Cagney and Lacey
Butch & Sundance in Skirts
Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney
Tyne Daly as Mary Beth Lacey
March 1982- April 1982
October 1982- September 1983
March 1984- August 1988
Cagney & Lacey debuted in the spring of 1982, replacing the
out-of-steam Lou Grant on the schedule and running for six episodes.
Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey had been introduced in an
October 1981 made-for-TV movie in which they were a pair of uniformed
officers who were promoted to detective as a reward for busting a major
case. Tyne Daly was Lacey (as she would be forever more) and Loretta
Swit played Cagney. The movie did stellar in the ratings.
Why this series? Why then? An ongoing television crime drama in
which two women were the central characters was a pretty far-out concept
in 1982, but those stellar ratings overcame a lot of network prejudice.
Meg Foster took over as Cagney for those first six shows (Swit was
committed to M*A*S*H) but she was deemed too "tough" in the role by the
powers that be.
Sharon Gless came on board for the first full season, which
began on October 25, 1982, and thus began the "real" Cagney & Lacey. Now
all of the familiar faces were now in place: Lt. Samuels, detectives
Isbecki and Petrie, Harvey and the Lacey sons. Christine's alcoholic
father, ex-cop Charlie Cagney, was introduced mid-season and her first
major beau, Sgt. Dory McKenna (Barry Primus), shortly thereafter. And it
was clear that this was not your typical cop show. Solving crimes was
part of the equation, of course, but the real emphasis was on exploring
the working and personal lives of the two women--one single, one
married, one born to wealth, one eminently blue collar-who were friends.
From the start, stories touched on a wide range of social issues:
abortion, abuse, rape, alcoholism and ethical questions about what the
characters did and how they did it. But what enthralled the audience
were the successes and failures, hopes and dreams of Cagney & Lacey
themselves. Unlike the fans of other long-running shows, C&L fans
remember not so much specific episodes, but rather events and moments,
subplots and ongoing storylines. Christine's beaus and frustrations,
Mary Beth's family problems and struggles with her conscience were
always more fascinating than whodunnit.
Not nearly enough people were watching, however. CBS bailed out as the
first full season ended, precipitating a massive letter-writing campaign
which resulted in the show's return for seven episodes in March 1984. It
was an abbreviated season, but an significant one. We learned about
Christine's proficiency at poker and saw Mary Beth shot and
hospitalized. And the season-ender subplot had to do with unmarried
Christine's possible pregnancy, pushing the envelope even further.
1984-85 marked the beginning of a four-year full-season run. McKenna
returned, recovered from his cocaine addiction, to woo Christine again.
Mary Beth was taken hostage, creating a new level of concern in her
family that led son Harvey to run away a few episodes later. Christine
sued a commanding officer for sexual harassment and Mary Beth discovered
a lump in her breast and had to undergo an operation.
The following year, Mary Beth was pregnant and the show took on
the controversial abortion issue in a story about the bombing of an
abortion clinic. When Mary Beth went on maternity leave, Christine had
to work with other partners, including a much too gung-ho officer who
shockingly took things into her own hands when a suspected rapist
appeared likely to get away. Charlie Cagney's alcoholism became a
serious health problem and Christine's own heavy drinking was first
addressed. Alice Lacey was born and Mary Beth's long-lost father
(Richard Bradford) showed up to see his granddaughter.
1986-87's major moment came at the very end, in a two-part
episode in which Charlie Cagney died and Mary Beth was forced to
confront a distraught Christine about her drinking, eventually dragging
her to AA. High spots along the way: the Laceys were burglarized,
Christine was shot and Mary Beth was arrested for her part in a protest
against nuclear weapons.
In the final season, Christine was a victim of date rape in a
shattering episode, and Harvey Jr. enlisted in the Marines and was later
missing for a while during maneuvers in another highly emotional
episode. One of Alice's classmates had AIDS, creating another moral
crisis for Mary Beth. Finally, in a two-parter which ended the series,
the women were promoted to the Major Case Squad.
There have been four Cagney & Lacey TV movies in recent years
and, unlike the traditional "reunion" movies, which just goes through
the paces, each has extended and expanded the story.
"The Return" (1994), is set six years after the final show,
Christine is married and working as an investigator for the DA. Mary
Beth has retired, but Harvey's heart attack sends her back to work.
"Together Again" (1995) shows the strain on the Lacey marriage as a
result of Harvey's health problems (he won't diet and she takes up
smoking) and Christine taking a drink when she finds her husband is
In "The View Through the Glass Ceiling" (1995) a newly divorced
Christine is driven by her ambition to take actions that Mary Beth
cannot abide, threatening their friendship and Mary Beth finally
reconciles with her father. Finally (so far), "True Convictions" (1996)
has Christine getting involved with a married murder suspect and "Baby
Alice" grown up enough to take a knife to school.
Cagney & Lacey was a great critical success, winning several
Emmys and thoroughly dominating the Best Actress category (Daly won four
times and Gless won the two times she didn't). The show that seemed
such a gamble back in 1982 really paid off. Big time.
Other Characters and Actors:
John Karlen as Harvey Lacey;
Dick O'Neill as Charlie Cagney;
Al Waxman as Lt. Bert Samuels;
Carl Lumbly as Marcus Petrie;
Martin Kove as Victor Isbecki;
Tony La Torre, Troy Slaten, Dana & Paige Bardolph and
Michelle Sepe as Harvey Jr., Michael and Alice Lacey