After coasting through the first three weeks of the 1991-92 season in first place, CBS got a double dose of harsh reality on Oct. 11: the sudden death of The Royal Family‘s Redd Foxx and the unexpected departure of Julie Hagerty from Princesses. The one-two punch has left the shows’ producers scrambling to save their series and CBS deeply worried about the two new comedies.
The predicament facing Family is how Eddie Murphy Productions, which makes the series, can replace a star who was integral to the show. (In an interview just hours before Foxx’s death, CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky credited Foxx with helping make Family ”our best shot at a Wednesday at 8 p.m. hit in 22 years.”) After Murphy executive Mark McClafferty announced that Foxx ”would have wanted the show to continue,” speculation about a replacement focused on Sherman Hemsley. But word is that neither the network nor Hemsley — who already has a CBS series deal — liked the idea. Instead, one of the front-runners may be John Amos (Good Times), who has worked with Eddie Murphy before, appearing in Murphy’s unsold pilot Clippers. ”I can’t tell you that it’s happening,” says a spokesman for Amos, ”but it’s not impossible.” In any event, production will cease until a replacement is found. Until then, CBS will broadcast Foxx’s remaining four episodes, beginning Oct. 30.
As for Princesses, neither Julie Hagerty nor executive producer Barry Kemp will talk about what went wrong. But observers say Hagerty disliked playing straight woman to costars Fran Drescher and Twiggy Lawson and was stung by reviews that singled her out for criticism. The show’s producers admit they misconceived Hagerty’s role and will stop production to look for an actress to play a more experienced, cynical ”princess.” ”Nobody is too thrilled with the way the show is working out,” says one observer. ”Julie’s character became the simplest one to blame.”