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    In General 

  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The whole cast (of the most consistent line-up from seasons 4-9) except for Mac (who was just snarky). 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.
    • Christine is prudish, overly naive, idealistic, and often immature.
    • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everybody. More than once it's been suggested that their occasionally mouthy behavior is what keeps them on the night shift.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Covered elsewhere, but for the record...
    • Dan is originally much more straightlaced and is portrayed as a snob with a bit of a lascivious side. Midway through the first season, his sexual appetite becomes more and more prominent and his characterization becomes much more animated.
    • 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 weirdnote , 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.
  • Five-Man Band: Especially during the last five seasons.
    • The Hero: Harry. After all, it's his court.
    • The Lancer: Dan. His politics and lascivious nature made him the Yang to Harry's Yin most of the time.
    • The Smart Guy: Mac.
    • The Big Guy: Bull. This seems pretty obvious.
      • Roz was more likely to initiate physical confrontations and threaten violence.
    • The Chick: Christine. Also obvious, though her predecessors aren't The Chick so much despite all being females.
    • The Sixth Ranger: All of the female bailiffs.
  • Straw Character:
    • 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.
    • Christine was a stereotypical "bleeding heart", often displaying inordinate amounts of compassion and trust towards her clients. During her brief stint as a judge she is visibly distraught at having to bound over a convenience store robber for trial, and she once let a group of transients stay in her apartment, who subsequently robbed her blind.
    • One episode featured a lamaze class which included an aggressively independent Straw Feminist single mother and a stereotypical "limousine liberal" yuppie couple.
    • The show also regularly featured straw conservative Rabid Cops, and several members of the Secret Service, who were depicted as trigger-happy paranoiacs.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Most of the cast with each other, although the best example would be Harry and Dan.

    Harry Stone 

The Honorable Judge Harold "Harry" T. Stone

Played by: Harry Anderson

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_harry_stone.jpg
"Ladies and gentlemen of the court... well, how the hell are you tonight?"

Laid-back judge, Mel Tormé fanatic, and amateur magician.

  • Badass Boast:
    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". This is a more justified example than most as it was revealed that he received an incomplete in the class, which would have invalidated his high school diploma and law degree and gotten him kicked off the bench unless he passed the exam.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Do not insult Mel Tormé around Harry.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Harry is basically a relic from The '40s, despite having been born in The '50s and living in The '80s.
  • Catchphrase: Harry's standard issue sentence ("$50 fine and Time Served").
    • "(name), if that is your real name..." when questioning a stranger on several occasions.
    • "What's wrong with this picture?" (Upon being presented with an utterly ridiculous situation)
    • "Thank you, Nani Darnell." Said after someone makes a great show of giving him an item he needs. Darnell was the wife and assistant of American magician Mark Wilson.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Everybody in the show thinks Harry is one of these.
  • The Danza
  • Guile Hero: Harry often used his cunning and humor to achieve noble ends.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Several times. But the worst was when his girlfriend Margaret had to go into witness protection.
  • The Judge: Averted with Judge Harry Stone, who is anything BUT a typical judge.
  • Missed the Call: How Harry got his judgeship in the first place. The outgoing mayor was trying to stack the bench on his last day in office, a Sunday. He had a long list of candidates of which Harry was the bottom of the list. Being a Sunday afternoon, the majority of the people on the list weren't home to take the mayor's calls. (This was well before cell phones were common, obviously.) His Honor got to the bottom of the list and... Harry was home. Which is how a young, goofy guy like Harry got to be a judge.
    Harry: I may have been at the bottom of the list, but I was on that list.
  • Missing Mom: 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.
  • My Greatest Failure: He still feels immense shame over driving his car into a liquor store as a teenager, which disappointed his father. To make matters worse, his father died soon thereafter and never got to see Harry turn his life around.
  • Nice Hat: His fedoras.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Harry's favorite M.O.
  • The Prankster: Harry took professional pride in it.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Harry, who combined this trope with a large dash of Benevolent Boss.
    • 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.
  • The Southpaw: Harry uses the gavel with his left hand. Christine even comments on it once.
  • 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.
  • Trickster Archetype
  • You're Insane!: Said frequently to Harry, usually with the same response:
    Judge Harold T. Stone: That's what they tell me.

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    Christine Sullivan 

Christine Sullivan

Played by: Markie Post

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_christine_sullivan_1.jpg
"Your Honor! May I request that the prosecutor refrain from ogling me during my closing statements?"

The public defender who despite being a beautiful and independent woman is an utterly naïve, morally-upright prude.

