The Rhetorics of Popular Culture: Advertising, Advocacy, and Entertainment

by Robert L. Root Jr.; Greenwood Press, 1987

To further demonstrate the ways in which the ethos of a series is defined in the opening credits, consider two rather different dramatic series on CBS: Cagney and Lacey and Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

opening credits of Cagney and Lacey feature the standard montage revolving around the central characters. Bouncy music in the background underscores their constant movement, beginning with a shot of them walking down the street together, side by side, talking. The subsequent series of images divides its attention between the two women and occasionally gives them equal space on screen or parallel time. We see them talking, laughing, speaking on the phone, working with others, bustling about police headquarters. The other cast members who are introduced are also shown in the work environment, usually in both serious and relaxed poses. The attention on the title characters switches to an emphasis on the dangerous side of their profession only toward the end of the credits, when we see them running down the street, running through a subway, racing up and down stairs, pointing their service revolvers and mouthing commands, and escorting an arrest past a flasher. In the final shot Mary Beth Lacey ( Tyne Daly) in a bowling shirt and Christine Cagney ( Sharon Gless) in a fur coat are prevented from leaving their office by their lieutenant who points them in the opposite direction, and the freeze frame on their annoyed, dismayed expressions leaves us with the impression of them as overworked cops.

The opening credits establish this show as a series about the relationship between two women as co-workers and as police officers, emphasizing their friendship, their constant interaction, their roles as friends, workers, and individuals. Each episode further enlarges upon these elements, by balancing Mary Beth's professional responsibilities with her obligations to her husband and children and Chris' dedication to her career with her difficulties as a single working woman, and by continually emphasizing conflicts between the two women and between them and their work environment. The identity of the show revolves around our sense of Cagney and Lacey as friends, as working women, and police officers, in that order.

In Cagney and Lacey , as well, the pathetic appeal is mixed, between a concern for these characters' domestic lives--the problem of mixing family and career, the tension of divided loyalties, the conflicts, of working closely with another person-- and a concern for these characters' professional lives-the interest in police procedures, the excitement over the danger and adventure of detective work. The particular identity of the show as a series about working women also adds unique concerns in the dangers to the characters as women in traditionally male-oriented roles, as well as the conflicts of moral and social dilemmas.

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