Night Court 2023
A while back we talked about the truly perplexing reboot of Mad About You… available only if you were using a specific cable carrier. I watched the whole thing, and while did kind of like Abbey Quinn as Paul Riser’s daughter, the reboot all around was disappointing. Jamie had turned from a quirky but high maintenance girl to a completely unlikable virago. And Paul Riser, as he always did, was just kind of going with the flow.
And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending,And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending, There are certain things that you are going to try and do with that ending. You wanna make sure everybody knows that the characters go on, but that they’re in a good place. You want to feel not only like this chapter of their life is wrapped up neatly, but that they’re gonna be OK going forward. You want them in a good place. The problem is, when you bring them back, you immediately have to create some drama and some tension, and that means taking them out of that good place and putting them back into conflict. Ultimately, most of these reboots like Mad About You just make me sad.
Night Court Didn’t make me sad. It made me angry.
Let me take a moment here to establish some of my bonafides. You seem, Night Court is very possibly my favorite sitcom of all time. not just growing up, not just doesn’t adult, but for all time. All 9 seasons… even the early ones with the cast shake ups. Harry Anderson in particular was someone I connected with. He is not the reason that I wear hats, but hes very likely one of the reasons that I still wear them… He’s not the reason that I learned the magic. But he certainly kept my interest in it longer than I would have had it… and contributed to me going back to it when I was in college. He had a sort of dark humor and a love of old things and Halloween and the macabre. It’s just a character that affected me deeply. Not just him though, the show itself. The outrageous slapstick comedy really appealed to me. I’ve always been drawn to outrageous and witty comedy. Fast talking, clever dialog, that sets up absurdity without sinking into the scatological. Night Court was perfect for this. It was more cartoonish and outrageous than a lot of its contemporaries like Cheers Or Wings or even Seinfeld. And yet, it managed an interesting trick. We would go from this outrageous comedy and then drive right into some drama in the middle of the second act. Some people used to criticize it as getting Preachy. Those people have obviously never watched an episode of modern star trek. If it was heavy handed at all, It was due to time constraints. We had to get our laughs, get into the serious stuff and get out in 24 minutes. Nevertheless, I never felt bashed over the head with THE MESSAGE the way that I do in a lot of modern entertainment. It was probably there, but it was just usually a heart warming note. One or two lines. It’s a tear jerking moment. An instant where we got to be serious and talk some real talk instead of just constant gags. It’s a tough balance to pull off, and yet Night Court managed it week after week. It never sacrificed the humor, and it never sacrificed the drama. All of this is what made it such a great show, it’s why it’s so fondly remembered.
The Night Court reboot is nothing like its predecessor. It’s not just that it’s totally diffrent, it’s absolutely missing all of it’s heart. And you know, even that might be tolerable if it wasn’t just so poorly done. It’s not just a bad reboot, it’s not even a good sitcom.
I don’t know who John Larroquette is playing, but it’s not Dan Fielding. Of course, there’s no way you can get away with and oversexed greedy white man character like this in modern entertainment, but this neutered version is just utterly unrecognizable. We discovered him in semi-retirement after his wife died, as a processor, sneaking around and Hitting people with subpoenas or lawsuits that they’ve been dodging. Perfect work for the grumpy old curmudgeon. But that’s not Dan. Dan being married in the 1st place seems utterly absurd to me (Unless she was a sugar mama – and he speaks too tenderly about her for that to be the case). And him showing up in a mediocre apartment, doing a crummy job, Remember what I said about wanting wanting to feel like a character is gonna be alright? They didn’t do a great job of that at the end of that court, but even so, this unravels any hope that you would feel for that.And by placing him in the defense slot,We robbed him of the mean spirited, colorful descriptions he would have for the defendants. We lose a lot of his attitude and Snark. The truth is, the Dan Fielding I imagine as an older man, he would be like Hugh Hefner. Even on the television show Dan was chasing women well into his mid to late fifties, I could see him still doing it at 70, just with less success. Perhaps even with a certain amount of perplextion at why it doesn’t work anymore. The wit would still be razor sharp, an insult artist on the order of Don Rickels. A couple decades worth of schmoozing and scamming and hustling, Dan would have money. money and style. Dan always wore the best suits and had perfectly coiffed hair. He never looked like a plaid hobo. Indeed, while John Larroquette is giving this performance in Night Court 2023 his all, I get the impression that he just doesn’t know how to play Dan now. He doesn’t understand what to do with this neutered version of the character… because it’s not the same person.
I think you could forgive a lot of that though if we had a great supporting cast. And that was the thing about Night Court. Every person there was a character, every person there was a Talent. I followed Harry Anderson from Night Court over to Dave’s world. the only reason that I even know who Dave Barry is! I followed John Larroquette a cat over to his own show, and then over to McBride. I would make sure I had a front row seat any time one of the cast would show up on another show, Charles Robinson had some really great cameos here and there on shows like House, Fresh Prince and NCIS.
