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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #184: Dan Fielding

"I have stood next to death, and people liked him better."

Kicking off the second half of this yearlong exercise with yet another of the despicable rogues who populate this list. I enjoy a good sleazeball, written or acted with unctuous depravity. I'm hopeful it doesn't speak to some inner seediness in my own soul, but who doesn't have some layer of grime in our own sewers? The difference is that most of us keep it there, whereas some embrace the muck, revel in it, coat themselves in it as a sort of slippery armor, a viscous veneer that both lubricates and protects.

Dan Fielding was a narcissist of the first order, a sex-addicted send-up of the ambitious public prosecutor, with perfect hair and clothes and locution papering over a grasping jerk. And Dan, played flawlessly by the talented John Larroquette, was a jerk, though a hilarious one. His scathing insults were the most watchable part of Night Court, more entertaining than Judge Harry's juvenile antics or Bull's outsized physical comedy. His relentless pursuit and emotional dismantling of his most frequent foil, public defender Christine Sullivan was a constant source of awkward amusement and defeat for an undeterred Dan. He was a lecher, a misogynist, possessed of little compassion for the minor lawbreakers he would prosecute. And yet he wasn't completely without a kernel of humanity - though its emergence was rare, and a source of embarrassment to him.

Night Court was about the small - a tired little municipal courtroom churning the very bottom layer of the criminal justice system. This wasn't Law and Order, this was drunks and jaywalkers and other modest infractions. And in that world of small characters, Reinhold Daniel Fielding Elmore was the smallest of all.

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