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Night Court was a situation comedy that aired on NBC from January 1984 until May 1992.It followed the goings-on of a night-shift Manhattan arraignment court, which was populated by a madcap band of lawyers, judges, and bailiffs, including (by the end of the series):
Laid-back judge, Mel Tormé fanatic, and amateur magician Harold T. Stone Jr. (Harry Anderson).
The womanizing, selfish, pigheaded, but always witty and acid-tongued district attorney, Reinhold "Dan" Fielding (John Larroquette).
Public Defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post), who despite being a beautiful and independent woman is an utterly naive, morally-upright prude.
Mac Robinson (Charles Robinson), court clerk and Vietnam veteran, the accomplice to most of Judge Stone's pranks, his verbal foil and his closest friend.
Roz Russell (Marsha Warfield), a deadpan-snarking tough-as-nails bailiff whose strength is the fodder for many jokes.
The show is usually considered a satire and subversion of the Law Procedural genre, featuring bizarre, wacky crimes, such as groups of rival ventriloquists and their dummies assaulting each other (although the show was also praised for its refusal to deal with violent and "glamorous" crime and called "The most realistic law show on the air" by Time Magazine, no less). Logic and realism were frequently abandoned for the sake of a joke: cartoon animal Wile E. Coyote once appeared in a brief gag as a defendant.The show featured regular guest appearances by John Astin, of The Addams Family fame, as Buddy Ryan, Judge Stone's certifiably insane birth father. Harry Stone's idol Mel Tormé made frequent guest spots, as did Brent Spiner (later famous for his role as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation) as Bob Wheeler, patriarch of a family of Yugoslavians who pretended to be a hick family from West Virginia and, at one point, even ran a concession stand in the courthouse.
"All rise, TV Tropes Court Part 2 is now in session, the Honorable Judge Harold T. Stone presiding":
Dan suffered a few, usually at the hands of Bull or Roz.
Most likely to be inflicted by Roz, or Bull in descending order.
In one episode Roz gets shot in the rear end by Lisette at the crossbow range. A few days later Lisette gets "the other cheek".
An Aesop: Early episodes emphasized a particular moral dilemma that the case du jour revolved around; as time wore on the show became more focused on the ensemble cast's character quirks. Although this still crept up in several later episodes.
In "The Cop and the Lady" Tony casually hands his service revolver off to Christine who promptly loses it to the psycho of the week. No cop, especially one who's served long enough to be promoted to detective, would hand off his weapon to a civilian for any reason.
One of the many things that gets Rhoda kicked out of the bailiff training program is that she lost her service revolver.
Bull handles Roz's new gun and ends up shooting himself in the toe because he was carrying it improperly. Even considering it's Bull, a bailiff with over ten years of experience and training should know better.
In "Still Another Day In the Life" a defendant is allowed to appear in court brandishing a loaded shotgun and wearing a bandolier of spare ammunition.
Armor-Piercing Slap: Dan's Girl of the Week in "Puppy Love" gives him two when she's frustrated at him being such a wimp when she wanted, "The Prince of Passion, Dan Fielding." It works.
Ascended Extra: Phil the Bum is perhaps the best example of this. Originally introduced in Season Two as one of the many background characters in the gallery of the courtroom, he became Bumbling Sidekick to Dan in Season Three and continued to make semi-regular appearances up through the middle of Season 8, where his accidental death facilitated Dan's Heel-Face Turn.
Art The Repairman also qualifies, having first appeared in Season One, continuing to appear up through the Grand Finale. In the time between, he had an entire episode devoted to his efforts to woo Christine, gave away the bride at Bull's wedding and eventually began dating Bull's mother.
Ashes to Crashes: A man named Herb dies, and his two daughters get into a fight over his ashes, ending up in Harry's court. They eventually resolve their differences and agree to stand by whatever arrangement Harry decides upon. Herb's cremains are left at court, in Harry's office, leading to the following dialog:
Art The Repair Man: Oh that, yeah I'm sorry, Your Honor, I had to use that herb tea to test the coffee maker.
Johnny Carson, long-time host of The Tonight Show, did a quick cameo playing off his numerous marriages to younger, blonde women as he tried to ask Christine out through a romantic note she thought was a prank.
Harry: "Cleaver, you may be younger. You may be faster. You may even be smarter. But you will NEVER, EVER, be crazier...than me."
Back to School: Harry is forced to retake a high-school history class in "A Family Affair".
