Friends, the other evening while working at the arcade I was talking with Gary Burton – fellow Pop Culture Retrorama nostalgianaut – and who happens to be the chief tech for the arcade too. The subject of the conversation happened to turn to an upcoming convention near our neck of the woods, where one of the featured guests is Brent Spiner – probably best known for his role as Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It turns out that both Gary and myself were also quite fond of an earlier role that Spiner made hilariously memorable – that of Bob Wheeler from Night Court, NBC’s long running courtroom sitcom. Night Court was a series that much like Family Ties were shows I would have to fight to see in my youth – considering my Father controlled the TV there had to be compromises. In the case of both these NBC TV shows, once I was able to get him to just sit down and watch them… we ended up never missing an episode. And while one of those reasons I love Night Court was my admiration for the late and great Harry Anderson as the series lead Harold T. Stone, the truth of the matter is that by the third season the cast just really had something magical and played off each other incredibly well.
Over nine seasons some members of the cast of Night Court would be replaced like Paula Kelly who acted as the Public Defender in the first season, replaced by Elle Foley for season 2, then finally Markie Post as Christine Sullivan – a character she portrayed for 7 seasons. Richard Moll as the slow thinking but extremely kindhearted bailiff, Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon – which everyone just called Bull would appear in all 9 seasons as would Harry Anderson. The third member of Night Court that was in nearly every episode was John Larroquette who played prosecutor Daniel R. Fielding – a sarcastic to the point of being cruel womanizer that ended up not exactly having a change of heart over the series run but became more ‘caring’… sort of. Throw in court clerk Charles Robinson as Macintosh “Mac” Robinson who appeared beginning in season 2 and remained until the end – as well as Marsha Warfield as Rosalind “Roz” Russell, the third to portray Bull’s fellow bailiff… and you had something that really worked.
Night Court also benefited from a handful of returning guest stars like John Astin (The Addams Family), legendary singer Mel Torme, Yakov Smirnoff, Gilbert Gottfried, and of course Annie O’Donnell as well as Brent Spiner who played June and Bob Wheeler. A dour couple that find themselves standing in front of Judge Stone for the most bizarre and humorous reasons, two country bumpkins who are just so beaten down by these outlandish events of misfortune in their lives but refuse to let it truly keep them down. As you will see in this clip from the 1986 two-part episode entitled Hurricane: Part 1, the Universe just seems intend on squashing any dreams of the Wheelers bettering themselves… even the simple desire to own a hot dog stand.
Friends, I have very fond memories of eating dinner with my Grandparents and watching my Grandfather lose it every single time that Spiner and O’Donnell would return to guest star. Another fine example of the Wheelers comes from the first of a three-part episode entitled Her Honor that originally aired back on April 29th of 1987.
And to close out this article on where I was first introduced to the talented Brent Spiner, thanks to NerdNews Today, we can enjoy this wonderful clip from a convention appearance by the actor – who is kind enough to discuss how he came up with the character of Bob Wheeler.