  • Born in an Elevator: Her son in the seventh season finale.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Christine's old fashioned sensibilities and prudish behavior are also out of place in the late-80's/early-90's.
  • Can't Hold Her Liquor: Done legitimately a few times, however the first time it was eventually revealed to her that the drink she was consuming had no alcohol, and she was being wild and crazy all on her own.
  • The Chick
  • '80s Hair: Until the seventh season.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!!: The woman seems almost incapable of swearing, it takes three days of mental torture taking care of a neighbor's baby to get her to the point where she'd even consider it.
  • Hello, Attorney!
  • 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.
  • May–December Romance: Christine was on both sides of this, having dated a wealthy man in his sixties and a twenty-something street artist.
  • 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.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Christine and Tony were married in an improvised ceremony in an Italian restaurant the night before Tony was due to go overseas for a DEA operation.
  • The Pollyanna

    Dan Fielding 

Daniel R. "Dan" Fielding

Played by: John Larroquette

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_dan_fielding.jpg
"Let the games begin."

The womanizing, selfish, pigheaded, but always witty and acid-tongued district attorney.

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Has a 50/50 chance of being seen as this by any given woman. On the flip side, any woman actively pursuing Dan has a 90% chance of being one of these.
    • He was also this to Christine for most of the series. He eased up a little towards the end though, but the leering never stopped.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Exactly how many times did Dan have to learn not to be a closed-minded Jerkass?
  • Amusing Injuries: Suffered a few, usually at the hands of Bull or Roz.
  • 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.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Dan does this after everyone thinks he died when his Army plane crashed in the Arctic.
  • 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.
  • Camp Straight: In the early seasons, Dan's snobbish and slightly prissy behaviour and love of the finer things meant he skirted the edges of this, so much so that he was Mistaken for Gay once. This aspect of his character pretty much vanished from season 3 onwards, as he became much more over the top and his womanizing was emphasized.
  • Casanova Wannabe: He has had plenty of women, yet his often obnoxious personality has made all of his relationships short.
  • Catchphrase: "Ciao, baby!"
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Despite his protests to the contrary. Protesting the "chivalrous" part, that is.
  • Cigar Chomper: He is seen having one from time to time, as John Larroquette is one in real life. Most notably, for the opening credits, fans prefer the shot of him smoking the cigar instead of him sitting at the table in the courtroom and smiling.
  • 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 & 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 have been pretty accurate.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Daniel "Dan" R. Fielding, who had his name legally changed from Reinhold Fielding Elmore.
  • 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.
    • Perhaps best summed up by this exchange in "Branded," where Dan is disbarred after being falsely accused of corruption, after the other lawyer who set Dan up confesses to his own guilt and proclaims Dan's innocence.
    Harry: Your Honor? In view of this new evidence, I would respectfully suggest that you might want to reconsider your verdict.
    Judge: Fielding is still a slime-ball.
    Harry: True, but... he's a law-abiding slime-ball.
  • Flanderization: Went from a Deadpan Snarker who had good luck with the ladies into a full-on Chivalrous Pervert.
  • Fur and Loathing: During his Heel–Face Turn in Season Eight, Dan becomes something of a hyper-environmentalist. He then turns down a hot date with an old girlfriend because she's wearing a mink coat.
  • Handsome Lech: He's handsome and very, very lecherous.
  • 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. Later on, however...
  • 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 has 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."
    • In another episode, Dan struggles with a long bout of impotence. He eventually manages to shake it off by ravishing an attractive female lawyer over his lunch break. Having regained his confidence he swaggers over to Christine's desk and leans over to her:
    Dan: You know those disgusting, animalistic urges I used to torment you with?
    Christine: (wearily) Yes.
    Dan: They're baaaack.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: In "Dan's Escort" a wealthy older woman wants to pay Dan for sex to try and forget her late husband. She wants, "...one sleazy, meaningless encounter with a nondescript, morally bankrupt gigolo."
    Dan: HEY! Who are you calling nondescript?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dan was usually rude, condescending, arrogant, lecherous, 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.
  • Ladykiller in Love: With Christine in the series finale.
  • Large Ham: Basically just give John Larroquette a bowl of scenery and stand back.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: 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.")
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Dan very much wants to be one, he just never had the money.
  • 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!
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Dan sucked up to anyone with any kind of authority, whether it be political, legal, or even religious.
  • Really Gets Around: He was rather notorious for this.
    Dan: Harry, do you know how many women I have slept with?
    Harry: Dan, it doesn't matter how many women you've slept with! <beat> A hundred?
    Dan: You ever see the signs over the golden arches that say, "over 4 billion served"? Let's just say I'm competitive.
  • 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.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Dan always looks stunning in his tailored three-piece suits.

    Bull Shannon 

Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon

Played by: Richard Moll

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_bull_shannon.jpg
"You're among friends. Friends who wear badges, and search your body cavities, but friends nonetheless."

The huge, certifiably brilliant but ditzy bailiff.

