Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of 2023's Night Court Season 1 Explained

Contains spoilers for "Night Court" Season 1, Episode 16, "The Honorable Dan Fielding, Part 2."

The surprise hit of the 2023 television midseason was "Night Court," NBC's revival of the beloved 1980s sitcom. Brought back to life by writer-producer Dan Rubin ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Happy Endings"), the show returns to the same old grimy Manhattan after-hours arraignment courtroom full of kooks and ne'er-do-wells, but with a new generation manning the bench: Pollyanna-ish judge Abby Stone (Melissa Rauch), heartless District Attorney Olivia (India de Beaufort), apathetic court clerk Neil (Kapil Talwalkar), and wisecracking bailiff Gurgs (standup comic Lacretta). Together with returning public defender Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), the gang is here to make New York maybe not a safer place, but certainly a stranger one.

The revival's first season ends on a moment of new beginnings, with Abby finally breaking up with her milquetoast upstate fiancé Rand (Pete Holmes) and embracing life in Manhattan, while Dan takes a judgeship in his old Louisiana hometown (and runs into an unexpected old friend). It's a season finale that could double as a series finale, if not for the fact that NBC has already renewed the show for a second season. With more "Night Court" on the horizon, let's take a look at the ending of "Night Court" Season 1 and what we might expect to see in Season 2.

What you need to remember about the plot of Night Court

Abby Stone, of course, does not end up as the Manhattan night court judge by accident; her father was the affable, magic- and Mel Tormé-loving judge Harry Stone, played by the late Harry Anderson for nine seasons on the original "Night Court." By taking over her father's old bench and recruiting his former colleague, Dan, to serve as public defender, she hopes to learn more about that time in her father's life — and perhaps more about herself as well. Sometimes, however, it's possible to learn too much, as in the episode "Blood Moon Binga" when Abby discovers that not only was her father and mother's (guest star Faith Ford) love-at-first-sight story a lie, but that her own full name is actually Abracadabra.

As the series begins, Abby is in the midst of a prolonged engagement with her long-distance boyfriend, Rand. It's clear from the start that something is out of step between them, and when Rand finally makes the trip from their upstate New York small town to visit her in the big city, it's even more apparent that they no longer fit into each other's lives. At first, he is her rock, providing necessary comfort as she struggles to fit into her uncertain new position. But by the end of the season, Abby has made the bench her own and won over her cynical colleagues with gumption and good cheer. Suddenly, it's her future with Rand that is uncertain.

What happens in the season finale?

"The Honorable Dan Fielding," the two-part season finale, puts its characters at personal and professional crossroads. As the title suggests, Dan has been offered a judgeship back home in Louisiana, which Abby responds to in her typically anxious and overexcited fashion. She plans a massive going-away party that she hopes will also function as a "don't actually go away" party, while trying to ignore the fact that Rand feels neglected. The pressure is too much, and Abby acts out recklessly. An attempt to aid an elderly defendant, Louise (Carol Mansell), lands her in jail and facing a trumped-up felony charge thanks to weaselly District Attorney Jeff Dewitt (Kurt Fuller).

With Dan as her attorney, Abby faces the possibility of disbarment and perhaps even jail time for trying to help a little old lady break into her boyfriend's nursing home. Dan pleads with her to let him foist the blame on Louise, but Abby refuses to let someone else suffer for her actions. In the end, she's saved by a slew of character witnesses including Rand, Gurgs, Neil, and Pam the female werewolf (Pam Murphy), who testify to her sterling character — well, that and the fact that Dewitt coerced Louise into wearing a wire. The judge declares a mistrial, and Abby returns to the bench. Rand heads home to upstate New York after he and Abby finally come to terms with the fact that they have grown apart. Dan, meanwhile, says his goodbyes to Abby and to Night Court, and he takes his seat on the bench in rural Louisiana.

An old fashioned show in more ways than one

There's a "lost in time" aspect to the "Night Court" revival. The sets all look pretty much the same as they did in the 1980s and the cases called before the court are not much different, give or take a few jokes about a gender reveal party gone horribly wrong. Everyone has smart phones, but they rarely figure into the plot, and the titular tech investment opportunity in the episode "Past Apps" is merely the catalyst for Abby's ethical quandary in dealing with an old fashioned con man. This is all very much by design; when developing the series, producer Dan Rubin and production designer Glenda Rovello raided the Warner Bros. television archives, grabbing surviving set decorations from the original series (like the green couch in Abby's office) and even using the blueprints for the original courtroom set to make sure the new one was to scale.

