Episode 121: “Directing 80s Television w/ Cagney & Lacey's Karen Arthur”

What was it like to break into directing in the 1970s and '80s? Let's find out! Sharon and Susan are honored to talk with Emmy-winning director Karen Arthur. Karen started out as an actress on such shows as “Get Smart”, “The Streets of San Francisco”, “Mannix”, “That Girl” and “The Monkees”.
Read Transcript

The Conversation

  • How drinking wine in summer stock with her friend Michael led to “Remington Steele” creator Michael Gleason going to bat for Karen to get her first TV directing job: “Rich Man, Poor Man Book II”.
  • Almost getting kicked off the lot for parking in the “Director” spot – and then telling the Security Guard: “I AM the director!”
  • Fun and heartache on “Hart to Hart” with the great Stefanie Powers.
  • Meeting and falling in love on “Cagney & Lacey” with her husband of 39 years -- director of photography Thomas Neuwirth.
  • Winning the Emmy and how it changed everything for Karen – and the women directors to follow.
  • DOWN IN FRONT: How sitting in the front row when the bosses are watching your work is the best director trick she’s learned -- and why…
  • Working with Lee Grant and Carol Kane on The Mafu Cage and learning to give actors – and herself – “room to fail”.
  • The choreography of directing and creating intricate shots.
  • Choosing her projects carefully -- and getting the nickname “Karen No”.
  • Filming “The Rape of Richard Beck” with Richard Crenna -- and the message he showed the crew written on his own butt!

So join Susan and Sharon – and Karen – as they talk about bumping into Tyne Daly on Broadway, getting checks from Paul Newman and swallowing fire with Pierce Brosnan!

PLUS – 80’S TV LADIES TRIBUTE salutes the recent passing of some legendary TV and film ladies…

AND -- listener feedback from our fans!

Our Audio-ography

Defining Women: Television and the Case of Cagney & Lacey by Julie D'Acci. Get it at Bookshop

Primetime Feminism: Television, Media Culture and the Women’s Movement Since 1970 by Bonnie J. Dow. Get it at Penn Press or Amazon.

Part of Weirding Way Media with Mike White & Chris Stachiw

Help us make more episodes and get ad-free episodes and exclusive content on PATREON.


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.



80s TV Ladies™ Episode 121 – “Cagney & Lacey with Director Karen Arthur”. Produced by 134 West and Susan Lambert Hatem. Hosted by Susan Lambert Hatem and Sharon Johnson. Guest: Karen Arthur. Sound Engineer and Editor: Kevin Ducey. Producer: Melissa Roth. Associate Producer: Sergio Perez. Music by Amy Engelhardt. Copyright 2023 134 West, LLC and Susan Lambert. All Rights Reserved.