“The Battling Bailiff”
Season 2, Episode 17
Night Court was a workplace sitcom set in a Manhattan court room during the night shift, which centered on Judge Harry T. Stone and his rag tag group of work buddies. During this particular episode, one of the bailiffs, Bull, a character who was pretty much based on Lenny from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, feels unfulfilled with his life, especially after being made fun of by his coworkers for writing poetry, seeing as they think of him as a one-dimensional guy. So, he decides to take up pro wrestling after meeting a promoter inside the courtroom.
The reason there was a wrestling promoter in the courtroom? it wasn’t due to a steroid scandal or for not paying the wrestlers, but to support the Klondike Butcher, played by Lou Ferrigno of King of Queens fame, who had been physically assaulted by a little old lady in the crowd. Which goes to prove that not all little old ladies are stunt grannies planted in wrestling crowds as Exposed! Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Secrets would want you to believe. Impressed by how Bull was able to lift The Butcher off his feet, while trying to protect him from the old lady, the promoter suggests Bull look into wrestling. This is usually one of the three ways most sitcom characters end up in a wrestling ring. The other two include: forced to wrestle in order to win money they desperately need; or getting tricked into wrestling somehow with no chance of escaping.
Now, I didn’t realize how old this episode was, as Bull’s fellow bailiff wasn’t the sassy Marsha Warfield that I was used to, but instead a no-nonsense old white lady by the name of Selma, who seemed to have a strong friendship with Bull and was upset by his leaving. Anyway, Bull quits his job and takes up wrestling training.
After a week of training, Bull is ready to make his debut at Madison Square Garden of all places. Who the hell does he think he is, Rocky Maivia? Right off the bat, Night Court makes no qualms about the fixed nature of pro wrestling, so lucky for me I didn’t watch this when I was 3 when it first aired, or else I would’ve been crushed. Or probably wouldn’t give a shit, since I was still two years away from discovering pro wrestling. Harry and the gang make their way to the back as they wheel off a bloodied wrestler in a stretcher in the same direction, his opponent trailing behind. As soon as they all reach the locker room and the doors close behind them, the bloodied wrestler, Ed, who looks like a fat Kurt Angle, in his stars & stripes singlet, jumps off the stretcher and argues with Alan, who probably wrestles as the Black Savage or some other incredibly offensive name based on his racist outfit and it being pro wrestling in the 80’s. Ed accuses Alan of coming way too close to hitting him. Mind you, this is all taking place as reporters and photographers can clearly see through the tiny windows of the double doors that keeps them at bay.
And speaking of Ed, I’m not sure what Night Court’s stance was on blood, but they did a good job of making it look like it was real, and there was so much of it that it’d be impossible for Ed to hide that many ketchup packets in his trunks, as girthy as he was. Yet, when he hopped off the stretcher he didn’t seek out any medical attention. So, maybe the writers of Night Court wanted to play up the fact that everything in wrestling was indeed fake; all smoke and mirrors. And ketchup packets. Although they did seem somewhat smartened up to the backstage politics of professional wrestling, and this is before WWE started hiring Hollywood TV writers for their creative team.
When the wrestling promoter introduces Bull and declares that they’re looking at the next World Champion, an offended Ed calls out the promoter for having previously promised him the belt. To which the promoter tells Ed to stop being “bitchy.” That’s some colorful dialogue for a 1980’s sitcom. I had to rewind it twice to make sure I heard the promoter correctly. To be fair, Ed had a point. When Bull stepped out in his garish bailiff outfit that revealed that he was the least in-shape wrestler in that locker room, it was hard to take him seriously as a wrestler. He looked like a malnourished Ron Reis, AKA The Yeti. Nothing to back up the height.
But it turns out Bull wasn’t cut out for the life of a grappler. Perhaps he couldn’t handle the always unpredictable NYC Garden crowd because as soon as he was introduced, he promptly left the ring and walked to the back. To which Ed pulls out a feature-length film screenplay, flips to a page, and tells Harry and the gang that Bull’s walkout wasn’t scripted. Which I could only imagine was the case backstage at WWE Raw on January 27th, 2014 when CM Punk left.
Bull comes to the locker room, says he felt ridiculous and wants to go back to work as a bailiff. Harry and the gang welcome him back with open arms. As does Selma, who finally shows up to support her pal. Although no actual in-ring action took place, the backstage aspect of the world of professional wrestling is just as entertaining to see how it’s depicted on television or film. As over-the-top as it might be. Then again, it is pro wrestling. Night Court wasn’t too far off. All in all, “The Battling Bailiff” was a solid and funny episode about professional wrestling as far as sitcoms go and, considering almost every sitcom from the 1960’s to the 1990’s had a wrestling-themed episode, that’s saying a lot.
3 thoughts on “Night Court”