The series' nostalgic bona fides don't stop at the set design, though. The revival is steeped in the same vaudeville energy (albeit with fewer magic tricks) that made the original series a little old fashioned, even for the '80s. This no revisionist take on "Night Court," and the show's insistence on warm-and-fuzzy comedy that recalls a more comforting era was very much a selling point for Rauch. "I sort of liken it to a bit of a time machine that can take you back to that happiness," she told Uproxx in April 2023. As a result, the show largely steers clear of any divisive real-world issues regarding the criminal justice system; the fact that the courtroom has barely been renovated in four decades is arguably its sharpest political gag.

Dan's old Louisiana home

Dan's move to Louisiana is a homecoming in more ways than one. Larroquette, who won four Emmys in a row for his portrayal of Dan on the original series, is from New Orleans and has kept close ties to his hometown since leaving for Hollywood in the 1970s. In 2013, he was even awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of New Orleans. Larroquette and his character share a Louisiana upbringing thanks to the original "Night Court" writers, who over the years mined a lot of humor from the idea that Dan, the erudite Manhattan attorney constantly trying to climb the social ladder, was born on the bayou and raised in the possum-filled backwoods.

The revival keeps Dan's Pelican State birthright, but takes it easy on the redneck jokes; it also keeps Dan's womanizing past in the past. During the '80s Dan was one of Manhattan's (and network TV's) most shameless lotharios, and his constant pursuit of every woman in sight was one of the original series' most reliable wells of humor. The original series finale features a nightmare sequence in which Dan is tried, convicted, and hanged by a courtroom filled with every woman he had ever slept with. Three decades on, however, Dan is a changed man; when Abby knocks on his door in the pilot episode he's a grieving widower, the kind of man who can no longer see himself being with any woman, much less every woman.

The season memorialized some cast members, but not others

That first scene between Larroquette and Rauch in the pilot episode is heavy with grief — almost too heavy, but that's a burden that "Night Court" has had to carry from nearly the beginning. The show's early seasons were marked by the deaths of actresses Selma Diamond in 1985 and her replacement Florence Halop just a year later. Abby's grief over her father and connection to Dan as a surrogate forms the emotional backbone of the revival, given extra poignance by the real-life death of star Harry Anderson in 2018. The show mourns not just a beloved character, but a beloved actor as well.

For as much weight as Anderson's death is given on the show, however, other recent cast deaths are not mentioned at all. 2021 saw the deaths of both Charles Robinson, who played longtime officer of the court Mac, and Markie Post, who joined the show as public defender Christine Sullivan in Season 3. It's possible that their characters' absence will be commemorated in Season 2, but it's possible that in the world of "Night Court," Mac and Christine are still alive. The 1992 finale saw Christine leaving the public defenders' office for a nascent political career, while Mac tendered his resignation in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a film director. It could very well be that Christine and Mac are simply too busy in Washington and Hollywood, respectively, to show up to court anymore.

Roz returns

The untimely deaths of Anderson, Robinson, and Post cast a pall over the revival series; after all, half the fun of legacy sequels like this is to bring back the old cast for one last hurrah. Other than Larroquette, there's hardly any original cast left, but the show kept one trick up its sleeve. In the final moments of the finale, Dan — now seated comfortably in his Louisiana courthouse — takes yet another case of a soon-to-be bride arrested for fighting in the French Quarter during her bachelorette party. But when he looks up at the defendant, he sees a very familiar face: "Roz?" he exclaims. Yes, it's former night court bailiff Roz Russell, played by comedian Marsha Warfield. "Fielding? They made you a judge?" she says before turning to the bailiff: "Take me back to jail."

Warfield joined the cast of the original series in 1986 after Florence Halop died earlier that year. The wisecracking Roz was quickly a fan favorite, and her verbal sparring with Dan often cut the egotistical lawyer down to size. In an interview with Variety published after the season finale aired, Warfield spoke to the bittersweet feeling of being back on that set after so many years, and without so many of her colleagues. Overall, though, Warfield was happy to be reunited with Larroquette, and to meet the new generation — especially Lacretta, the new bailiff in town. "I told her, 'just do you baby,'" Warfield said of their conversation, "'just be you and enjoy it and enjoy the ride.'"

