'Night Court' star John Larroquette is 'a sucker for lost causes.' Including himself

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s enjoying the return of “pre-prestige TV.”

That’s because the longtime star of “Night Court,” John Larroquette, joins this week’s Guest Spot for a revealing discussion of his avid film and TV viewing, his erudite hobby and returning to the role of prosecutor-turned-public defender Dan Fielding after a 30-year hiatus: “I’m a sucker for lost causes becoming winners,” he says. “Maybe it reflects my own life.”

Also in Screen Gab No. 125, streaming recommendations for your weekend, an unplanned crossover event in the world of reality TV and the must-read stories of the week.


Must-read stories you might have missed

Bruce and Laura Dern.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

With ‘Palm Royale,’ Bruce and Laura Dern are (finally) father and daughter on screen: The father-daughter duo discuss how ‘Palm Royale’ brought them together on screen, how Bruce Dern doesn’t rehearse, and the ‘Dernsie’ that made it into the show.

Golden Globes, back in Hollywood’s good graces, ink five-year deal with CBS: After several years of controversy, reform and uncertainty, the Golden Globe Awards will seek to turn the page once and for all at a new long-term home.

This cut backstory explains the most intriguing relationship in Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’: Stars Jess Hong and Rosalind Chao discuss why the Chinese Cultural Revolution is vital to Netflix’s sci-fi adaptation and reveal part of their characters’ backstory that ended up getting cut.

Hollywood said ‘nobody cared’ about women’s sports. Luckily, Sue Bird didn’t listen: With a new documentary out Friday, during the NCAA tournament she once ruled, the former WNBA great wants you to know she has no plans to stop holding court.

Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Steve Martin sits at a table.

Steve Martin in “STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces.”

(Apple TV+)

“STEVE! (martin) a documentary in 2 pieces” (Apple TV+)

From Morgan Neville (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”), this two-part documentary is as intimate a look at the comedy polymath as we will ever see, and more than one imagined he would ever allow. (It’s also hilarious.) The first episode, which recounts his early life and interests, formative friendships and the slow process of finding his voice, plays as a filmed version of Martin’s excellent memoir “Born Standing Up,” illustrated with a wealth of photos, home movies, television and stage appearances and animations to fill in the gaps. Happy feet, arrow through the head, wild and crazy guy, taking the audience out for hamburgers, well excuuuuse me, it’s all here, building to the rock star fame that eventually led him to quit stand-up. The second, which covers 40 busy years of movie stardom, assorted interests (art, authorship) and late-life domestic bliss, is a quicker, sketchier trip, but benefits from present-day Martin‘s on-screen presence, as he discusses comedy with Jerry Seinfeld, works on his double act with Martin Short and goes bike riding. — Robert Lloyd

A man leans over a table where a woman is dining in late 19th century France.

Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel in Trần Anh Hùng’s “The Taste of Things.”

(Carole Bethuel / IFC Films)

“The Taste of Things” (VOD, multiple platforms)

Do not — and I cannot stress this enough — start this film on an empty stomach. Though France has been roundly (and probably rightly) criticized for selecting “The Taste of Things” as its international film entry for the Oscars over eventual screenplay winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” Trần Anh Hùng’s period romance is not the fusty throwback to the “cinema of quality” its trappings might suggest. Starring real-life exes Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche, the film follows lovers and longtime partners Dodin, a wealthy gourmet, and Eugénie, his trusted chef, in the late-19th-century French countryside as they develop the template for the haute cuisine of the 20th: seafood vol-au-vent, braised lettuce, baked Alaska and, in a 38-minute opening sequence that comes nearer to capturing the ballet of precision and finesse required in actual cooking than any sequence in “The Bear,” a broad, flat turbot poached in a specially designed dish. Their wordless communication in the kitchen is also the backbone of their enduring relationship, not a marriage in legal terms but one of minds, souls, bodies; if the fastest route to the heart is indeed through the stomach, “The Taste of Things,” in its culinary pas de deux, is a love story worth devouring. Just have snacks handy. — Matt Brennan

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

A woman and her husband sit on a bed having a serious discussion.

Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky in “Buying Beverly Hills.”

(Netflix )

The conspiracy-minded out there may already be pinning photographs and news clippings from the separation of actor Kyle Richards and real estate agent Mauricio Umansky to their home-office cork boards, but you needn’t believe the couple is faking it for the cameras to understand how their marital problems mark a new frontier in reality TV. That’s because their split, first made public last summer, has now fueled not one but two seasons of unscripted programming. On different series. On competing networks.

First, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (Bravo), which concluded its 13th season in February, found longtime cast member Richards dodging questions about the state of her relationship with Umansky and speculation about whether there might be more to her friendship with country musician Morgan Wade — even as a notable coolness seeped into her on-screen interactions with her husband. Then, during the recent three-part reunion, Richards acknowledged, in vague terms, that Umansky’s behavior had stoked trust issues. Now, “Buying Beverly Hills” (Netflix), which returned for its second season last week, offers another point of view, foregrounding Umansky’s belief that the couple simply grew apart as their careers skyrocketed and lifestyle changed. And through it all, children Farrah, 35, Alexia, 27, Sophia, 24, and Portia, 16, have digested developments in real time, on camera, while navigating lives and careers of their own.

Whatever your stance on the wisdom of opening one’s family life up to such intense attention, the dueling shows’ dovetailing seasons are a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of reality TV production, particularly as “Buying Beverly Hills” — which is ostensibly about Umansky’s luxury real estate brokerage the Agency — inadvertently captures footage of the family discussing “Housewives.” As the girls express concern that Richards’ cast mates are going too hard on her or question how she plans to return from a family trip in Aspen, Colo., to shoot new material about the breakup without Umansky, the series fuse into a meta-textural whole greater than the sum of its parts, posing a question that, for all its silliness and spectacle, contains real pathos: What happens when your parents’ breakup becomes the crossover event of the year? — Matt Brennan

READ MORE: Kyle Richards’ daughters on their parents’ breakup becoming reality TV: ‘We’re used to this’

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Two old friends greet each other at a wedding.

