Sirota's Court (partially found courthouse sitcom; 1976-1977)
Sirota's Court is a courtroom sitcom that aired from December 6th, 1976 to April 13th, 1977 on NBC. The show was produced by Peter Engel Productions and Universal Television and is notable for including the first same-sex marriage on television in the episode Court Fear, as well as setting the stage for Night Court, another courtroom comedy that came seven years after the show's broadcasting period which shared a similar plot, and spanned 193 episodes through nine seasons in eight years. The show was nominated for both a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy) as well as an Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction or Scenic Design for a Comedy Series.
The show brings to life Matthew J. Sirota (Michael Constantine), who is a night court judge who works with the Court Clerk (Cynthia Harris) of whom he has a romantic interest in, the Public Defender (Kathleen Miller), the Private Attorney (Ted Ross), the Assistant District Attorney (Fred Willard), and the Marshal (Owen Bush). Together, from attempting to escape becoming one of the "10 Worst Judges in America" to dealing with dentists on laughing gas during election night, they all go through crazy antics at the workplace in each episode, contrary to prior courtroom comedies that mostly focused on their character's personal lives.
Decline & AvailabilityWhile starting off with positive reviews, Sirota's Court was unfortunately caught in a "death slot" on NBC, airing after All in the Family as well as before Alice. On top of that, the series landed in controversy after the episode Court Fear, as many people at the time did not find same-sex marriage to be acceptable, and thus began to boycott the show. As stated by producer Peter Engel:
"(Sirota's Court) never got cancelled, (it) just sort of faded away."
The only portions of the show that have surfaced online are the opening credits and a clip shown on The Tonight Show to promote the debut of the series. The episode Court Fear is preserved physically at both the Paley Center for Media as well as the Cornell University Library, which also contains the scripts of three episodes.
- Book page describing the plot of the episode. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- Post from the Paley Centre with a still from the episode. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- Book detailing how Sirota's Court lead to the success of Night Court. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- The Golden Globes page for Michael Constantine's nomination. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- The Emmy's page detailing the award for Mary Ann Biddle and Seymour Klate. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- A newspaper containing an article about the show's plot as well as the plot of a singular episode. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- A webpage detailing the plots of each of the released episodes. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- An article from the Baptist Press condemning the show for having "low moral quality" after Court Fear. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- Peter Engel being interviewed on his book, Saved by the Bell. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- The Paley Center listing for Court Fear. Retrieved 17 Aug '19
- The Cornell University Library's Gay Media Task Force Records, containing Court Fear and other episode scripts. Retrieved 17 Aug '19