Unfortunately, for the most part, these characters are all cardboard cut outs. Melissa Rauch, who was arguably one of my favorite characters on the big Bang theory, is just flat and boring in this serious. Even setting aside the obligatory the woman has to be in charge trope because, modern day politics. Even setting it aside, she’s just not good in the role. They’ve tacked on the conceit that she’s Harry Stone’s daughter, but it doesn’t mean anything. She doesn’t act like him or feel like him or seem related to him in any way other than using it as an excuse to mention his name at least once per episode. There aren’t photos of Harry Anderson around (unless you squint at the wall outside the courtroom with the list of judges), but they sure do feel the need to invoke Harry Stone as as often as possible to remind you that this is still supposed to be Night Court. I haven’t forgotten. In fact, they’ve recreated the sets in spectacular fashion. It’s dead on… just a few old years older. I feel like I’m walking right back into my childhood home, feel the problem is it’s filled with strangers.
Lucretia, the comedian playing the bailiff Gurgs (I thought it was “Gert” And that would have made more sense), is trying. She’s doing a smart thing, and that she’s trying to combine both the characters of Bull and Roz into one composite. The problem is that can’t work. You need one person to be the goofball and one person to be the straight man. It’s roles that Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield fell into easily, with Marcia generally being the heavy, Though it wasn’t unusual to see those roles flip from time to time to time to give her a chance to have some good gags herself. I think they’re doing poor Lucretia a disservice by not giving her somebody to bounce off against. Perhaps an older, more experienced bailiff who could be the straight man to her funny, silly antics.
The district attorney Olivia, played by India de Beaufort, is actually fairly good. She reminds me a great deal of the defense attorney Liz Williams (played by Paula Kelly) from the first season. She also had a sort of hard edge to her, competence with the ability to make you laugh. The problem is, she’s not nearly as funny as Larroquette was in that role, and she is not given much to do. Like the others she’s a caricature. And no one’s more a character than our poor court clerk… hes practically a nonentity.
It’s all just bad. I watched 3 episodes of this backed back, and I laughed a grand total of two times. You can make all the excuses you want about it being their 1st season, and trying to work out the kinks and the chemistry of the new cast. But the thing is, even the 1st season of Night Court (with a very different cast) was fun. It was good. It hit the ground running with some interesting relationships. Believe me, I’m very familiar with the 1st season. Not only was it always included in the reruns (so those episodes would come up a couple times a year), but it was one of the few seasons of the show to actually get A DVD release that was sold at retail. Everything else got print on demand if It got a release it all. There was a while there where the show wasn’t rerunning anywhere I could get it, and that box set that was my only copy. So when I say that season one is still good, and better than this, It’s not just the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Even more frustrating, is that this should have been good. The formula was already set. You had at least one of the original characters coming Back. Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield are also both still alive, I would have loved to have seen Warfield return to the role, but now as a much older woman, giving us the dynamic that we used to get from Selma or Flo… the bailiffs that proceeded her. I’d like to have seen Dan fielding show up AS DAN FIELDING. Let’s get crazy and offensive, and dare To risk the ire of the woke. Don’t just make Melissa Rauch a squeaky voice do gooder, give her some flaws, some obsessions and some goofiness (seriously. You’ve cast an actress who made her name playing a quirky, nerdy character. You put her in a role previously occupied by a quirky, nerdy character. And she’s going OUT OF HER WAY TO NOT PLAY IT QUIRKY OR NERDY to break away from that typecasting. This is so self defeating it hurts). You could have done this. You could have made this work. Instead, we’re getting reheated leftovers. A vanity project vehicle for Rauch, and a bitter disappointment. I’m sorry Night Court. You deserved better. Rest in peace.
Sorority Party Massacre
Look, I really don’t care who the Director is, if you give me a title like Sorority Party Massacre, I’m coming in with certain expectations. A college coed lost in the country near an old car garage is a good start. Scream style phone call from the killer helps too. Gas mask killer with acid is a definite promising start.
Sorority Party Massacre is a Chris Freeman and Justin Jones collaboration. That definitely gives it a different style and polish than some of the other Jones films. The credits are done over a nice collage of bloody gloves and severed limbs. These guys are totally trying to sell us on the hard-core horror aspect. For me, all you had to say was Richard mall and Kevin Sorbo.
Super Bowl is a place captain dressing down a maverick comp… Lethal weapon style. Sorbo is making the most of his cameo, but it may actually distract little bit from the cop was going to be one of my main characters. Ron Jeremy is a cop in this department too… Inexplicably. Anyhow, Sorbo is sending our detective out to check on his sorority daughter, to make sure she’s OK in this backwater town of Grizzly Cove. Richard Moll will take him on his boat. The thing is, Moll’s boat is the only way to get to this island. And he doesn’t remember seeing the sheriffs daughter. Neither did the local cops… They use us as an excuse though, to introduce us to the girls that did arrive…. Not only does it serve to get familiar with the arc types will be watching die, but it’s also a good opportunity to throw some gratuitous cheesecake at the screen.