Badass Normal: Harry, not so much in terms of physical strength, but his ability to get in people's heads and resolve tense, violent situations peacefully.
Becoming the Mask: A subtle example with the Red Ranger mentioned above, as the episode goes on it becomes clear he's been playing his character for so long he no longer differentiates between his persona and his real self; when talking about the show he refers to his character as "I" and "me", as if he really did have those adventures, and frequenly refers to himself as "Red Ranger" as if it was actually his name. He hasn't even taken off his costume in thirty years. It takes Harry point blank telling him he's just an actor to snap him out of it.
Subverted, Tony and Christine's marriage ends the way you'd expect a marriage in which the couple had known one another less than six months and got married before one of them went away for six months to end. Notable because in the 80's sitcom world this was a well-executed, harsh reality check.
Building of Adventure: The action very rarely leaves the 18th floor of the courthouse. In fact most of the scenes take place between the courtroom, the cafeteria, Harry's chambers, or the adjoining hallways thereof.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The whole cast (of the most consistent line-up from seasons 4-9) except for Christine and Mac. Christine was prudish and old-fashioned, but those weren't bizarre enough personality quirks to qualify. Everyone else? Well...
Harry was famous for his juvenile antics, jokes and magic tricks in the courtroom.
Dan was a Lothario with the morals of a rutting pig.
Bull was a genius ditz with little common sense.
Roz was angry, mouth and prone to violence.
It's suggested that their personality quirks are what kept most of the characters on the night shift so long.
Butt Monkey: Despite frequently deserving the bad things that happened to him, Dan Fielding suffered several indignities that not even he deserved. Chief among these were him losing all his savings after his accountant dropped dead at an IRS Audit after Dan was hit with a Gypsy Curse.
Mel Torme, who suffered pain and humiliation at the hands of the cast in almost every appearance
Harry's standard issue sentence ("Fifty-dollar fine and Time Served").
Lampshaded and parodied in Season 9. Replacement prosecutor Gilbert Gottfried suggests, just to break up the monotony, $55. Christine objects, Harry decides to split the difference at $52.50, and it prompts a tear from Bull, "the end of an era".
Harry says "(name), if that is your real name..." when questioning a stranger on several occasions.
Several characters use "Say, that is good news" over the course of the show.
Dan's "Ciao, baby!"
And, of course, Buddy's standard conclusion to most of his stories regarding his hospital stay or past strange behavior, "But I'm feeling muuuuch better now."
Chick Magnet: Dan fancied himself something of one. Ironically, Harry and Bull were much better at attracting women with far less effort, if not particularly successful at maintaining lasting relationships.
Chivalrous Pervert: Dan Fielding, despite his protests to the contrary. Protesting the "chivalrous" part, that is.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Happened repeatedly in the show's first two seasons: Sheila (the very first public defender in the pilot), Lana (the first clerk in the pilot and most of Season One), Charlie (clerk for a few episodes at the end of Season One) Liz (the public defender in Season One) and Billie (the public defender for most of Season Two) all disappeared without any explanation and were all replaced without comment in the very next episode.
Although this is a milder form than the Trope Namer, as personnel could be plausible transferred to different courts or shifts without warning or later comment.
Happened with an actual brother in the pilot, where Harry made reference to a baby brother who was never seen or referenced again in the entire run of the show and whose existence would probably muck up or at-least complicate emerging details about Harry's backstory.
But what's probably the most jarring example are a couple of occasionally seen recurring characters, the hapless hicks, Bob and June Wheeler. In their final episodes they were actually being set up to have a semi-regular presence on the show, when they bought the courthouse cafeteria. But then the actor who played Bob, Brent Spiner, got cast as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so both Wheelers vanished without another mention. What makes their disappearance feel all the more abrupt is that their last episode was actually a Season Finale with a Cliff Hanger ending where the Wheelers weren't among the ones imperiled. Come the next Season Premiere, and the cliffhanger is resolved, but with no sight or mention of the Wheelers.
This is also true to a lesser extent, of the Wheelers' little girl, Caroline. She's with them in their first 2 episodes, but not any of their remaining episodes.
Citizenship Marriage: Mac and Quon Le started out as this. Subverted later on as it blossomed into actual love.
Crapsack World: The world in which Harry Stone was never born in "Hey, Harry, F'Crying Out Loud—It's a Wonderful Life...Sorta". Apparently Harry's friendship was the only thing keeping Dan Fielding from becoming a Card-Carrying Villain and taking over New York City from behind the scenes.
