HTF REVIEW: Night Court - The Complete First Season (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Herb Kane, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    Night Court
    The Complete First Season


    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1984
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 313 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $29.98
    Package: Two discs/Keepcase



    The Feature:
    As part of Warner Brothers Television 50th Anniversary Celebration, the studio is about to release a number of popular sit-coms from the 80’s and 90’s. Slated for this current round of First Season releases are: Full House, Murphy Brown, The Wayan Bros., The Jamie Foxx Show, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and Night Court.

    The show takes place in Manhattan’s Night Court where the circus-like court centers around newly appointed Judge Harry T. Stone (played by Harry Anderson), who is a frustrated magician often practicing the art of magic in his courtroom. He is protected by his child-like, yet gargantuan bailiff Bull (played by Richard Moll), and backed up by fellow bailiff/matron Selma Hacker (played by Selma Diamond), who is about as dry and laid back as any human can possibly be.

    Dan Fielding (played terrifically by John Larroquette) is the Assistant District Attorney with an insatiable sexual appetite, while Liz Williams (played by Paula Kelly) is the Public Defender who represents many of the miscreants who go before the judge. Rounding out the cast of regulars is Lana Wagner (played by Karen Austin), who spends much of her time trying to keep Harry on the straight and narrow as his Court Clerk.

    The set is comprised of the following episodes:


    Disc One:

    Episode 1. All You Need Is Love PILOT **Commentary**
    Original Airdate: 1/4/84
    Directed by: James Burrows

    Episode 2. Santa Goes Downtown
    Original Airdate: 1/11/84
    Directed by: Asaad Kelada

    Episode 3. The Former Harry Stone
    Original Airdate: 1/18/84
    Directed by: Jay Sandrich

    Episode 4. Welcome Back, Momma
    Original Airdate: 2/1/84
    Directed by: Jeff Melman

    Episode 5. The Eye Of The Beholder
    Original Airdate: 2/8/84
    Directed by: Jeff Melman

    Episode 6. Death Threat
    Original Airdate: 2/15/84
    Directed by: Jay Sandrich

    Episode 7. Once In Love With Harry
    Original Airdate: 2/22/84
    Directed by: Jay Sandrich


    Disc Two:

    Episode 8. Quadrangle Of Love
    Original Airdate: 2/29/84
    Directed by: Jeff Melman

    Episode 9. Wonder Drug
    Original Airdate: 3/7/84
    Directed by: Asaad Kelada

    Episode 10. Some Like It Hot
    Original Airdate: 3/14/84
    Directed by: Jay Sandrich

    Episode 11. Harry And The Rock Star
    Original Airdate: 3/21/84
    Directed by: Jeff Melman

    Episode 12. Bull's Baby
    Original Airdate: 3/28/84
    Directed by: Jeff Melman

    Episode13. Hi Honey, I'm Home
    Original Airdate: 3/31/84
    Directed by: Gary Shimokawa


    Warner’s Anniversary promotion must be discussed. As if WB haven’t been dominant in the classic movie front, their generous rebate promotion might very well make them the TV studio to beat as well. The offer, valid in the US as well as Canada, is valid until 6/30/2006 whereby folks interested in WB television product are eligible for up to $50.00 depending on how many sets are purchased i.e. Two season sets = $10 rebate, Three = $20, Four = $30, Five = $40 and Six = $50. Specific details and eligible sets are outlined in the set.

    In addition to the rebate, each of the six recently released series will contain a bonus DVD which will contain two bonus episodes of WB television product. In the case of Night Court S1, you will receive an episode of Perfect Strangers and Whose Line Is It Anyway. The remainder of bonus episodes are as follows: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season One (Family Matters & Head of the Class), Wayans Brothers Season One (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper & The Redd Foxx Show), Jamie Foxx Season One (Living Single & Whose Line Is It Anyway), Murphy Brown Season One (My Sister Sam & Room for Two), Full House Season One (Growing Pains & Step by Step). Over the course of the year, there will be a total of 15 bonus discs. For more information, go to: www.wbtvondvd.com.