What the season finale could mean for the franchise

The last two scenes of the finale represent a new status quo for the series. Abby, newly separated from Rand and exonerated on her felony charge, returns to the bench reinvigorated and ready to hear the first of two hot dog-related cases. Dan, meanwhile, has achieved a longtime career goal and become a judge himself, presiding over case after case of drunken New Orleans brawls. If Larroquette remains a regular on the show, it seems unlikely that his Louisiana interlude will last very long into Season 2. However, it's possible that sending Dan off to his dream job is the show's way of bidding farewell to the character, with Larroquette in a reduced role for the next season.

The two-part finale also spends a fair amount of time with Gurgs and her career ambitions. Despondent over failing the Bailiff supervisors exam, she attends Dan's going away party, where her facility with remembering names and faces impresses a representative from Scotland Yard. Gurgs is invited to a training program in London, but after coming to Abby's aid as a character witness in her trial, the possibility of her moving overseas is dropped and never mentioned again. Did Gurgs really give up the opportunity of a lifetime to help out Abby, or will her London adventures be seen (or at least heard about) in Season 2?

When will Night Court Season 2 air?

NBC renewed the series for a second season in February 2023, just a few weeks after its surprisingly strong premiere. In a March interview with Collider, producer and star Rauch confirmed that the writers room had recently convened for Season 2 and were working on the next batch of scripts. No premiere date has been set just yet, but the expectation was that "Night Court" would return for a full season sometime in Fall 2023.

The WGA strike, however, may have changed those plans. In May 2023, the Writers Guild of America called a general strike over the lack of compensation for television writers, bringing most film and television production to a halt. While some shows are continuing to film during the strike without the input of their writers — most notably the HBO "Game of Thrones" spin-off "House of the Dragon" and Amazon's "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" — many others have chosen to shutter production until the strike is resolved, including "Night Court." Depending on how long the strike lasts and how far into production Season 2 was when the strike was called, the show may not premiere until later in the Fall, or perhaps Winter 2024.

Who might we see in the cast of Night Court Season 2?

Rauch, who is a producer on the show along with her husband Winston, is expected to return for the second season, along with de Beaufort, Talwalker, and Lacretta. Larroquette, who was also credited as a producer on the pilot episode, is a little more in doubt. After the finale aired, Marsha Warfield confirmed to TVLine that she will be returning as Roz for at least one episode of Season 2, so it stands to reason that we will see Dan at the same time, though it's possible that Larroquette may not return as a regular cast member.

Beyond the main cast, though, there are a number of actors we would love to see return for Season 2. Like the original "Night Court," the revival has built up a repertory of weirdos and recidivists who hang around the courtroom, including Dimiter D. Marinov as handyman Nikolai, Pam Murphy as Pam the female werewolf, and comic actor Biff Wiff as Kenny, who is never quite sure where he is or what he's doing at any given moment. And while there are not many beloved characters or actors from the original series that the show hasn't already featured, fans online have expressed their wish to see actor Brent Spiner, who, before starring as Lt. Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," appeared in several episodes of "Night Court" as perpetually unlucky hayseed defendant Bob Wheeler.

Most importantly, is Bull still on Jupiter?

There's still one member of the original series' main cast who we have not heard from, however. Richard Moll's goofball bailiff Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon was one of the show's breakout stars, a kooky simpleton with a heart of gold. In the two-parter series finale from 1992, Bull is convinced that a pair of little old men seen around the courthouse (Phil Leeds and Ralph Manza) are in fact space aliens stalking him for nefarious purposes. At the end, his suspicions are confirmed; the little old men really are aliens from the planet Jupiter, and have come to recruit Bill to grab all the things on the planet that the aliens are too short to reach. Bull accepts his destiny, and disappears from Harry's office in a flash of light.

30 years later, Bull is apparently still on his interplanetary adventure. No mention of the character was made in the revival season, and Moll himself has long been hostile to the idea of returning to the show. In 2013, when cornered by a TMZ paparazzo in an L.A. parking garage, he flatly stated that if any "Night Court" reunion or reboot were to happen, he would "run in the other direction." When pressed for a reason why, Moll joked, "I love show business; it's the people I can't stand." Still, a lot can happen in a decade's time, and it's not unheard of for actors to be lured back to beloved roles. Could Bull pop up in Season 2 of the "Night Court" revival? The answer, so to speak, is written in the stars.