There's also the theory that con-man Harry The Hat from Cheers moved on from Boston and is currently masquerading as a judge in New York City.
Judge Wilbur from My Two Dads showed up from time to time.
Deadpan Snarker: Everybody. More than once it's been suggested that their occasionally mouthy behavior is what keeps them on the night shift.
Deal with the Devil: Dan sells his soul for the princely sum of $100.00. Turns out it was just a prank set up by Mac.
Deep South: Dan was originally from there and his parents were (in Dan's mind, anyway) one step removed from Ma And Pa Kettle. Actor John Larroquette is in fact from Louisiana, so this is Truth in Television to a certain extent.
When Dan's dad shows up, he confirms that Dan's descriptions of his home town and its' inhabitants has been pretty accurate.
The Wheeler family was originally portrayed as being from West Virginia, until outcry over stereotyping revealed them to truly be from Yugoslavia.
Death Glare: This is pretty much Roz's default facial expression. Any one caught in it has best step careful.
Did You Just Have Sex?: In "Jail Bait", Christine winds up having a one-night-stand with a young street artist she defended. The next day, she is smiling a little more than usual, leading Dan to announce loudly "You bopped the kid!"
Disappeared Dad: Harry found out this was the case when Buddy Ryan confessed to being his real father.
In fairness to Buddy, he was totally prepared to do the honorable thing. But Harry's mother was released first and married another man when it looked like Buddy might not be released. When Buddy did get out and he tracked her down again, it was agreed by all three of them that it would be best to wait until Harry Jr. was older before they told him the truth. But then Buddy and Harry's mother both relapsed and were recommitted, leaving Harry Stone Sr. to raise his son alone, dying before he could tell Harry the truth of his birth or why his mom had disappeared.
Later, when Buddy and Harry's mom were both out again, she sent him a letter to try and reconnect, and assumed he didn't want to know her when it wasn't answered. After she died (which was after he was appointed a judge, as she had been in the gallery to see him work), the letter finally arrives at the court ("Mac, I should have gotten this letter three Presidents ago!" "They said they were sorry.") and calls the number in it, learns she's dead, and brings Buddy into his life.
Diplomatic Impunity: Played with in "My Life as a Dog Lawyer" and the ambassador from "Rogash".
Distracted by the Sexy: Christine flashes Otis in "Another Day in the Life" to swing his arm wrestling match with Harry at the end.
Dan's sex obsession is not touched upon in the first season. At first, his schtick is more that he's a snob.
Bull is just a little more stern in early episodes. He also has a thin trace of hair rather than being completely bald. His quasi-mother/son relationship with Selma is also notable.
As discussed elsewhere, Chuck Cunningham Syndrome runs rampant within the first two seasons, but it's especially strange since even between the first and second episodes, they go from one public defender to another.
For that matter, Christine's appearance in the second episode of season two in which she plays a substitute public defender before handing the reins over to a character named Billie only to return in season 3 after Billie's departure, is a little weird, though at-least when Christine comes and goes, it's explained that they're using subs and her being one is important to the plot.
The original court clerk, Lana, seemed to originally be part of a sort-of "will they/won't they" with Harry despite being engaged. In one episode, she's replaced with a perky, pretty clerk, yet there's no romantic tension with Harry or any particular dynamic with anyone. Eventually, Mac Robinson becomes Court Clerk, and since he's a dude, his relationship with Harry is a far cry from Lana's.
Eccentric Millionaire: It was revealed in Season 8 that Phil The Bum was one. In addition to living on the streets as a homeless man, he also possessed a crippling fear of musical instruments and had a life insurance policy that paid an insanely large sum if he was killed by one.
Election Day Episode: One episode revolves around a local election which Dan was participating in. A fire forces everyone to take shelter in the morgue. After they're rescued, it's revealed that Dan initially lost the election, but this became a tie shortly afterward due to an uncounted vote. This leads to a second example.
Eskimo Land: Dan finds himself there after his Army plane crashes in the Arctic.
Even Evil Has Standards: Dan is an arrogant, smug, womanizing jerk, but he has very strong morals and ethics when it comes to the law, and is proud of it. At least three separate storylines centered upon someone attempting to bribe Dan and being reported to the authorities. When a private law firm offered him a more glamorous and higher paying job, Dan found out that the woman doing the hiring didn't consider him the most qualified, she just wanted to sleep with him — Dan boasted to her that he has the highest conviction rate and fewest overturns on appeals of any prosecutor in the city, and while he did sleep with her, it was only because she was attractive; he refused the job.
