'Cagney & Lacey' (2007)
'Back On The Beat!'
'Cagney & Lacey' aired on CBS for seven seasons from 1982 to 1988. The series, starring Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly as NYPD detectives, teamed up two women as members of the police force who led very different lives. Christine Cagney (played by Gless) was a single career-minded woman, while Mary Beth Lacey (played by Daly) was a married working mother.
Interestingly enough, Loretta Swit played the role of Christine Cagney in the original television movie, but she was forced to decline the role in the series when the producers of M*A*S*H refused to let her out of her contract. When the series first aired as a midseason replacement in the spring of 1982, Meg Foster played the role of Cagney, but she was replaced by Gless in the fall.
However, in 1983 the series was canceled by CBS, but was subsequently brought back to the network's schedule after fans of the show organized a major letter-writing campaign. TV Guide celebrated the show's return with the cover reading "Welcome Back." The show went on to earn 36 Emmy nominations and 14 wins during its run, including six nominations for stars Daly and Gless: four wins for Daly and two for Gless.
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the series, this past May 8th, 2007, MGM Home Video released (in the US) Season 1 of 'Cagney & Lacey' on DVD (here in the US) for the first time.
With 'Cagney & Lacey' hitting the ground running in 1987, what made it such an instant hit; regardless of the fact that even after cancellation in 1983 it still managed to enter its 7th season in 1988? Tyne Daly - "I think it was kind of unusual. There hadn't been a show that had two heroes that were women at the center of the stories. There'd been a lot of women just satellite around men up until that point."
"I felt that in my career, which was a freelance career up until then; that this was the first series that offered something that I had never done before. All the other opportunities that I'd had up until then on television I was either decoration or the victim ... and I wasn't very good at the decoration so I played lots, and lots of victims! So to be hero, to be a person who took care of their own life as well as she could was a great opportunity ... and then we found out it was very appealing."
And having had some massive CPR to keep it alive in '83, was it really down to thousands of letters sent by the public to bring it back to life for those remaining few seasons? Sharon Gless - "Yes, that's exactly what happened. It was the first, and last time in the history of television that the American audience brought back a show after it was cancelled. Months after it was cancelled ... which was very sweet for us," she laughs.
TD - "I think when you say that it hit the ground running that it was still always a more popular show in Britain than it was in the United States. There was a certain cache with us; we were prize winners with the Network, but we still had pretty good numbers here."
Barney Rosenzweig, Executive Producer - "Initially when I got back from New York; when the show had been cancelled I came to my office and found a couple of dozen letters from people who had written to me about the show. And this fan mail was unusual in that it was type written or that it was on very, very good stationary. It was not the usual kind of stuff I got from fans - the ones complaining about something or written in Crayola," he laughs.
"And the thing was that the people who had written these letters did not yet know that the show had been cancelled. They were simply commenting about how much they liked it and how the show had affected them in some way. So I wrote all of those people back individually and by the time I'd gotten those letters out a man arrived from CBS with a box full of more letters! I took out a few of these letters at random and they were the same kind of letters that I had received, but these people knew of the cancellation and they were angry. And they were complaining about the cancellation."
"So, I then collected all the mail together from Tyne and Sharon and then I wrote all these people a form letter and made them aware that it was my perception that if they still cared about the show that if they wrote to their local newspaper - and the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times - that under the theory Network Executives may not read their mail but they do read their newspapers, something might happen."
"Then, in about five weeks both the NY Times and the LA Times; in the same week wrote articles about the avalanche of mail they had received. In fact, JJ O'Connor of the NY Times, wrote that 'This is clearly orchestrated by Executive Producer Barney Rosenzweig'! But, it didn't matter. This was authentic, grass roots stuff where these people had to write at least two letters. And, as a result of that the show began to get a lot of publicity. And at the same time the US networks had gone into re-runs. So, all those big mini-series' that had knocked 'C&L' off the ratings chart were suddenly re-runs. So, they turned to us to watch us and the show climbed that summer to #1 in the ratings and stayed there for most of the summer. The public were just clamoring for this CBS-cancelled cops show which was now #1."
