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Q: I was just watching reruns of "Night Court" and I was wondering, why did they switch bailiffs so often?

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Author: 
Adam Thomlison / TV Media

The revolving door of female bailiffs in "Night Court" is one of the few sad details of that otherwise whimsical show.

Longtime TV writer and actress Selma Diamond originated the role, playing it as a smoking, gravel-voiced and world-weary cynic, also named Selma. But she died of lung cancer after the second season.

They brought in Florence Halop, who filled the role as a similarly cynical senior citizen. Sadly, she also died, also of lung cancer, after just one season.

Once the sting had died a little for fans and producers of the show, it came to be known among both groups as the bailiff's curse.

Marsha Warfield stepped in to the role next, and cut a very different figure: she was a young black woman who, rather than being a sarcastic joke-cracker, played it as a stone-faced hard case (she kept the world weariness). She stayed in the role until the end of the show in 1992.

In an interview with People magazine partway through her run, Warfield joked about being the one to break the curse. "There's no way to say this without sounding callous, but if the two women before me had been 33-year-old black women, I would have been really nervous about taking the part."

 

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