There are very few sitcoms from my childhood that I can tolerate today. I’m done with movin’ on up to the East Side. I don’t care what you would do without us, shalalala. I don’t want to take the good or take the bad, and quite frankly when you take them both, all you really have is a horribly cheesy sitcom to which time has most definitely been unmerciful.
But there’s something about Night Court. These characters of infinite flaws and infinite quirks provided endless laughs (most of which stemmed from jokes that I probably shouldn’t have understood at the age at which I was first watching the shows). It was one of those rare comedies in which character and actor merged so perfectly that you couldn’t imagine any other person ever playing the likes of Judge Harry Stone…Dan Fielding…Christine Sullivan…Mac…Bull…Roz.
Even early episodes from the first season that featured “limited edition” characters like Lana Wagner or Billie Young were ribald and hilarious. And then there were the pre-Marsha Warfield bailiffs, Selma and Florence, characters who lasted far too short a season before their actresses slipped their mortal coils. Rather than sweeping their deaths aside and staying the course of mindless comedy, the writers and the other actors faced each of these actresses’ passing with honesty, humor, and honor. I remember those being some of the most moving and finest offerings that television brought to my young world.
I adored this show, and continue to find it funny whenever I find it on television. Regardless of how obviously 80s it is, with Mac and his knit sweaters or Dan and his rampant sexual escapades and random references to things like the McDLT…or Christine and her glorious 80s frosted hair and obsession with Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s wedding, the writing remains sharp and satirical and extremely funny.
Then there’s Bob and June Wheeler. Perhaps the funniest recurring characters from the show’s run, they hold a special place in this Trekkie’s heart. Bob Wheeler was played by Brent Spiner, who would go on to play Lieutenant Commander Data, my second favorite character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, what most people probably don’t realize is that Bob’s wife June Wheeler also appeared in the Trek universe. Actress Annie O’Donnell portrayed Keena in the Deep Space Nine first season episode “Progress.” Even if it was only for one episode, she played a Bajoran, which means bonus geek awesome points in my book.
Before they reached space, the final frontier, however, here’s a clip of O’Donnell and Spiner in their first appearance as June and Bob Wheeler, those wacky West Virginian Yugoslavians with the worst luck to ever roll through Judge Stone’s night court.