L.A. Times Article, by Jay Sharbutt, 12/2/83


Score one for the viewers. "Cagney & Lacey," which drew what CBS-TV calls a "truly unprecedented" amount of save the show mail after it was canceled in May, is getting another chance in March, CBS said Thursday.

The critically acclaimed hour series, which stars Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless as two police officers, will go back into production Jan. 12 for seven new episodes, CBS said the shows will start airing "sometime in March," but no specific air date is set yet.

It's the first time CBS ever has done this for a series it has dropped, says Harvey Shephard, CBS' senior vice president for programs. The series premiered in March, 1982, succeeding "Lou Grant."

"Cagney & Lacey" then was picked up for a full season, with one key cast change: Gless replaced Meg Foster, who was Daly's original co-star. But the series got the ax last May because of low ratings.

In July, Shephard held out no hope that CBS would change its mind. He said that even though "Cagney & Lacey" was a very good series and had a loyal following, its ratings just weren't high enough to keep it alive.

But letters, the majority from female viewers, kept coming in, appealing the network's decision. The campaign was sparked by the show's never-say-die executive producer Barney Rosenzweig, who calls the series "the first with two strong female characters working together in a traditionally male arena."

The campaign scored a rare victory. The network said the show will go back on because of popular demand. The last time this happened, said a CBS spokesman, was in 1961, when ABC's "The Law and Mr. Jones" was canceled, then picked up for the next season.

During the 1 1/2 season run of "Cagney and Lacey," Shephard said Thursday, the ratings generally were "mediocre" (55th among 98 prime-time series in the Nielsen ratings in its first full season).

The ratings improved this summer when the series was in reruns, he noted, "but that was expected because it was up against baseball on ABC and movies on NBC" -much easier competition.

However, "more and more people had a chance to see the show in the summertime, and the amount of mail that came in about it was truly unprecedented," he said. He had no estimate of how many save-the-show epistles arrived, but he described the mail as "an avalanche."

CBS thought the series "deserved one more chance after the outpouring of mail," Shephard said. The network concluded that Rosenzweig's letter-writing campaign might give the show an edge, "turn it into a strong performer" if new episodes were aired.

When CBS informed Rosenzweig of its change of heart, the producer said Thursday, "there was 4 1/2 minutes of major excitement here. Then we realized, geez, we gotta do something now." He said the support of critics and fans really did the trick.

"I tell you, it (the revival of the series) comes directly from the public and the press," said the producer, adding that CBS ordered new "Cagney & Lacey" episodes about 10 weeks ago.

"The called and in essence said, 'We made a mistake, could you do it again?' he said. "There's no question that the letter-writing campaign worked."

And so, "Cagney & Lacey" is getting a seven-show second chance in March. But it's not out of the woods yet, CBS' Shephard cautioned. If it doesn't work this time, he said, CBS will have to say, "That's it."

***This article was sent to me by Scott. Thanks, Scott!

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