In May 2022, I had the chance to attend a taping of the returning Night Court series. The original Night Court ran from 1984 to 1992 on NBC. The series premiere will air on January 17, 2023. The episode is titled “Blood Moon Binga” and originally aired on February 28, 2023.
The Night Court reboot stars Melissa Rauch, who plays Judge Abby Stone. She is the daughter of Judge Harry Stone, the lead on the original series. John Larroquette returns to Night Court as Dan Fielding, who is now a defending attorney as opposed to a prosecutor. The new prosecutor was played by Ana Villafane in the pilot, but was then replaced by India de Beaufort for the remainder of the season. The court clerk is played by Kapil Talwalkar, and Lacretta plays the new court bailiff.
The series is filmed on stage 10 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. The show is filmed in front of a live studio audience, and I had the chance to attend a taping on May 20, 2022. The taping was for episode 107, although it was the 8th episode aired.
The set remains basically the same as the original series, with the courtroom, the judge’s chambers, and the cafeteria as the main setting. A number of set pieces are from the original series, including the green couch in the judge’s chambers.
Now that the episode has aired, I can speak more about the content. I think the episode is the funniest so far, and it included a number of wacky court cases, the lack of which has been a criticism of previous episodes. I think the actors are getting more comfortable with their roles as well.
This particular episode included a couple big revelations. First of all was Faith Ford appearing as Abby’s mother. It’s revealed that she was actually a defendant in front of Judge Harry Stone many years ago. They fell in love, married, and moved upstate to have a new beginning. In this episode, she returns for a visit, but wants Dan (her original lawyer) to keep quiet about her history. Eventually, she comes clean to Abby, and also spills the other big revelation… Abby is short for “Abracadabra”.
There are a couple funny stories I can share from the taping. At one point, one of the actors had trouble getting a line out. They had to repeat the scene numerous times, and eventually the audience was actually saying the line out loud. The actor did eventually nail the line, but it was a fun moment that may appear on a blooper reel at some point.
Also, actress Pam Murphy guest starred as one of the defendants in this episode. She was sitting in a chair along the back wall for most of the courtroom scenes, and after a while we noticed that she was handcuffed to the chair. The poor girl ended up sitting in that spot for most of the taping, The audience let out a sigh of relief when she was finally released!
Arriving for the Taping
As is standard with tapings at Warner Bros, I parked in the garage across the street from Gate 4, and then went to the ground floor to check in by 3pm. I had a priority ticket so I was guaranteed admission, but if you have a standby ticket, try to get there a couple hours ahead. There are bathrooms and vending machines to grab drinks and snacks as you wait.
Security came around to check our ID and vaccine passports. They then put a bracelet on us once we were cleared. We waited until they were ready to bring us to the stage, and then headed across the street into the studio lot. We passed through security metal detectors and then walked to Stage 10.
When you arrive at the soundstage, you enter and go up some stairs to the audience seating. The staff determines where you will sit, and escorts you to your seats. Due to Covid restrictions, the audience area was not filled to capacity, and we were seated with space between people.
The Live Taping
As is typical for shows with audiences, the show has a warm-up comedian. In this case, it was my friend Bill Sindelar. I met him years ago attending a taping of The Talk, and you can read an interview with him here. If you get to see him at a taping, count yourself lucky! He’s hilarious and sweet, and really knows how to engage the audience and make the experience entertaining.
The show begins with Bill introducing the cast, and then the sets are revealed and they start filming the show. Each scene is filmed several times, usually with some modified jokes and lines. Sometimes the scene is filmed many times, due to bloopers or technical issues. As Night Court is a new series with a new showrunner, the show was a bit less organized than tapings of long running shows I’ve attended, like The Big Bang Theory. That being said, the cast and crew worked hard, and you can tell they are really invested in this series.
Unlike other tapings, the snacks and drinks were placed on a table outside the studio, instead of being available in the studio. This was probably done due to Covid restrictions, which are quite strict due to union rules. Bathrooms are also located in a separate building, so it was a bit of a walk to go use the facilities.
As the show ended, the audience came out again for their bows, and then the audience headed back to the parking lot. I stuck around with Bill, and it was great to catch up after the show.
Having attended numerous sitcom tapings, I had a good idea of what to expect. This was, however, my first time seeing a show before it debuted on TV. Being familiar with the original series, it was really cool to see the whole set recreated. I get the sense that the cast and crew are really putting their hearts into this series. Fortunately, the series debuted really high, and NBC has already renewed Night Court for a second season.
If you are interested in attending a TV taping at some point, check out some of the info here on my site. In addition, you can check with 1iota who distributes tickets to Night Court and many other shows.