Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Frank Review of "Night Court: The Complete Second Season" (2009)

After a four year gap, the 1984-1985 second season of Night Court finally arrived on DVD. I suppose the price was paid in special features, more specifically their complete absence. You get subtitles and the ability to chapter skip past the opening credits. Maybe you want French subtitles?

  1. "The Nun": Charles Robinson debuts as Mac... Robinson? Dinah Manoff of Soap and Empty Nest fame guest stars, who does her best in a role written to be exasperating. As a saving grace, Dan finally becomes a full-on horndog with the help of guest counselor Sharon Barr. Earl Boen (the psychologist from the Terminator series) cameos.

  2. "Daddy for the Defense": The first appearance of Markie Post as Christine Sullivan. The producers wanted to make her a permanent addition, but she couldn't get out of her The Fall Guy contract until the third season. Eugene Roche guested as her father. As a combo, they're comedy poison, and her mullet doesn't help. A physical comedy b-plot with Selma doesn't help.

  3. "Billie and the Cat": Ellen Foley debuts as Public Defender Billie Young, and is immediately nails on chalkboard with her awful accent and painful overacting. This will plague the rest of the season. John Scott Clough thankfully only lasts one episode as her assistant. Character actors Don Calfa (The Return of the Living Dead) and Joel Brooks are fun in a plot involving commercial cat-napping. Dan's good in this one, as well.

  4. "Pick a Number": Character actor Sydney Lassick of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest asks Harry to assign his winning lottery ticket to someone worthy. This of course summons Terry Kiser as sleazy journalist Al Craven. Jennifer Richards appears twice this season in two different roles, this time playing a bimbo too dumb for even Dan. Cute episode overall. William Utay cameos.

  5. "The Computer Kid": An amusing episode about a jerky child prodigy. Blackie Dammett, character actor and father of Anthony Kiedis, plays the first of Dan's derelict servants. Fred Applegate cameos.

  6. "Bull Gets a Kid": Pamela Adlon, child actress and voice of Bobby Hill, plays Bull's "little brother." The episode is heavy on Bull and Dan with a side of Mac, which is rarely a bad thing.

  7. "Harry on Trial": The second and final appearance of Jason Bernard as Judge Robert T. Willard. If the show was going to have an adversarial presence, he was a great choice. Vincent Schiavelli guests as an investigator looking into Harry's fitness as judge. Carla B. makes a final appearance, playing off "Once in Love with Harry." Ray Walston is awesome as always as the overseeing judge. Definitely a highlight of the season.

  8. "Harry and the Madam": Stella Stevens appears, but her story is kind of a drag. Al Craven makes his final appearance, but at least Terry Kiser gets to visit Christine over at The Fall Guy before settling into Weekend at Bernie's. Mac has ghoulish fun at Bull's expense, and Dan's in slimeball mode. Solid enough, if heavier on the drama than warranted.

  9. "Inside Harry Stone": This episode marks John Astin's first appearance, in a variation on his later character from season four on. It's a nice enough show thanks largely to his presence, and Titos Vandis also cameos.

  10. "The Blizzard": Fantastic episode, with caustic character actor Jack Riley forcing Dan to confront his homophobia. Dennis Burkley is also fun as a man contemplating cannibalism in the face of court being snowed in by a blizzard.

  11. "Take My Wife, Please": Denice Kumagai debuts as Quon Le Duc, who's always a pleasure. Seinfeld's Michael Richards makes an early appearance.

  12. "The Birthday Visitor": Nebbish Oliver Clark plays a new thief who ends up taking Harry and Billie at her apartment. What could have been a sexy turn is killed by the lack of chemistry between the lead character, forced to pick up where Lana Wagner left off. It's still a solid episode, and certainly a change of pace. Stack Pierce is a blast as a surly waiter. That guy deserved a better career.

  13. "Dan's Parents": Old school character actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan are cute as the titular couple. It a fine episode without an excess of drama, the sort one expects when John Larroquette stars.

  14. "Nuts About Harry": Deborah Harmon subs for Foley as P.D., and a gaggle of mental patient guest stars includes Raye Birk and James Cromwell. Charles Bouvier makes the first of a serious of appearances of different (yet the same) characters. It's busy and kind of annoying, but not terrible.

  15. "An Old Flame": Jack Gilford, probably best known for the Cocoon movies, is swell as an ex of Selma's. Phil Leeds is back, this time as Arnold Koppelson, a considerate and efficient judge who outshines Harry as a replacement on the bench. A really nice episode.

  16. "The Gypsy": I tend to prefer stories where Bull is wise but simple, as opposed to an outright simpleton. Since this story pivots on his being dumb enough to fall for a gypsy curse, not to mention it being a friggin' gypsy curse story as late as 1985, this is not a favorite episode. It's a shame, because despite the intensely grating gypsy played by Erica Yohn and a wasted cameo by character actor Bruce (father of Bruno) Kirby, this episode marks a turning point for Dan that carries through the season.

  17. "Battling Bailiff": A memorable episode based on the popular wrestling angle and cameos by period staples like Lou Ferrigno. A number of good bits and a lot of ground covered for one episode.

  18. "Billie's Valentine": Much better than an episode with Ellen Foley's character name checked in the title has a right to be. It does advance the bogus Harry/Billie romance, unfortunately. Geoffrey Scott is good as the third point in the triangle, but more because of his soap opera chops than his comedic ones. Martin Garner returns as Bernie after a long absence, so that's nice. Character actors Patrick Cranshaw and Eve Smith are delightful in their single scene.

  19. "Married Alive": Mimi Kennedy is good as the socially retarded object of Dan's opportunism, while John Larroquette is great in another major character developing spotlight. Stanley Brock's cameo is alright, but another is sadly wasted for Elisha Cook Jr.

  20. "Mac and Quon Le: Together Again": It's hard to believe Denice Kumagai was only in seventeen episodes over the course of the series, which only averages out to about two per season. She's great with Charles Robinson, and brought out the best in his character. I liked Billie Young in bitch mode better than her norm, as it better suits Ellen Foley's painful overacting. Her nail marks on Harry's door were still there in the last episode of the season. I also wonder if Bull's moments of lucid wisdom were an influence on Kevin's Smith Silent Bob breakdowns.

  21. "World War III": Fucking hell, it's another awful Yakov Smirnoff episode, somehow even worse than the first. Leonard Stone and Gordon Jump have a nice side story as arms negotiators, but the rest is pretty terrible.

  22. "Walk, Don't Wheel": One of the series' many patronizing lesson episodes, this one being cripples deserve romance too, or some shit like that. It might have helped if the wheelchair enabled party wasn't dead weight in the acting department. The bits that halfway work, like the freeze dried enchiladas and the nuclear family, play on past their point of expiration. Despite appearing in an entire season, Public Defender Billie Young doesn't have her own IMDb character page, and Ellen Foley is kind enough to remind us why in a final over the top performance.

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