In The Night Court Before Christmas, Dan spends a whole minute ranting at a toy company executive about what an unfeeling bastard he is for taking back the stolen toys accidentally donated to an orphanage on Christmas Eve, coolly finishing off with "And if you knew exactly who was saying this to you, you'd appreciate the full measure of that insult".
In Guess Who's Listening To Dinner, Dan finds out that the woman he is dating is the daughter of a notorious mob boss. Before he can end the relationship, he is invited to dinner at her house, being told that "Dad" is anxious to talk with Dan about his future with her. Everyone expects this to be an attempt by the Mafia to bring Dan "into the family", so they'll have an "in" with the NYC District Attorney's office. The truth is that dad knows about Dan's reputation ("To put it mildly, you have the morals of a rutting pig.") and he's so desperate to avoid a society scandal he's willing to pay Dan to discreetly break up with his daughter.
Evil Twin: Con-man Will Sanders, to bum Phil Sanders.
Face Palm: Bull might be one of the earliest regular users of the gesture in pop culture.
Flame War: Actually Lampshaded when Judge Stone had to deal with an argument between fans of the old series and The Next Generation - literally. The TNG fans teleported away, which impressed everyone, while a fan said, "Oh, but can they do this?" (Vulcan Salute).
A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: "Mac's Millions." Mac's grandfather dies and leaves all his money to Mac, who naturally quits his job at the courthouse. Then he loses most of his newfound wealth when he's sued over damages caused by a restaurant he bought in a previous episode.
Gag Boobs: Dan is given a literal pair — of the inflatable sort — during the prank war between Judge Stone and Judge Cleaver.
Genius Bruiser: Bull Shannon, in the earlier seasons, when his character was meant to look like dumb muscle but was actually quite well-read and insightful. One episode even had his intelligence being discovered by a group of research scientist who recruit him to help in their work...until he reveals that he hates doing research full tim, loves being a bailiff, and goes back to his old job (but still helps them out on occasion).
To a lesser degree, Mac Robinson. Although it wasn't played up as much, Mac was in phenomenally good shape for a man his age and could hold his own in a fight. He was also an understated genius, being reluctant to start using a computer as part of his job but eventually being capable enough with them to write his own programs at a time when that required some know-how.
Christine seems almost incapable of swearing, it takes three days of mental torture taking care of a neighbour's baby to get her to the point where she'd even consider it.
Mac has one when Harry springs his ultimate prank in his prank war with another judge.
Gypsy Curse: The entire court was hit with one in Season Two. Bull fell into a deep trance and Dan lost all his savings after his accountant, who was in the middle of an IRS Audit at the time, dropped dead.
Have a Gay Old Time: In the episode "The Trouble Isn't in Your Set," Dan tells a woman (played by Marion Ross) to get lost by saying "go suck on a tea bag." Sounds a bit dirtier today....
Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Dan's Boss' daughter (played by Teri Hatcher), is attempting to seduce Dan, and shows him pictures she took of herself in a photo booth ("Think about shot #3!"). Dan yelps when he sees the picture, then turns it upside down and yelps AGAIN!
He's Back: In "Puppy Love" Dan's do-gooder ways have turned him into a simpering wimp with women, going to petting zoos and getting emotional about hand holding and "cute" things. The woman he's dating gets frustrated that she went to the trouble of attracting the, "...great Dan Fielding," and got this wimp. After some name calling and a couple of slaps Dan carries her off to the maintenance closet and as sex with her. As the pair of them exit, walking funny and putting various items of clothing back on, Dan turns to Christine and says, "I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack."
Heartbroken Badass: Harry, several times. But the worst was when his girlfriend Margaret had to go into witness protection.
Heel-Face Turn: During Season 8, Dan made an honest attempt at becoming a better person after being placed in charge of a charitable organization. It was a slow transformation but by the end of the season he was as nauseatingly cheerful and pure as he used to be sarcastic and sleazy.
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: A lot of these came through Harry's courtroom. Many of them came back so often the staff seemed to regard them as friends. One even turned out to be a highschool classmate of Christine's father. ("She was voted 'Girl Most Likely To.'")
