Dey Calls It a Day

updated 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

GRANTED, IT WAS A GAMBLE. CASTING Susan Dey as wry pub owner Wally Porter in CBS's first-year sitcom Love & War—the same Susan Dey who as earnest attorney Grace Van Owen was laughless perfection for six seasons on NBC's L.A. Law—raised many a skeptical brow. Still, executive producer Diane English had done it before, wringing humor from a cool blond beauty. If she could turn Candice Bergen into Murphy Brown, who knew what she could do with Dey?

The verdict, it seems: not enough. Nearing the end of a season marked by solid ratings but mixed reviews, Dey, 40, announced on April 7 that she will not be back next season. The official reason is "creative differences." But few Love insiders believe the parting was, as English and Dey's joint statement suggested, entirely "amicable."

English, say some, had a problem with Dey's portrayal of Wally: It wasn't consistenly funny. "Every-one was tiptoeing around Susan, trying to make her feel like she was doing a good job," says one. Initially, Dey was reportedly unnerved at the way she looked, in the series' early episodes, as life-weary Wally. "She'd get very unhappy when she saw the dailies," says one on-set observer. The right eye shadow—and the deft hand of a new makeup man, Jeff Angell—solved the appearance issue. But for Dey, the real problem was more than cosmetic. "Diane and Susan did not agree on the direction of the character, and it made them both unhappy," says Dey's costar Jay Thomas, who plays newspaper columnist Jack Stein, Wally's lover. Adds Angell: "Susan wanted Wally to laugh more and have a good time rather than being so serious."

At least one crew member quietly wished that English, who based Love's story line on her own romance with husband and executive producer Joel Shukovsky, had listened more to Dey. "We would do a whole episode about who would pick up the check at dinner," the source says. "Those things were important to Diane. But do we care?"

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