    The set is comprised of two single sided discs which are housed in regular sized (double) Keepcase, which really makes me wish that other TV product came the same way. Perhaps we will when the greater capacity formats of HD-DVD or BR start to surface within the next year.

    The Feature: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    The video presentation of Night Court isn’t about to make any top 10 lists, but its pretty much what I was expecting from a video taped show from the early 80’s.

    Most notable is the lack of crisp definition. Facial close-ups and things like watches and the bailiff’s badges are slightly soft and can be somewhat blurry. There’s very little dimension to the image as a result. The overall look of this presentation is slightly gritty – not a 70’s grittiness mind you, but slightly gritty.

    Colors were satisfactory while slightly on the muted side and flesh tones had a tendency to be somewhat red. Blacks are reasonably deep and whites were crisp. The levels of contrast and shadow detail were fine.

    The image appears to be mostly clean, although evidence of dirt and the odd blemish here and there was visible. Video noise is apparent on some of the solid color backgrounds and during some of the title sequences.

    Video: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    The show is presented in DD mono and does what it needs to do rather effectively. There is some slight hiss present throughout the entire show but I didn’t hear any popping or crackling.

    Dialogue was usually intelligible and bold but the track had a tendency to become slight edgy when the laugh track kicked in full force. The overall tonality of the track is natural which can sound slightly raw at times.

    In terms of music, the show starts with a jazzy little riff that’s as recognizable as any to have ever accompanied a TV show, and it does a pretty healthy job filling as much of the soundstage as it can for a mono track. Same with the Tormé music, “Jeepers Creepers” in the “Quadrangle of Love” episode – Harry has a great ol’ time listening to the concert in chambers and I can hear why - it sounded terrific.

    Again, not a set you’re going to use to show off your system, but this track serves the needs quite capably.

    Audio: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    Not a lot of extra features here but certainly enough to keep your interest. First up is:
    [*] A Commentary on the Pilot episode (“All You Need Is Love”) by Creator - Executive Producer, Reinhold Weege. Mr. Weege provides a number of interesting and informative comments relating to the show and the wacky cast members that appeared on it.
    [*] Up next is Night Court: Comedy's Swing Shift which was obviously created for this set and features Reinhold Weege and Harry Anderson who do a terrific job offering a number of interesting tidbits and trivia relating to the highly successful show. Mr. Weege starts by discussing the similarities between this show and his previous efforts while writing for Barney Miller. Harry spends a great deal of time discussing how he felt the role was custom made to fit. The show took a long time to prove itself which is also discussed at length. It’s funny, you know how you picture someone, never having met them? I’ve heard the name Reinhold Weege many times over the years and if anyone ever looked more different after visualizing him for years, this is it. Well worth your time. Duration: 18:08 minutes.

    Not a lot in terms of numbers, but these are worthwhile.

    Special Features: 3/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Like many great sit-coms, this first season spends a great deal of time finding itself. It would undergo several casting changes over the course of the following seasons but it would eventually serve as one of the funniest situation comedies of the 80’s. And there are plenty of laughs to found on Season One to be sure. The show had a number of things going for it beyond terrific writing. The snappiness of the one-liners and the dry and sardonic humor that all the cast members possessed was key to the show’s success.

    The show had an uncanny knack to be able to poke you in the ribs and serve up genuine doses of reality such as when a cynical young man was given a few lessons in life by Santa Clause or when a lonely old woman fabricates a long lost son in attempt to reach out for the attention she lacks. But after it was finished poking at you, the show had a way of winking back and always managed to close, leaving a smile or a slight grin upon your face.

    While the extra features are not particularly bountiful, they are enough to get this series off the ground. I wasn’t expecting a lot from the presentation considering the show was produced in the early 80’s but this should please the majority of fans. One thing you can expect to do - is to laugh and laugh a lot.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Recommended…!




    Release Date: February 8th, 2005
     
  2. Dan McW

    Dan McW Second Unit

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    -- Great review, Herb: As an old NC fan, I probably would have bought this set eventually, but this review clinches my decision.

    -- Speaking of those season-one laughs, wasn't Weege's dad the man whose "yuk-yuk" laughter was always heard leading off the audience's laughter and again over the production company's logo after the end credits? Incidentally, when I last saw a rerun of NC, the "yuk-yuk" production-company portion of the credits had been removed. Is it on the DVD's?

