It's welcome news that the second season of Night Court will finally arrive on DVD (please, let them at least get as far as bringing out the third season with the Hurricane episodes). But that's the season where there's the most fan controversy over this show's many, many casting issues.
There was no real controversy about the first season, because everybody knew that two characters just didn't work: Lana (Karen Austin) and Liz (Paula Kelly, a great performer who had nothing to do here). Austin was actually dropped before the first season was even over, and they tried out a number of people in her place, including D.D. Howard, a tall blonde who appeared on almost every NBC show of the era -- I guess Brandon Tartikoff was looking for a place to put her.
So, needing to fill two slots for season 2, the producers found one by drawing from NBC's reject pile: Charles Robinson had been a regular on Buffalo Bill, and moved very successfully to Night Court. But they needed a female lead, and their choice was Shelley Hack, aka "the only Charlie's Angel worse than Tanya Roberts." But Hack did not work out -- who'd have thought adding Shelley Hack wouldn't work out for a show? -- and showrunner/writer Reinhold Weege borrowed Markie Post from The Fall Guy for the episode. But he couldn't use Post on a regular basis, because she was still a regular on The Fall Guy. So in the next episode, the show introduced its new full-time leading lady, singer/actress Ellen Foley. Foley was on the show for the rest of the season, but when the next season began, she was dropped and replaced by Markie Post, who had gotten out of her contract with Fall Guy. Scuttlebutt at the time was that when Post became available, the producers simply fired Foley, who didn't object because she thought she could do better with a singing career; a newspaper report from the time said that Foley "is departing partly because she wants to pursue a singing career and partly because the producers didn't think she was sexy enough."
As a kid watching the reruns, I actually liked Foley better than Post, because Foley's character seemed pleasantly spunky by comparison. (Post was hotter, but I wasn't really watching the show for that.) But now when I watch the second season episodes, it seems like the writers never came up with a funny persona for her; that was the same season where Dan developed into a pervert and Bull developed into an idiot savant, but Foley's character never really got funny. When they added Markie Post they were able to make a joke out of her character's innocence and prudishness, so she was funny, while Foley really wasn't. I don't know if that can be blamed on the actor, really, but it does seem like they couldn't write for her. (And while mostly the Token Hot Chick on action shows, Post had already done well in an episode of Cheers as Diane's trampy friend.)
Then you have the dead bailiff curse. My preference among Night Court bailiffs would be: 1) Selma Diamond; 2) Marsha Warfield; 3) Florence Halop. Diamond was by far the best; Halop's character was too clearly a carbon copy of Selma, though the resemblance finally turned tragic rather than funny.
Which means my ideal Night Court cast would be: Harry, Dan, Christine, Mac, Bull, Selma. There's only one episode that actually has this "ideal" cast and it's that one episode Post guest-starred in in the second season.