"So, September 19th at 4.10 in the afternoon I got a phone call from CBS saying, 'We've made a mistake! Can you put this back together?' Well, I gotta tell you that's a rare moment in a Producer's life! Well, of course, the sets had been struck and the contracts were no longer in existence between the players. So, they were in a unique bargaining position. And, it was the first time in the history of American television that it had ever happened ... and I'm sure it's the last time it will ever happen again."
SG - "Linda LaPlante told me that she wrote 'Prime Suspect' as an homage to 'C&L.' And what was nice for us was when Helen Mirren won her first Emmy in the US; when they brought it to PBS here, the first person in her acceptance speech she thanked was Cagney and Lacey."
BR - "And Simon Moore, who is also British and a wonderful writer and director and who created the show 'Traffic,' said that his show that he did called 'Outside In' was also an homage to 'Cagney and Lacey'."
With this new Season 1 DVD actually starting at Ep #7 -which was actually the 1st Ep of Season 2 - are you not likely to confuse true fans of the series?! SG - "No, from what I understand a lot of people didn't know about 'C&L' before Tyne and I teamed up. So, when all the controversy happened and it became successful it was obvious it had to go back to what we now call [episode] number one. And the success of the show didn't happen because of me. But when Tyne and I teamed together the audience embraced it. So, that's how they have now packaged season one. But I think they'll be bringing out Meg's and Loretta's versions; the lost versions sometime soon also."
BR - "The decision to put out these 22 episodes as opposed to the others was basically mine. And, why that is is as follows: I wanted to see the entire series come out, from the first pilot with Loretta Swit to the 125th episode. All in one big box. I thought after 25 years the fans had waited long enough and it was time to do that."
"The problem is that the show is now controlled by what I call 'Itinerate Managers.' Young people who have never seen the show, never had anything to do with the show and only own the warehouse that has a lot of boxes in it, that have a lot of numbers on them. And so to go to them in the first place and tell them that they controlled the show was news to them! Secondarily, they said that there was no way that they would spend all that money on copying all that material. So, they would have to see - like they did with all their other 'vintage' shows - if there was an audience out there. And then if the audience would support it, before they'd put out another 22 episodes."
"But, I just tried telling them that it wasn't 'vintage' television it was 'iconic' television. A fact that no other television show could claim after 25 years - two actors who are still around, who are still working, who have not stopped working since the show went off the air, and who were still stars. I mean, the whole cast of 'Hill Street Blues' could walk through a Wal-Mart and not be recognized! But, if Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly did the same thing that they would attract crowds wherever they'd go."
"So, when I sold them on that, they just said they'd release episodes 1 through 15, which included other actors playing Cagney. So, I said no, no, no! The world knows 'C&L' as Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly. If you're only going to release 22 shows then it must be those 22 show with those two women."
"I subscribe to what Oscar Hammerstein said when he wrote, 'Nothing comes from nothing.' And so I acknowledge Meg and Loretta completely, but that's not who the world knows as Cagney and Lacey. It is Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly in those two roles. And those are the only two that the people care about, which is why it had to be that way."
"I take full responsibility for it. It was my decision and I had to fight to get it, because they just wanted to do it by the numbers. I mean, if they were to have their way why not put out the Menopause Years movies? Why not put them all out!?", both he and the ladies now all jointly laugh.
TD - "We had made a very successful movie-of-the-week and Loretta Swit was a great big star; being in MASH, and the Network owed her a movie. Well, that movie made incredible numbers so the Network said 'Where's our series?' Well, Loretta wasn't available, I was not under contract and so we had to search for a new Cagney ... and we found Meg Foster. We then made six with Meg, but only three in total were ever shown on American television. Then came the demand from the Network that the role of Cagney be recast. But when it was recast it was done so with an actress that the producers had always envisioned as Cagney ... and that's Sharon Margaete Gless who's sitting next to me now."
"And that show's chemical combination worked the best and after we got through a couple more rollercoaster rides," she laughs "we were in place to do the kind of work that Barney and the creators of the piece felt, understood, instinctively knew would be invaluable."
