Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Night Court: The Crime-Solving Court*

Hooray for my favorite awful syndicated sitcom of the '80s, NBC's "Night Court." Reruns ran nonstop on the local Fox station when I was young, so I often mimicked the "Ewwoookay" of Bull, the frightened squeals of Dan, and the "very special" breakdown of Mac while he shouted "Am I Blue?!" at a karaoke bar -- not unlike Jesse Spano's I'm so excited/I'm so scared!" ditty on "Saved By The Bell." Warning: Immediate Sound.

I think as a preteen, I wanted to be Judge Harold T. Stone. There was something appealing about the idea of being a clowny sort of authority figure, while playfully sparring with and lusting over a pretty, goofy blonde attorney. To this day, I'll follow obvious diatribes with the phrase "What's your point?" and stick up for crooner Mel Tormé (R.I.P.) for little to no reason.

One punchline sticks in my memory for some reason. It involved an exchange between Harry and Buddy (John Astin) while they were exchanging arbitrary code phrases. The one Harry begrudgingly uttered in response to Buddy's was "The chocolate mousse is not in season." Solid. And then the audience at home was treated to ... that laugh.

Actually, "that laugh" sticks in my head more than any story content from the show. I'm not sure if anyone else remembers this, but with "Night Court" -- and only that show -- you could hear this one guy in the studio audience with a deep, hearty guffaw: "HYUH! Hyuh! Hyuh. hyuh." And you could hear him over everyone else in the crowd. I'm guessing he was a producer or director, because I remember hearing him in every episode. Perhaps he's the infamous Reinhold Weege? Maybe this nerdy/awesome site's got the answers.

TV Land's got the "Night Court" reruns these days, complete with the theme song's bouncing base line and sinewy saxophone. Warning: Immediate Sound. I recently saw Michael Richards play a Kramer clone in an episode in which he thinks he's invisible. Then, at the end, he's convinced that the reason everyone can see him is because he's wearing clothes. The judicial gang strolls into the courtroom to find a naked Richards. "HYUH! Hyuh! Hyuh. hyuh." Freeze-frame. Credits. Applause. Fade.

*This title actually is a reference to an episode of "The Simpsons," when Homer's way into "Knight Boat: The Crime-Solving Boat." Sorry, Roz.