Surprisingly, Dan was more often to blame for this than Harry. When Dan was in a coma and a bosomy prostitute was being arraigned, Dan's flunky Phil jumped up and made an appropriate pun, sadly explaining that Dan would've wanted it that way. Another time he was gone, the others gathered around Harry's bench to talk about an overweight transvestite that had been on the docket earlier, and one of them comments they could just hear Dan calling him "Puff the Magic Drag Queen."
I Broke a Nail: In an episode featuring Christine's meddling father, he buys her a big 1949 Buick on the grounds that it's safer than modern cars. She blows up at him for taking over her life and they reconcile. The next day news comes that she was in a horrific car crash and her car went end over end.
Judge Stone: Oh my god, what happened to her?
Christine(enters casually): I think I broke a nail.
I Drank What?: Art the repair man accidentally used a man's ashes to test a newly repaired coffee maker.
I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: In Another Day In The Life, Christine flashes a millionaire to distract him so Harry can win an arm wrestling contest and save an orphanage.
I Owe You My Life: Dan saves Christine from choking and exacts a night of passion in a hotel as a way of repayment. A Moment Killer came (much to Christine's relief) in the form of a jumper on a ledge outside their window.
Mac's old Vietnam war buddy who saved his life shows up in court and wants him to lose a file so that he won't go back to prison for breaking parole. He later releases Mac from the debt, not wanting to taint the most noble thing he ever did.
I Surrender, Suckers: Harry gets into a pranking duel with a new judge, with his judge's robe on the line, and is thoroughly beaten when the other judge rigs his bench to collapse at the end of the day. He forfeits his robe, and leaves in a sulk; then reveals to Christine that he had to lose, to lure the little twerp right into his trap. Cue a remote control, and a scream in the next room.
Harry: You may be younger, you may be faster, you may even be smarter. But you will never, ever, be crazier - than me.
It's a Wonderful Plot: The episode "Hey, Harry, F'Crying Out Loud—It's a Wonderful Life...Sorta", in which a guardian angel shows Harry what the world would have been like without him.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dan was usually rude, condescending, arrogant, and self-centered, but he was capable of truly astounding levels of sincerity and sensitivity. He also risked his life, multiple times, to save both his friends and total strangers.
The Judge: Averted with Judge Harry Stone, who is anything BUT a typical judge.
Just The Introduction To The Opposites: Everything, and everyone, is different in the Day Court. The cases are standard fare with no nuts. The crummy cafeteria is turned into a posh restaurant where reservations are required. Perhaps most worrying... Roz is a cheerful, friendly person.
And Bull rides around the building selling Fruzen Schnitzel from his bicycle cart.
Actually a Studio Audience, where the same person (sometimes identified as creator Reinhold Weege's father) is often heard laughing uproariously.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the episode "Her Honor, Part 2," Harry has lost his job. Christine is trying to convince him not to give up hope and says, "There has got to be a way we can get your job back" Harry responds, "Like what? Like it turns out I'm on Dallas and I've been dreaming all this?"
Limited Advancement Opportunities: They all spend years working in a shabby night court. One wonders why Dan and Christine, both highly competent lawyers, can't get promoted. Averted at the end of the series when Christine wins election to Congress.
Dan does try several times to get elected to the state assembly, but never succeeds. In one election, he earns exactly *one* vote (from a man who committed suicide afterward).
He also almost got elected to Congress once...ending in an exact tie (forcing a run-off election) due to a suicidal man who voted for Dan then killed himself, leaving a note explaining that the world was so screwed up it deserved "a man like Fielding." (His opponent turns out to be a gorgeous woman, and the two of them spend the night of the run-off in a hotel together. Dan's description of the run-off results: "Honey, you're kicking my head in.")
Locked in a Freezer: There was never a literal freezer, but various episodes did center upon the cast being trapped due to various hazards, including...
... a fire, which forced the cast to take refuge in the courthouse morgue.
... a hurricane.
... the release of a deadly virus.
... stuck elevators. At least twice.
... snowed in. Twice. Once with no food and once with no working heat.
Harry also once locked himself in a safe.
Christine and Tony got trapped in a boiler room, though that could be considered Sauna of Death.
Long-Runner Cast Turnover: Only three regulars made it all the way through the show's nine-year run: Harry Anderson as Judge Harry Stone, Richard Moll as Bull the bailiff, and John Larroquette as prosecutor Dan Fielding. Three different actresses filled the role of the second bailiff (as different characters). Karen Austin, who played the court clerk and was Judge Stone's original love interest, left before the first season was over and was eventually replaced by Charles Robinson as Mac. Four different actresses played public defenders—Gail Strickland in the pilot, Paula Kelly for the rest of Season 1, Ellen Foley for Season 2, and Markie Post for Seasons 3-9.
