Cagney & Lacey...and Me

This is not an easy review to write, as I really love the Cagney & Lacey TV series. I think it broke new ground for women's rights and in its tackling of controversial issues. I thought the stories were mostly very well done, and the acting really, really good. The interaction between the two main characters was, in my opinion, one of the strongest points of the entire series.

So I was looking forward to this book.

On the positive side, the book is very interesting and it is written in a readable style. It kept my attention from cover to cover.

Unfortunately, even though I found the book interesting, I just didn't like it. Let me go briefly into the reasons why, and please remember, these are just my opinions.

The big problem with the book, in my opinion, is that far too much of the book is spent on negative things: Barney Rosenzweig's problems with this or that group, this or that person, not getting paid enough money, legal problems, problems between the actors, and so on. This is not really what I would call a book about Cagney & Lacey; it's a book about how badly Barney Rosenzweig was treated by various people and entities in the television industry.

There is no doubt that he was treated badly on many occasions. The book managed to lower my already low estimation of the nature of the people responsible for the ultimate decisions on what shows get made and which get canceled or never made.

Therein lies the problem. To me, Cagney & Lacey was a positive series. Something to look forward to each week. Maybe they didn't solve every single crime. Maybe they argued. Maybe they had their own personal demons. Through it all, they remained friends and they got their jobs done, both professional and personal, to the absolute best of their abilities.

Something positive. Something almost magical.

The book does cover a lot of ground. It explains how shows get made, and how the concept of narrowcasting came about. It has interesting tidbits about the show, such as that, for the movie version, before it was thought of as a series, Ann-Margaret and Raquel Welch were suggested for the leads.

There's an explanation of how Loretta Swit ended up being Christine Cagney, and why Meg Foster was replaced, the reason being that the two lead actresses were considered to be too much like each other.

It's interesting to read how the TV series had to start from scratch, without scripts, minus Loretta Swit, and without Sharon Gless. It's also interesting to read how Mr. Rosenzweig wanted to emphasize the characters interacting with each other, telling stories that would have been done in long monologues by the technique of the two lead actresses interacting, using words, shrugs, etc, to get across the story in a more interesting manner.

The various cancellations of the show are covered, and the grueling work schedule of sixty hours a week is explained. The history of how the show was canceled, renewed, and left hanging is covered.

Even in this historical material, though, most of the time is spent on problems with the “gang of four”, and arguments with Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly over various issues including who would get top billing. Again, in my opinion, neither Sharon Gless nor Tyne Daly come off, overall, in a positive light in the book. Their positive aspects are discussed, of course, but the majority of print is given to problems Mr. Rosenzweig had with them during filming.

He also covers his relationship with Sharon Gless, including revealing that they were having a sexual relationship while he was still married. I'm not sure it was really necessary to include that kind of information.

Maybe it's because this book is not what I had hoped it would be that I have problems with it. I guess I was expecting something like books I've seen on other series, where they go into the history of the series, then examine the various episodes and include interesting things that happened during the making of the episode, the meaning of the episode and its importance to the series, humorous anecdotes, etc.

Instead, what I feel I read is more like a personal rant against an admittedly unfair, egotistical, heartless and selfish production industry that cares nothing about people, quality or meaning, and just is interested in how much money they can put in their personal pockets.

I also feel that the book does a disservice to Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly. Everything that I have learned about both actresses has indicated to me that they are very nice people, using “nice” in the best sense of the word possible. Yet when the book talks about the actresses, it spends most of its time painting a rather negative picture of them. It leaves bad perception of two wonderful people.

I might be quite sensitive to this issue since I once helped a friend rewrite a book he had done. The initial manuscript was very, very negative, in my view. It covered his complaints, how he had been mistreated, bad things done to him, etc. I didn't feel this was what people really wanted to read, so I ended up doing rewrite after rewrite, and eventually we developed a book that had much less negativity and even included a lot of positive things for people to read about and practice.

There's too much negativity in our lives as it is, and far too much in the mass media, and I feel that his book suffers from the same type of emphasis on the bad things and doesn't spend enough time on the good things. An interesting but disappointing book.

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