When Night Court debuted on NBC in 1984, we weren’t sure quite what to make of it.
Here we had a smart, sassy sitcom driven by Judge Harry Stone, who had a history … you know, that kind of history. Like, dark stuff. Criminal stuff.
And he was played by Harry Anderson, who was best known for his magic.
How could this work?
Because it was brilliant, and unlike anything we’d ever seen, that’s how.
But it’s been a long time since this baby went off the air — that happened in 1992, in case you forgot, or were just wondering.
Since then, a few series regulars have died (here, “regulars” are defined as actors who appeared in at least ten episodes).
And, well, we get dark around here sometimes, so …
Here are the Night Court cast deaths we know about, in chronological order of bringing the gavel down for the last time.
Selma Diamond (1985)
Selma Diamond was Bull’s (Richard Moll) original bailiff sidekick, Selma Hacker.
Selma’s surname was a play on words and a nod to the character’s raspy voice and chain-smoking habit
Unfortunately, it was a case of life imitating art imitating life, as Diamond died of lung cancer not long after the second season of Night Court rapped.
The series followed suit and acknowledged Hacker’s death in a subsequent episode, complete with a mourning Bull.
Florence Halop (1986)
It just didn’t pay to be an old lady playing Bull’s sidekick on Night Court.
Especially if you smoked.
To wit, Florence Halop stepped in to replace Diamond for Season 3, taking up the role as Florence “Flo” Keiner. Her bond with Bull was pretty solid, too, but …
Yeah, Halop developed lung cancer and died shortly after the season.
Harry acknowledged her death in the first episode of Season 4, when the series mercifully opted for the younger and less smoky Marsha Warfield, as Rosalind “Roz” Russell.
Mel Tormé (1999)
Harry’s longtime idol was velvet-voiced crooner Mel Tormé.
For the first few years of the run, The Velvet Fog was a running gag/device, rolled out when Harry needed a particular type of foil or to come up with some life advice … sort of What Would Mel Do? #WWMD?
Then, in 1985, Tormé “appeared” as himself in an episode entitled, “The Gypsy,” though just in voice form.
From there through 1992, IMDB lists eight other appearances for Mel, though they say he made it into ten episodes in all.
A discrepancy for sure, and Tormé can’t really be considered a regular regular, but his presence was important enough to the ethos of the show — and Harry himself — that we’ll call it good
In August of 1996, Tormé suffered a stroke, hung on for a few more years, then died from a second stroke in 1999.
Boo, hiss to strokes.
S. Marc Jordan (2014)
S. Marc Jordan is known mostly for his voice acting, lending his pipes to such classics as the old Transformers TV series and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
But Jordan was also a veteran character actor, with credits that included WKRP in Cincinnati, Empty Nest, Seinfeld, and Babylon V, among many other.
On Night Court, Jordan had a 22-episode run as Jack Griffin, the blind concession stand operator.
Jordan died in 2014 at the age of 83.
Harry Anderson (2018)
Of course, this is the big weenie-biter among Night Court deaths.
Harry Anderson was cool and irreverent and compassionate and a smart-ass, and he helped raise the level of television comedy beyond what we thought possible.
You might say that without Judge Harry Stone, there wouldn’t have been such a receptive audience for Seinfeld in the 1990s. Maybe, at least.
And then, at the age of 65, Harry Anderson contracted freaking influenza in early 2018, which led to several strokes (suck it, strokes) … and his death.
It still bites weenies.
Paula Kelly (2020)
Paula Kelly broke through in the 1969 film Sweet Liberty, then spent the next couple of decades lighting up the screen — often the small screen.
In particular, she made appearances on Sanford & Son, Medical Center, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman, and The Richard Pryor Show through the 1970s.
Then, in 1984, she showed up on Night Court as public defender Liz Williams, a role which earned her a nomination for best supporting actress in a sitcom. She had to leave the show due to illness but resumed her acting career and continued to deliver for TV audiences — on other shows — through 1999.
Kelly passed away in February 2020 from complications of COPD.