Tyne – You once said in an interview that 'Mary Beth was an orphan kid still looking to ‘hide out’ on the streets, but that when Christine wore her red cape onto the street she wanted to die'! Do you remember saying that or is that just Internet gibberish?! TD - "Wow, I have to say I have no memory of having said that ... but I do remember the red cape and I do remember - as Mary Beth Lacey - she was very annoyed with her partner wearing something so flamboyant on the streets, so as to make us these targets," both she and Sharon laugh. "But, the 'kid from the streets' does not have anything to do with the interior novel that I wrote about Mary Beth Lacey. So that's someone being Internet inventive."
Just what was it about a fundamentally woman's buddy / everyday issues series that attracted so many male viewers also? TD - "Well, we had some very wonderful men in our supporting cast - Mary Beth's husband; which was a marriage dynamic that was very interesting, we also had all the men in the squad room who were each very distinct, and we had our boss, who struggled with the idea of women in his squad room. I always objected to the idea that it was a feminist show, that it was a show only for women. I think that cut out a large hunk of the audience. I think it's important for men to listen to women's stories as I think it's important for women to listen to men's stories."
"In fact, when we were first sold to Lifetime, which is where they sold us as re-runs instead of running on our network, it was called 'Television For Women' - which I thought was a get-out!"
BR - "I just want to say that I don't think there's a man alive that doesn't at some point want to be invisible and hide out in the ladies room. And 'C&L' gave them that opportunity every week!"
Sharon – With Barney about to be releasing his new C&L book entitled 'Cagney & Lacey ... and Me', and being that you are married to him, have you read any of it thus far? SG - "No, I have not," she replies adamantly. "And I choose not to read it because I'm married to him and I'm hoping to keep it that way!"
Barney, is it true that you have said that you feel you 'may have punched a little too hard when unleashing' your 'feelings' in the first draft of this new book?! BR - "There was a book that went out that was a little too premature, because I was trying to reach all the television critics in January. But then I got the opportunity, as it was unproofed to improve the book and go over it again. I have said in the book that I did not set out to write one of those books that nobody in Hollywood wanted to be in. And I realized that more than occasionally when you're handed a knife it's tempting not to use it. So, I was a little crueler than I meant to be, that's all!"
It's actually quite funny Sharon brings up being married to you Barney, as both the ladies have married men connected to directing elements of C&L! So, just what was in the water at that time for you two?! SG - "Yes, Georg [Stanford Brown] did direct us, didn't he," she turns to ask Tyne. "How many did he direct?"
TD - "Oh, I don't know ... maybe four or five. He won an Emmy for it also."
And are you all still happily married? TD - "Ahh, no, Georg and I are divorced!"
Ooops, sorry about that! TD - "Oh no, it's OK ... it's been long enough so that I've gotten over the more immediate fury of that! So, I'm the mother of adults only now. And the child that we had while I was doing 'C&L' is now 21 years of age and about to graduate college in a couple of weeks!"
Sharon – In conclusion, please tell us more about your upcoming role, as all I know of it is that you are playing a chain-smoking hypochondriac in a new show called ‘Burn Notice’! SG - "Well, that's not just all ... it's my new series. It's on USA on June 28th and it'll be great!" she laughs.
Tyne - And what do you have upcoming we can watch out for? TD - "Well, let me just say that last year I moved back to New York City where I've been trying to live for the past forty years - because I had a little trouble with Los Angeles. And so I did a play here at the Manhattan Theatre Club which won a Pulitzer Prize; and for which I was nominated for a Tony. And, my very next project is a two-year long Shaw project, where their intentions are to read all of Mr. Shaw’s works in the next two years. And so come July I'll be reading for them in 'The Millionairess'."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win a SIGNED copy of the brand new 'Cagney & Lacey' Season One DVD box-set, just answer this easy question: The first season main titles are accompanied by the theme song "Ain't That the Way" by Michael Stull, and show Cagney and Lacey being promoted to plainclothes detectives and later disguised as prostitutes. From Season 2 the instrumental theme tune is composed by Bill Conti, and among the incidents depicted in the main titles is Lacey dragging Cagney from a shop window. So, who actually sang "Ain't That the Way" written by Michael Stull?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful SIGNED copy of the brand new 'Cagney & Lacy' Season One DVD box-sets. Just send us an e:mail here with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: CAGNEY AND LACEY SIGNED DVD to:
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