Even in the early, more serious seasons, Santa Claus was depicted as a real person.
In Season 2, a fortune teller with real magic powers cursed Dan and Bull and conjured up Mel Torme's home phone number for Harry.
A trio of costumed Star Trek convention-goers claim that Harry has no authority over them, as they were Federation members... just before beaming out of the courtroom.
Two psychic defendants get in a telekinetic fistfight.
Later, one of them telekinetically bangs Harry's gavel as he's accusing them all of being frauds.
Maligned Mixed Marriage: Quon Le and Mac faced difficulties winning the approval of both Mac's rich grandfather and Quon Le's father.
Missing Mom: Harry. He thought he had been abandoned by his mother for years until Buddy Ryan came to him and revealed that Harry's mother had been in and out of mental institutions for years. She had avoided contact after being released for fear that public knowledge that his mother was a mental patient might hurt Harry's career. She attempted contact by mail once, but the letter was lost in the mail for three Presidents.
Morality Pet: Phil, to Dan. Not at first, but Dan took Phil's death very hard and it was clear that he cared about Phil a lot more than he would ever dare let on.
And in one episode it was showns that Harry was this to Dan. It was the episode where it's shown what would happen if Harry was never born. Dan goes full blown Card-Carrying Villain and takes over New York.
Mr. Vice Guy: Dan Fielding. Lech, pervert, he-slut—but also a man who cares about his friends and the law.
And also surprisingly health conscious. He always carries latex gloves and condoms in his briefcase, and once has a key prosecution witness who wanted to be all over him but was rebuked thusly:
Dan: Don't touch me without a note from your doctor!
My Eyes Are Up Here: Markie Post was quite busty, and several gags revolve around Christine's bust size; usually around her disgusted reactions to lecherous admiration of her breasts.
Later as Christine has responsibilities as a mother, Roz and Lisette become this. They even take an interest in one another's hobbies.
Of Corpse He's Alive: In one episode an important Japanese man dies in the court and his body ends up lost and riding around on an electric wheelchair around the courthouse.
Oh, Crap: Dan, after being told the little person he had just insulted is his new boss, by said little person himself.
After Dan was mistakenly forced to abstain from sex for two weeks, upon finding out - "I haven't had sex in two weeks!" and starts looking around at everyone in the cafeteria. Roz, typically the least likely to be intimidated shouts "Run for your lives girls!" and they all rush out. Dan's still looking around, prompting Harry to shout "Better safe than sorry, guys!" and then THEY ALSO RUN OUT.
Paranormal Episode: In an episode, Harry used his magic hobby to convince another character that he was exorcising some evil spirits, at one point using a book gimmicked to shoot flames when you open it. After it's all over, Art (the janitor) comes in saying "sorry I'm late" and gives Harry the prop burning book. So...what was up with that other book?
That was Christine, obviously. Just like that time with the birth certificate.
Pie in the Face: The entire cast pays to have this done to Dan in "Harry and Leon" (Season 3, Episode 14); in that same episode, Bull pays to have it done to Harry.
Also, in "Top Judge" (Season 5, Episode 20), the rival prankster judge Jimmy Cleaver (played by former SNL cast member Gary Kroeger [from 1982-1985]) hits Harry with this prank (pie coming from a briefcase with a clown hand throwing it), causing Harry to accept Cleaver's prank/joke war challenge.
On the episode "Prince of a Guy," a woman who has been arrested for swimming nude in Central Park claims to be a princess from a tropical island. While standing in Harry's office, he asks her to just relax. She obliges by removing her bikini top with her back to the camera, forcing Harry to say, "I've never actually said this to anyone before, but could you put your top back on?" It becomes even funnier since Roz was in the room with the two of them. When Harry said relax and the princess disrobed, Roz says, "I'm your witness sir. You did absolutely nothing to provoke this." After Harry continues to stare for a couple of seconds, Roz quips, "Of course, you are doing nothing to stop it, either."
Harry: I don't believe I'm familiar with that one. Dan: Well Sir, it's not used in Manhattan very much. It involves the illegal detonation of poultry.
