'Night Court' Creator Reinhold Weege Dies at 62

Reinhold Wegge Headshot - P 2012

Reinhold Wegge Headshot - P 2012

The Chicago native also wrote for “Barney Miller” and “M*A*S*H” and received four Emmy nominations.

Reinhold Weege, creator of the daffy 1980s sitcom Night Court, which ran for nine seasons on NBC and earned seven Emmy Awards and 31 nominations but never the big comedy prize, has died. He was 62.

Weege, who before Night Court wrote and produced for ABC’s Barney Miller -- another lovable Manhattan-set sitcom set in the world of the law -- died Dec. 1 of natural causes in La Jolla, Calif., a family spokeswoman told The Hollywood Reporter.

Night Court, which starred the youthful Harry Anderson as night-shift judge and Mel Torme fan Harry Stone and John Larroquette as lecherous assistant district attorney Dan Fielding, began as a midseason replacement and ran from 1984-92. It was a top 10 show in 1986-87 and 1987-88.

Night Court anchored an early "Must See TV” Thursday comedy lineup for NBC, which opened with The Cosby Show, followed by Family Ties and Cheers.  

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With Weege receiving a writing credit on 105 of the comedy’s 193 episodes, Night Court received best comedy series Emmy nominations in 1985, 1987 and 1988 -- losing out to Cosby, The Golden Girls and The Wonder Years, respectively. Weege captured his first Emmy nom in 1979 when Barney Miller was up for best comedy series but lost to Taxi.

Larroquette collected a then-unprecedented four consecutive Emmys for best supporting comedy actor for playing Fielding before withdrawing his name from consideration in 1989. (In an inside joke during the third season, it was revealed that his character’s real first name was Reinhold, but he changed it to Dan out of embarrassment.)

Tweeted Larroquette on Friday: “In life there are those who impact us with such force everything changes. Reinhold Weege was that in mine. May he truly rest in peace.”

Night Court often walked the line between lunacy and reality, and its edginess pushed the envelope of network television at the time. Needing a break from the intense demands of a weekly sitcom, "Reiny" retired from the show after six seasons. He also received four WGA nominations and a Humanitas Award nom for his work.

A native of Chicago, Weege also wrote for the TV adaptations of M*A*S*H and Semi-Tough as well as for Fish, the Barney Miller spinoff that starred Abe Vigoda. He created the short-lived sitcom Park Place, which was set in a legal aid clinic and starred Harold Gould and Alice Drummond, and wrote and directed TV's Nikki and Alexander, with Tim Matheson and Irena Ferris.

In 1968, his senior year at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, Ill., Weege played Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons opposite future Babylon 5 star Bruce Boxleitner as Sir Thomas More. Shelley Pierce, his high school girlfriend whom he later married, portrayed Lady More. The play won the Illinois state drama competition.

In a story he told to the Chicago Tribune, Weege embarked on a career in Hollywood in 1976 after he was fired from his job as a reporter for a suburban newspaper. He wrote about a “secret meeting, which should have been public” concerning a development project in Schaumburg, Ill., that angered advertisers of the paper.

His big break came when he was hired as a staff writer for Barney Miller. After three years, Weege left the show to strike out on his own with Night Court.

In addition to his ex-wife Shelley, survivors include his daughters Tez and Alix and granddaughter Zoe.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Dec. 16 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in the Hollywood Hills. For more information, contact Bonnie Covelli at weege12.16.12@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations can may be made to the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute.

E-mail: Mike.Barnes@THR.com

Twitter: @mikebarnes4