    -- FWIW, I think the name is pronounced "Wiggy," IIRC from the same TV Guide article in the '80s where I read about Weege's dad being in the audience.

    -- The fact that the original Tormé music is included is a relief, as this is obviously a series where music-rights problems could really screw up a release (although I'm not sure of WB's track record on the inclusion of original music).
     
  3. Roman-K

    Roman-K Stunt Coordinator

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    I found the bonus dvd glued to the back of the dvd cover extremely difficlut to remove and it did leave wrinkling and discoloration on the dvd box. It could have been packaged loosley.

    I look forward to watching the show.
     
  4. Dan*T

    Dan*T Supporting Actor

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    I have just purchased my copy. And thus far have been happy with it. Seeing as this is one of my favorite sitcoms of the '80's, I hope WB cranks out the remaining 8 seasons of it. I like the show enough to purchase them all!!
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    Whose Line Is It Anyway? Say it ain't so, Joe! This bodes well for a season set of the US series!

    Must See TV!! Gonna pick this one up!
     
  6. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

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    I am picking this one up tonight! I loved Night Court. Warner Bros bring on season 2!
     
  7. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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    The laugh over the "Starry Night Productions" logo isn't on the DVD, but since I haven't seen the first season in a while, I can't remember if it was ever there to start with. It may have been something that was added to later seasons of the show. I do remember it being dropped for the last season or two, even in the original broadcasts.

    Thanks for the review, Herb. Got this at Wal-Mart late last night after getting off from work. I agree, the quality is about what we'd expect, and there's no major complaints from me. I guess I could be a tad disappointed that there are no chapter stops, but since the episodes are only 24 minutes long, it's not that big a deal.

    Speaking of episode-length, 24 minutes is about right for the early-to-mid-80's, so I guess these episodes are uncut. Way to go, Warner; knew you wouldn't let us down. [​IMG] (Most of the episodes even end with the old WB logo from that era; not a huge deal, but a sign that they probably used the original broadcast masters.)

    Herb is right; the show was definitely trying to find itself in the first season, but there's definitely more than a few hints of the inspired nuttiness to come in later seasons. I'm glad this series is finally being released. [​IMG]
     
  8. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    That's because it was Reinhold Weege's production company logo, and he left the show after the sixth season. (Not coincidentally, the three seasons after he left were not very good.)
     
  9. Jason^M

    Jason^M Auditioning

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    I got my copy of Night Court today from Amazon.com. I was impressed that they shipped it to me on the Feb. 6th, and I received it on the day of it's release. I wish there were more commentary tracks then just the one they added to the first episode, but they look pretty good on DVD, the mono sound was a little hard to get use to at first, but I knew it was in mono so it wasn't really a surprise. I hope these sell well so WB will keep the season's coming.

    The Bonus disc that came with it was a surprise to me. I'm not really a fan of Perfect Strangers, but it was free, I really can't complain.

    BTW: Great review Herb Kane, you really hit the nail on the head.
     
  10. Keith I

    Keith I FoS

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    Harry Anderson describes Season 1 as "bipolar" in the featurette and it's this mix of comedy and heart (that Herb mentions in his review) that made Season 1 a great season, in my opinion. I watched Disc 1 and I still laughed hard and got emotional because many of these episodes were about caring about people. Nice. As the show went on, that caring aspect dwindled a bit to put more laughs but it still was a show worth watching and getting all seasons on DVD, Warner!

    Oh, there's another good thread (maybe they will be combined) regarding the rebate and this set's Proof of Purchase tabs. The instructions say to use tab "D" for DVDs but there is no "D" PoP tab because it's in a standard keepcase (where you have to cut out the tabs - boo!) instead of a cardboard digipak that can hold four pull-off tabs. Hmmm.

    Oh, but one good thing about Warner using the duplicate back cover to "hide" the bonus disc is that there are PoP tabs on that extra paper so I can cut them out instead of the actual back cover. That is ... if Warner allows us to use tab "A" or "B" for this rebate.