Post Script Season: Season 8 is over. Dan quits his job and loses the Phil Foundation fortune. More importantly, Harry and Christine have professed their love to one another. OK, that's the end. What's that? We've been renewed? Oh, crap!
Later seasons challenged this a bit, as it was established that he frequently used his authority to force the court staff to do various activities (e.g. birthday parties, forming a bowling team). His intentions were good, but it caused some minor resentment in later episodes.
Reassigned to Antarctica: This almost literally happened to Dan, who was in the US Army Reserves. He was Reassigned To The Arctic Circle to help give physicals to polar bears, after he was caught faking an injury in order to avoid being called into active duty. Ironically, Dan only did that because he thought he was being sent into combat; his actual orders involved doing reconnaissance work with his Action Girl commanding officer in a Banana Republic, posing as a couple at some exotic resort.
Also happened, less literally, in Season Nine, when Dan was briefly reassigned to working in the Dog Court.
Red Herring: Harry thinks the fact that he and Buddy both had an allergic reaction to some au gratin potatoes is proof that Buddy's his biological father (as he had suspected for a while). Turned out that Buddy was allergic to the potato, Harry to the cheese. Later, Buddy does fess up to being Harry's dad.
Retcon: The Wheelers really were intended to be from West Virgina, but after a number of people from that state complained, it was later revealed that they had actually come from Yugoslavia (where presumably the show had fewer viewers).
Season 4 ended with Harry being fired, Christine being appointed a judge in his stead and Harry planning the biggest practical joke of all time in retaliation.
Season 5 ended with Dan - who was in the US Army Reserves - being called up and presumed dead after his plane crashed into the Arctic Ocean.
Season 8 ended with Harry and Christine having apparently confessed their love for one another and Dan having mysteriously disappeared.
Apparently, this WAS planned to have been the Series Finale, with Christine and Harry getting married and Dan joining the priesthood. A last-minute renewal forced them to make some sudden changes to restore the Status Quo at the start of Season 9, with Christine and Harry quickly agreeing they were better off as friends and Dan quickly being cleared of the criminal charges that drove him insane at the end of Season 8.
Season 9 ended with Christine being elected to high office, Dan resigning his post to follow after her having realized HIS true love for her and Bull being abducted by aliens.
This was NOT planned to have been the Series Finale, for obvious reasons. Most accounts say that the decision was handed down the same Friday the final episode was filmed and that the cast was informed their belongings would be thrown out if their dressing rooms were not cleaned Monday morning.
Harry's idol, Mel Tormé, made periodic cameo appearances.
Also, John Astin as Buddy.
Don't forget Wile E. Coyote!
Yakov Smirnoff made frequent guest appearances.
Michael J. Fox in the first season's Christmas episode, which was the second episode of the series no less.
Spiritual Successor: To Barney Miller. (Not coincidentally, series creator and executive producer Reinhold Weege was a former Barney Miller writer, producer, and story editor. In addition, series producer Jeff Melman also worked on Barney Miller as a stage manager.)
Status Quo Is God: The show did follow the standard Sitcom mold of having everything go back to normal, if not by the end of the episode, than almost always before the end of the season.
Most of the cast's romantic relationships were short-lived and didn't last long. Even Christine's marriage ended part-way through the following season and Harry's longest-lasting relationship was only half a season.
The most notable exception was Mac and Quon Le, whose marriage lasted the entire run of the show.
Numerous episodes depicted cast members quitting or being forced from their position in the Night Court only to wind up back in their old job by the episode's end.
During Season 8, Dan's lackey Phil died, Dan inherited his hidden fortune and used it for altruism, reforming into a truly virtuous and noble man, and at the end of the season Phil's brother Will stole the money and Dan vanished. After the first two episodes of Season 9, Dan was back at the court and back to his old self, Will reformed and took Phil's place, and Phil's money was given to someone else to manage for the causes Dan had planned it for and nothing else was said of it.
Despite Mac being set up to inherit his family's money very early on, when it finally happens, Mac ends up being sued for an incident involving the restaurant he bought causing a fire, leaving him broke. Ironically, he's quite happy with this chain of events, as he ended up only being broke; he was deeply in debt before becoming rich.
He was initially much worse off after the fire, until Quon Lee talked the building owner into settling for the damages...which happened to be all the money they had. This was a change from her previous ways, as she was the one who actually accumulated all that debt, mostly because she just didn't have the background to understand about credit cards when she first showed up.
