Mediocre ‘Night Court’ reboot only occasionally funny

Movies & TV

“Night Court,” the latest attempt by a TV network to capture an audience by exhuming a beloved yet long-dead intellectual property, has some things going for it. The show stars Melissa Rauch, whose portrayal of Bernadette was the best thing about “The Big Bang Theory,” brings back a fan-favorite character in a major role and recycles the original show’s concept of a court full of offbeat personalities. Unfortunately, it lacks the fun quirks of the original show and while it does have a few good laughs, it mostly comes off as flat and uninspired.

This new “Night Court” introduces us to Abby Stone (Rauch), a young judge who’s taking over the New York night arraignment court her father, Harry, used to preside over. She takes it as her mission to not only treat defendants with compassion but also to push her crew to better themselves.

Unfortunately for Abby, her new job gets off to a bad start when the public defender quits. To fill that role, Abby recruits Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), who used to work with her father. Dan reluctantly accepts, but Abby pushes him to wholeheartedly embrace his new role. Throw in a cast of eccentric defendants and a flock of pizza-eating pigeons, and hilarity ensues, right?

Not quite. While bringing back the “Night Court” concept with Rauch in the lead isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard, it’s not exactly off to a high-flying start. Rauch’s perky do-gooder is the kind of character we’ve seen countless times before in other sitcoms. Rauch is giving it her best shot and does have some good moments, but for the most part, the writing lets her down.

Most of the other characters are well-worn character cliches that aren’t quirky enough to differentiate themselves from other characters in other sitcoms. For example, the court’s clerk, Neil (Kapil Talwalkar), is the kind of guy who took his job so he could get paid for doing as little as possible. It’s like Neil was a leftover character from “Clerks,” who didn’t make the final cut because he didn’t have anything interesting to say.

Then there’s Olivia (India De Beaufort), the court assistant D.A. whose major story arc through the first two episodes is that she’s being borderline stalked by the court’s stenographer. But she’s your basic career climber who sees night court as a bus stop on the way to greater things. There’s nothing interesting enough about her to inspire anyone to stalk her, so that plot strand falls flat.

There is one character that actually works pretty well. That’s Nicolia (Dimiter D. Marinov), the court janitor. He had the best one-liner of the show so far, and it’s not even close. Anytime Nicolai was on screen, I at least got to chuckle. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get much screen time through the first two episodes.

“Night Court” might figure itself out later in this season. It might get better. The question is whether there’s enough good there to keep you hanging on until it does get better. Based on what I saw, I think I’m better off leaving this “Night Court” behind.

New “Night Court” episodes drop every Tuesday on NBC and you can stream the show on Peacock or at nbc.com.

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