John Larroquette and Marsha Warfield in “Night Court.”

(Nicole Weingart / NBC)

For sitcom fans of a certain generation, John Larroquette needs no introduction: He won four consecutive Emmys for playing slick, self-centered Asst. Dist. Atty. Dan Fielding on the hugely popular “Night Court” in the 1980s, then followed it up in the mid-1990s with critical darling “The John Larroquette Show,” an innovative dark comedy about a recovering alcoholic working the night shift at a St. Louis bus station. Alongside his dramatic work on “The Practice,” “The West Wing” and “Boston Legal,” that tendency to avoid the warm and fuzzy carries over into his reprise of Fielding on NBC’s “Night Court” revival, which concluded its second season this week. As Larroquette tells Screen Gab, this Dan Fielding is different both because of the actor’s age and because the character’s good heart is “hidden under a great deal of angst, pain, anger and loss”: “More cerebral,” less physical. (No surprise, perhaps, for one who counts collecting 20th-century fiction as a hobby.) Larroquette also discussed the sitcom he’d reboot next, what he’s watching and more. — Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

Wow, that’s a long list. “Severance” [Apple TV+] is a phenomenal show that Dan Erickson created with Adam Scott, John Turturro, Rick Lauer and Christopher Walken. It’s a bizarre, wonderful, strange piece of writing and acting.

While it’s hard to read because it’s pretty dark, I recommend the fourth season of “True Detective” [Max] — it’s phenomenal, with Jodie Foster.

“Silo” [Apple TV+] with Rebecca Ferguson, which was created by Graham Yost and is based on a book by Hugh Howey, is very, very good.

If anyone has not yet seen “All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS, they should. Also, “Doc Martin” [Acorn TV], a Martin Clunes series, recently concluded its 10th and final season. My wife is English, so I am an Anglophile by marriage and also by preference, considering I was a Beatles fanatic in the ’60s. They’re very comfortable shows. They’re well-written. They’re not demanding there. They don’t leave you wondering what’s going to happen next. It’s contained.

A couple of weird, off-kilter shows that I like include the original “Professor T.,” which was a Belgian series. It featured this OCD bizarre fellow but just wonderfully, wonderfully performed with great stories. “Foundation” [Apple TV+] sort of lost me at the second season a little bit, but it was very, very good. And I just watched this — it’s not a series, but “Spaceman” [Netflix] with Adam Sandler, which I thought was very good because it’s mostly just him, along with the voice of Paul Dano. It’s very intriguing.

What is your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

The first on that list would be “The Natural” [Starz] starring Robert Redford, directed by Barry Levinson. It is based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, which I happen to have a first edition of, signed by Bernard Malamud. I collect books, mostly 20th-century fiction, and in one of my buying sprees I bought “The Natural,” the novel. Although the novel is very different from the movie, I find myself, every year or so — if I’m just clicking around and “The Natural” is on, I will stop and I will rewind it and I will watch. I’ve got the DVD as well. I’m a sucker for lost causes becoming winners. Maybe it reflects my own life. But I think “The Natural” is a great metaphor for life.

In that same vein, for slightly different reasoning, it would be “The Shining” [Showtime]. I think The Shining was a phenomenal film, and it just shows you what kind of OCD fellow I am that when it first came out, I saw it 17 times in a month playing at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. I would go for matinees at least two or three times a week for a month. So “The Shining” is another movie that I go to a lot. Some older movies too, like “The Apartment” [Fubo, MGM+, Tubi, Pluto TV]. I love Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Also, while it’s changed, because I’m so old now, I know every single beat of “A Hard Day’s Night” [Max, Criterion Channel], the Beatles’ first movie. I’ll stop and watch it. The first rock concert I went to was the Beatles in New Orleans when I was 16.

We’re now coming to the end of the second season of the reboot of “Night Court,” after nine seasons of the original. What have you learned this time around about Dan as a character, and/or how to play him, that you never considered during the initial run?

The way we built Dan Fielding for this reboot, looking at his life for over 30 years of not being around and what happened to him, including what he did and what became of him, I wanted him to have found some sort of sanity and serenity in his life. So I had him married. And I had him be a widower. So we meet him for the reboot when he has sort of given up on life, or more so retreated from life. He has become a hermit. He still doesn’t like humans at all, but he is pulled back out into the world by Harry Stone’s daughter, Abby Stone [played by Melissa Rauch]. I think what we find out about him, which was hinted at in the original show — and occasionally it exposed itself — is that Dan really does have a good heart. It’s just hidden under a great deal of angst, pain, anger and loss now. With the reboot, since I’m doing this character, I can’t do physically what I could do 35 years ago. I can’t jump and twist my body in the same way and make a complete clown of myself. I’ve learned that the comedy has to be a little more cerebral, not quite as physical. I’ve learned to make him funny without all the histrionics.

What’s a classic sitcom that hasn’t been revived yet that you’d like to see someone take a fresh crack at? Why do you think it’s ripe for an update?

I certainly think an update of “Cheers” could be very viable because it’s just a perfect template for a workplace comedy. You can have all kinds of people and souls — lost, found, happy and sad — all walk and sit at the bar. I think it could be just as relevant and as funny in this world as it was in the 1980s when we would watch on Thursday nights. One of my favorite shows growing up was “My Favorite Martian,” but then I look at Syfy’s “Resident Alien” and it’s really “My Favorite Martian” with Alan Tudyk, who I think is fantastic. I love his work in it.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here