Dan is a Republican, not uncommon in the Reagan era. It's mostly used for one liners and to create conflict with Harry, who is a Democrat.
Stress Vomit: Christine is so stressed out over whether she should accept a marriage proposal that she throws up in Dan's briefcase - we don't see it, but Bull figures out how to use his instant camera right then and captures it.
Averted in Season 4 on with Roz, part of the reason being that since Florence Halop only lasted a year as Selma Diamond's replacement before having her own health problems, they decided to retool the replacement to be markedly younger.
Sweet Polly Oliver: Andy, the boy Bull was assigned as part of a Big Brothers program, turned out to be a girl named Stella. Stella disguised herself as a boy purely to be able to experience what it was like to have a father, since all of the men in the Big Brothers program wanted to be paired with boys instead of girls.
Technology Marches On: Averted, Dan makes use of a cell phone several times, Harry owns several laptop computers And Mac eventually trades in his beloved files for a computer as the series goes on.
10-Minute Retirement: In season 3's "Wheels of Justice" 2-parter, Harry briefly quits his job after being unable to stop a family from being evicted from their apartment, and said family's son chastising him, and the law in general, for failing them.
Toon Physics: Used in several places on the show, more often in later seasons, especially around Bull and his supposed indestructibility.
In one episode, Bull sits directly next to a briefcase of TNT going off, but only has his uniform ripped up a little.
Another time Bull uppercuts Dan a good fifteen feet into the air and into a perfectly Dan-shaped hole in the wall.
Bull once glued his fingers to his head trying to fix something of Roz's he had broken. She pulled his fingers free, resulting in comedically stretched fingers.
When Harry receives a piece of shocking news, his 40+ year old picture of Mel Torme changes to a wide-eyed-jaw-dropped expression of shock.
Roz once folded Dan neatly in half and stuffed him into a trash can.
Bull gets stuck in an elevator that descends 18 stories to the ground floor and is compressed to half his normal height as he walks out of it.
Dovetailed with Balloon Belly the time Bull attempted to stop the drip from a leaky pipe. Having used both fingers to plug the holes, he simply opened his mouth below a third drip. Later, Harry and Christine are horrified upon seeing his distended physique. Bull blithely walks away, sloshing as he goes, headed for a restroom.
Unusual Euphemism: When Yakov's wife Sonya is coming from the Soviet Union he mentions being "excited", which is technically accurate, though he really means he's "horny". When Sonya is delayed entering the country, Christine tells him not to get excited and he says, "Enough with that dirty talk."
The reaction of the original Trekkies when the TNG fans beam away.
Most of Bull's Amusing Injuries when the cast sees them. Especially when the explanation was that he had angered Roz in some way.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: The man who takes an original copy of The US Constitution hostage in Constitution (Part 2) His motivation? He just wanted thirty seconds to speak about how important the document was in the midst of a tacky television special celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention.
The king of this (on Night Court, at least) has to be actor Jack Riley, who played five roles over the course of the series, including a murderous clown, a gay dog breeder interested in Dan, and the doctor in charge of Dan's surgery.
Running a close second is Timothy Stack, who played three separate, prominent characters over the course of the series.
In "The Modest Proposal", he played Bill - Christine's humorless fiancee. He winds up dumping her at the altar as he suddenly "gets" every single punchline to every joke he was ever told.
In the two-parter "Snoop and Nuts", he plays Tim Bond - an incompetent federal agent working with Harry to bring down a crime boss.
In the two-parter "Wedding Bell Blues", he plays Mr. Marley - a pencil-pusher who takes over running maintenance for the court house after the staff go on strike.
Stuart Pankin has also played three separate characters in the series, including a podiatrist who has to deliver Mac and Quon Le's baby, and a rock star's greedy business manager.
In "Hello, Goodbye", she played a bailiff trainee.
In "My Three Dads", she played Dan's stewardess date in a dream sequence.
Gregory Itzin (Charles Logan from 24) played a mobster's defense lawyer in one episode, and a mugger in another two-parter.
In a lesser example, before their recurring roles on the show as Phil & Buddy, Will Utay & John Astin each appeared as unrelated characters in season two episodes; Utay played a defendant who beat up a mime and stole his change "for kicks" in "Pick a Number" and Astin played a Cloud Cuckoolander hospital patient (albeit similar to his later role) named Kenny in "Inside Harry Stone".
You're Insane!: Said frequently to Harry, usually with the same response: