sizable ensemble of original recurring characters that kept returning to Judge Harry Stone’s courtroom. While the Night Court reboot has introduced some recurring characters, none of them have been utilized, as well as in the classic series. A larger problem, however, is that some core ensemble members remain undefined as characters. In some cases, the few details known about their characters don’t fit.
Olivia Moore’s Night Court Reboot Character Is Contradictory
The Night Court reboot prosecutor, Olivia Moore, is the best example of the show’s erratic character development. The pilot episode of the Night Court reboot introduced Olivia as an ambitious lawyer who was largely indifferent to the suffering of the people passing through the court system and hoping for a fast promotion to a more prestigious position. This brought her into conflict with the more empathetic Abby Stone and seemed to be setting up a conflict similar to the one between Judge Harry Stone and the more conservative Dan Fielding in the early seasons of the original Night Court.
Later episodes portrayed Olivia as a neurotic mess, completely contrasting to the aloof figure from the Night Court reboot pilot. For example, Olivia was shown to be paranoid to the point of fearing that a tween girl with dreams of becoming a lawyer was planning to steal her job in the Night Court reboot episode “Justice Buddies.” She was also incredibly flustered by honest praise and affection when Abby’s mother complimented her in the episode “Blood Moon Binga.” While it’s possible that Olivia puts up a facade to appear tough, the show has yet to give her a serious storyline that can define who she really is.
Neil’s Night Court Reboot Character Is Undefined
While Olivia bounces between being a mean girl or a basket-case as the story demands, court clerk Neil is the blankest slate in the Night Court reboot cast. Neil’s character is entirely defined by his inability to stand up for himself or stand out as an individual. Indeed, he was the only cast member not to get a last name in the Night Court reboot pilot. The show makes fun of this, with Olivia telling Neil to “add whatever your last name is” to a list of nicknames for one another when she pushes Neil to pretend to be her boyfriend in the episode “Two Peas on a Podcast.”
Like Olivia, Neil has yet to get a serious storyline that defines his character as a real person. The only member of the core ensemble to get such a storyline is bailiff Donna “Gurgs” Gurganous, who took center stage in the topical issues-based episode “Justice Buddies,” risking her job to stand with a group of student protesters after Abby sentenced a popular TikTok artist/activist to jail for defacing a statue of Christopher Columbus. By contrast, the closest thing Neil has gotten to a defining character trait apart from his blandness was a suggestion that he has a crush on Abby Stone, and even that was played entirely for laughs.
Night Court Reboot Too Focused On Abby And Dan
The chief reason for the ensemble of the Night Court reboot being so poorly defined is that the lion’s share of the series’ storylines to date has been focused on Judge Abby Stone and Public Defender Dan Fielding. This is logical, given that their actors, Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette, are both producers on the show and the biggest draws for new viewers. Rauch has a big following from her time on The Big Bang Theory, and Larroquette played Dan Fielding in the original Night Court three decades earlier. Unfortunately, their focus on their characters has been a disservice to the rest of the ensemble.
Apart from Gurgs and her storyline dealing with issues of racism and social justice, the Night Court reboot has not given the ensemble any weighty storylines that might define their characters outside the stock stereotypes they’ve portrayed in the series so far. This stands in contrast to Dan and Abby, both of whom have enjoyed multiple episodes developing their characters. Beyond continually living up to her father’s legacy, Abby had to manage the truth about her mother’s criminal background and confront her alcoholic past. Dan Fielding has likewise coped with dating again after the death of his wife. The rest of the cast needs the same level of focus.
There Are No Good Recurring Night Court Reboot Characters
Another factor where the NIght Court reboot pales compared to the original is that the new series lacks the memorable recurring characters of the classic Night Court. The original series introduced many characters who, while not part of the regular ensemble, continued to show up regularly to disrupt the order (such as it was) of Judge Harry Stone’s court. This included characters like Dan’s sidekick, homeless former stockbroker Phil Sanders, the courthouse’s inept maintenance man, Art Fensterman, prostitute Roxanne Reynolds, and the unfortunate Wheeler family.
The Night Court reboot has tried to continue this tradition, with the pilot introducing a surly maintenance man named Nikolai. Unfortunately, despite being revealed as an artist in the second episode, “The Nighthawks,” there is little else about Nikolai that stands out or is funny on its own, like with the infamous Art. The same is true of Blaine, a stenographer introduced in “The Nighthawks,” who fails to show much personality beyond being sassy and lucky at bingo after two appearances. However, it should be noted that the original Night Court went through similar growing pains. Hopefully, the reboot will also rally to define its underwritten ensemble.
Night Court airs Tuesdays on NBC.
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