Was Meg Foster Replaced as Cagney on Cagney and Lacey Because She Made the Show Seem Like it was About a “Pair of Lesbians”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Meg Foster was replaced as Christine Cagney because she made the show seem too much like it was about a pair of lesbians.

When Cagney and Lacey first debuted, it was as a TV-movie, starring M*A*S*H’s Loretta Swit as Christine Cagney and Tyne Daly as Mary Beth Lacey.

When the TV movie led to CBS agreeing to start the show as a regular series, Daly quickly agreed and Swit wanted in, as well, seeing as her show M*A*S*H was clearly coming to a close pretty soon and Swit saw an opportunity for a new series. However, they would not let her out of her M*A*S*H contract, so they were forced to recast.

They ultimately decided upon actress Meg Foster. Here she is with Daly…

However, after a mere three episodes, CBS decided to recast the role of Cagney.

They went with Sharon Gless, who played the role for 119 episodes (and won two Emmy Awards in the process).

People get recast often, it’s not THAT big of a deal (although typically they’re not recast after three episodes have been aired), however, the REASONS behind the change are a big deal.

An anonymous CBS executive explained the reasons behind the change to TV Guide back in 1982:

[T]oo tough, too hard and not feminine. They were too harshly women’s lib. The American public doesn’t respond to the bra burners, the fighters, the women who insist on calling manhole covers ‘people-hole covers.’ These women on Cagney & Lacey seemed more intent on fighting the system than doing police work. We perceived them as dykes.

I don’t know what’s more shocking – that an executive said that, or that an executive figured it was okay to tell a reporter that was the reasoning behind the actress’ removal!

The legend is…

STATUS: Sadly True

Thanks to TV Guide for the quotes!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

2 Responses to “Was Meg Foster Replaced as Cagney on Cagney and Lacey Because She Made the Show Seem Like it was About a “Pair of Lesbians”?”

  1. Yeah, this is pretty messed up. Loved this show as a kid. Weird to hear this happened along the way!

  2. So…it’s not about a pair of lesbians?

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