  • Ambiguously Human: A lot of the jokes around Bull focused on this.
  • Amusing Injuries: Most likely to be suffered by Bull who's supposed indestructability and his ditz tendencies combined often.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: In the series finale, Bull is transported to a faraway world where aliens need his help reaching tall shelves.
  • Bald of Awesome: In an early episode, a man whose toupee was stolen is on the phone with a wig company trying to order a new toupee. Bull gets him to reconsider;
    Bull: Don't be an idiot. This (runs his finger over his bald head) drives women wild!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bull is a big old teddy bear 99% of the time. A gigantic, freakishly strong teddy bear who hates his friends being messed with.
  • Big Eater: At one point, he was seen ordering lasagna at the cafeteria... the whole tray.
  • The Big Guy: Bull is so tallnote that the doorframe to his apartment has a special hole cut into the top so that he can go in and out without having to stoop. The fact that he towers over everyone else even when every other male cast member stood well over six feet in height certainly says something.
  • Catchphrase: "Ooo-Kay".
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: For most of the show's run.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Frequently.
  • Embarrassing First Name: "Bull" Shannon's real first name was Nostradamus. This was revealed in Season 8, although much earlier episodes seemed to imply his real first name actually was Bull.
    • This is doubly embarrassing for Bull, as his mother named him that because "she was always crazy about that hunchback!" He is quick to stop any attempts to correct her.
    • His mother also gave him his nickname; not because of his size but because of her reaction to the news she was pregnant: "Bull!"
  • Face Palm: Bull might be one of the earliest regular users of the gesture in pop culture.
  • Flanderization: Went from a Genius Bruiser to a Cloud Cuckoo Lander with increasingly infrequent moments of being a...
  • Genius Ditz: Bull Shannon, in the later seasons, after his Flanderization into a technically brilliant but often oblivious Cloud Cuckoo Lander. His IQ was tested at 181.
  • Gentle Giant: Worked with Big Brothers and attempted to write a children's book despite being incredibly intimidating.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: In one episode, Bull tells Harry that his parents emotionally abused him by calling him names. In a later episode, Bull's mother is a seafarer who deeply loves him.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Bull - sick of how all of his friends and family were at each other's throats regarding plans for his wedding - improvised a more quiet, personal ceremony on the roof of the courthouse.

    Mac Robinson 

Macintosh "Mac" Robinson

Played by: Charles Robinson

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_mac_robinson.jpg

Court clerk and Vietnam veteran, the accomplice to most of Judge Stone's pranks, his verbal foil and his closest friend.

  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: In "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.
  • Genius Bruiser: 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.
  • Happily Married: To Quon Le.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Mac, though downplayed in that his boss wasn't incompetent.
  • May–December Romance: Mac was at least ten years older than Quon Le, since he was serving in the military while she was a little girl.
  • Not So Above It All: Even for being the Straight Man, there were times where he willingly indulged in the wacky antics of his friends.
  • Older Than He Looks: He was in his 40s around the time the series started, but looked at least ten years younger throughout its run.
  • Only Sane Man: Even his spotlight episodes tended to be far less weird than the others.
    • This was slightly averted in the last few seasons when he became an aspiring filmmaker who specialized in pretentious schlock.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Not until Quon Le actually went into labor did this hit it's full stride.
  • Retired Badass: Mac was an Army Ranger (or possibly a Marine) in Vietnam before working as a clerk.
  • Scary Black Man: Mac's not above intentionally invoking this when he has to.
  • Servile Snarker
  • Shirtless Scene: Mac had one. Revealing that he astonishingly buff for a man his age.
  • The Smart Guy: Owing to his knowledge of computers, he was the smartest of his friends.
  • The Vietnam Vet: He took part in the Vietnam War, where he met his future wife.

    Roz Russell 

Rosalind "Roz" Russell

Played by: Marsha Warfield

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/night_court_roz_russell.jpg
"Don't look at me, or you'll die trying to have it."

A deadpan-snarking tough-as-nails bailiff whose strength is the fodder for many jokes.

  • Death Glare: This is pretty much Roz's default facial expression. Anyone caught in it had best step carefully.
  • Ill Girl: Later in the run, she was diagnosed with diabetes and at one point was struggling to handle her diagnosis and the lifestyle changes it brought.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's blunt and very snarky, but she cares about her colleagues.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: She's blunt and even harsh at times, but she tells people what they need to hear and genuinely wants to help them. In one episode, she blasts a teenage boy for robbing a convenience store, then gently persuades him to turn himself into police and make better choices in life.
  • Not So Stoic: When she and the rest of the cast thought that Dan was dead, at his memorial service she was near the point of tears when eulogizing him and had to be comforted by Bull.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Averted, Roz is incredibly deadpan, and generally alternates between stoicism and rage.
  • Scary Black Man: Genderflipped: Roz is a scary black woman whom even the gargantuan Bull fears.
  • Sixth Ranger
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: She is the (downplayed) tomboy to Christine's (occasionally egregious) girly-girl.
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