Cop’s daughter never showed up to this… an event that brings girls from different sororities together to compete for a grant. It’s a little vague what the grant is for… But that’s fine. It’s really just an excuse to line up a bunch of bikini-clad victims.
Someone is sleeping in the stables. Also, one of the sorority girls has just been sent to clean the stables. Guess who gets killed next ?
With an hour runtime left, it’s time for the cop to start his investigation in earnest. There’s still plenty of hot codes to investigate, even if the Chiefs daughter is dead. The head of the competition seems kind of sketchy and I miss congeniality way, and so does the mentally challenged groundskeeper.
There’s actually a lot more law and order/CSI detective work going on here and I would’ve anticipated. I almost feel that down. Really, with a title like sorority party massacre, you’re expecting nudity, and gory kills. Our second act is almost entirely the detective’s show. Like, I’m kind of glad that we got those long intros to each of these girls at the beginning… Because I feel like I’ve barely seen them since then. And where is the cool killer I saw the beginning of the movie??? It’s literally been an hour since I’ve seen it! (yeah…sadly, he’s not coming back)
I always forget just how spooky the opening of House is. They use extreme angles and weird lighting and negative images to heighten the spook factor and really give the house itself character, all before we even open the movie. It’s a great bit of misdirection and sets the tone well. In this house bad things can happen even in the daylight and you get that impression moving through the courtyard and inside the structure to discover the dead woman hanging there.
We are introduced to Roger Cobb, a divorced writer and Vietnam vet whose son vanished at his aunt’s house – the same aunt that we saw hanging at the beginning of the film. He’s having terrible writer’s block and nightmares of the war, and decides a change of scenery is in order. He heads over to the house to move in for a while.
The film takes its time, carefully setting up characters both living and dead, inside and outside of the house, even bringing the Aunt back as a ghostly doomsayer. The haunting starts slowly, with disembodied sounds in the house. It’s soft quietness is a stark contrast to the thunderously loud Vietnam flashback scenes that we get as Roger dreams and writes his book. In the house there’s a vision of his son, and the ghost of his aunt. It’s creepy but benign – that is, until finally he checks the closet… and the monsters begin to show up at midnight.
The closet monster by the way, is actually really worth taking a close look at. It’s the claws that really grabd your attention but pause the movie and check out the formless shanks of the creature. There’s multiple faces emerging out of the ultraslime on it’s misshapen body, possibly representative of people the house is taken. It was certainly enough to stir up Rogers curiosity and lead him to further explore the curse of the house, while simultaneously exploring his dark past in Vietnam. The flashbacks to the ‘Nam are amazing by the way. Richard Moll as Cobb’s partner Big Ben is perfectly cast and executed. Moll has always been good at a sort of over the top malevolence, a bad guy who is practically a cartoon but that you still love. It’s a far cry from his character on Night Court and this is one of his better performances. He’s not comic relief, but he is incredibly amusing. Comedy relief of course is coming from George Wendt, veteran of Cheers and Rodger Cobb’s next door neighbor. Wendt isn’t really trying to stretch here, he’s playing Norm, just as always. It’s sort of a give the people what they want appearance and it’s a role he understands well. Both men nicely balanced out William Katt’s Rodger Cobb, who has to balance an almost static rational character even as he begins to come unglued.
Indeed, the house wants him unglued, and it begins taunting him here and there. A remote control car making its way into the room by itself, a prized fish on the wall that stares and watches him as he goes, throwing a tantrum until Cobb dispatches it. Restless tools in the shed that come after him. The house is getting more aggressive by the moment.
All the commotion is enough to get the cops called on him, and some of the creepiest monsters start coming out as well. Interesting to note that the lead police man was Alan Autry, who would also go on to play one of the lead cops in the TV version of In the Heat of the Night.
Of course new complications arise when, after taking care of the monsters, another neighbor shows up. This time it’s a beautiful blonde who flirts with Rodger to score some free babysitting. It’s a surprisingly scary prospect. We’ve already lost one child in this house and the idea of bringing another one in fills me with dread. It’s a justified fear, the house goes after the new little boy, with monsters leading him away to try and take him as well. Cobb fights them off and rescues the little boy from the most precarious position in the fireplace chimney. Still, as perilous as the entire encounter is, the whole episode strikes me as an excuse to pad run times.
The haunting over all has brought about a change in Roger, and it seems now, he’s ready to fight. He discovers a clue in his aunt’s paintings and finds the way into the dark dimension that holds his son. It’s time for his final confrontation with the forces that plague this house.
House is one of the earliest horror movies that I remember watching, very likely because William Katt was in it and my parents knew I was a fan of him in the Greatest American Hero. I probably saw it on television so it was deemed safe, a judgment that couldn’t be more wrong. I found a terrifying but it’s the sort of horror film that made me love the genre and kept me coming back for more. Today it’s comfort food, an old favorites with a well-rounded story and and the brilliance of 1980s practical effects. I still find the monsters terrifying and the concept itself feels even more dire now that I’m a father. Of all the house films, this is the only one that’s truly scary and has earned its place as a horror classic