    UPDATE: NEVER MIND ... the rebate form says you can use the UPC. Duh...
    -
     
  11. Jimmy M

    Jimmy M Second Unit

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    Mine was packaged loosly. The paper duplicate of the back cover was stuck on with two clear round stickers, one on the top and one on the bottom (attached to the "Security device enclosed" stickers). The disc was simply nested in between the case and the paper, free as can be.

    Jimmy!
     
  12. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    I hate sitcoms. Having said that, this show has always had a place in my heart since childhood, and I am amazed at how well it holds up. I bought it last night, and it was well worth the 21.88. This one has great acting (Larroquette won an Emmy four years in a row), well realized characters that you care about as opposed to walking gimmicks (Urkel, Carlton, Uncle Joey, Uncle Jesse, Michelle, Cody from Step By Step, etc) and humor that hasn't been homogenized to appeal to every conceivable age group. My only wish is that they had put some actual effort into the featurette. It was great to hear from Weege and Anderson, but Larroquette and Moll are nowhere to be found. I realize I sound like a snobby net nerd, but I'm just trying to get across that this one is one of the real diamonds in the rough of eighties sitcoms.
     
  13. Anthony Wolfe

    Anthony Wolfe Stunt Coordinator

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    LOL, ok then. Well, great review of Night Court, I picked up Fresh Prince the second it came out, but I'll prolly go pick up Night Court and some others a bit later in the week, I've actually never viewed it, but going from the recommendations on the forum (some of them that is), I'll prolly do a blind buy.

    I still need some 'Martin' on DVD though.
     
  14. Steve K.H.

    Steve K.H. Supporting Actor

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    Nick, I'm with you on Sitcoms... it was only the ones that dared to be different that ever appealed...

    All in the Family
    M*A*S*H
    Barney Miller
    Night Court
    Sienfeld...

    But why did I like Sanford and Son so much as a child?

    Laroquette... he was magnificent in this series.

    The price is right... I think I'll have to check this one out.
     
  15. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

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    The only problem I have with the sound is:

    Where did mom put the mute button on my brother? He has not stopped laughing since it became "his turn" to watch the set.

    Herb, terrific review. I could not have put any of your points any better myself. I do hope that the rest of the series is released, and that we get to hear from the rest of the surviving cast, as well as more from Mr. Weege. [​IMG]
     
  16. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Producer

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    Got this last night. This show was on my list when it first aired as it was created by someone from Barney Miller. I enjoyed the similarities between the two shows and the dry humor. Glad this set is available.

    I watched the first two episodes and found myself laughing at a sitcom again. Not to much funny on the air at present.
     
  17. Pavan_P

    Pavan_P Second Unit

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    For those of you wondering, Perfect Strangers is unedited (over 24 minutes). So far I heard that Perfect Strangers and Growing Pains are unedited. Family Matters and Step by Step are edited. The rest I don't know about yet...
     
  18. Jason^M

    Jason^M Auditioning

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    I'm at the point that if the commercial or promotion doesn't say clearly "All XX episodes are unedited" then I figure there edited.
     
  19. Keith I

    Keith I FoS

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    This is not DVD-related but it's a small thing: I wonder if the producers/network didn't want to keep Karen Austin (Lana Wagner) around sooner since she wasn't in the last three episodes, but they still gave her credit.

    In the first missed episode, Lana's absence was due to her being sick. Funny how she was sick and taking cold medication in an episode not long before that. Maybe it was a bad relapse.
    -
     
  20. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, Austin obviously left the show before the short first season was even over. I've always wonder whether she quit or was let go. In the last two episodes they replace her with a ditzy blonde, who didn't last, but may have provided some of the inspiration for the Christine Sullivan character.

    In the second season, of course, they brought in a man (Charles Robinson) as the court clerk, and made the female lead the public defender (Ellen Foley, then Markie Post). That was a good idea, because it helped the will they/won't they feeling between Harry and his female lead: there was no way he could "get together" with someone who was a lawyer appearing in his courtroom.

    I really hope WB gets the second season out soon, because that was when the cast started to click (I liked Ellen Foley; season 2 was Mac's first season and Selma's last, and characters like Bull and Dan started to really hit their stride).
     

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