Vogue August, 1984
The camera pulls back from a blond making a phone call and takes in two toughs in shoulder holsters shaking a scruffy kid, a huge black guy with a Mohawk stomping by, clerks clutching papers bustling past bag ladies and sinewy prostitutes. Hey-I've been here before! It's...the Station House! And there are those crude, slang-slinging cops-you know, the ones with the hearts of gold. They're worrying about the city, just like always. Except there's something a little different this time. Oh, I get it. Instead of being fat or bald or in a wheelchair or the roommate of a cockatoo, these cops are girls. What will they think of next?
Cagney & Lacey stars Sharon Gless as slim, blond Chris Cagney, the one in the nice sweaters, and Tyne Daly as dumpy little Mary Beth Lacey, the Irish yente with the flat-footed waddle and endlessly nagging voice. Lacey is always trying to adopt abandoned babies; she's a homey kind of gal, with a husband names Harvey keeping the lasagna warm back in Queens. Cagney, on the other hand, is a tough, independent soul who dates classy playwrights in white scarves. What a wacky pair!
The two detectives roam New York City saying, "Aaahhh, kiss off!" and "Button it, will ya?" as they fight crime. But the crime they fight is not ordinary crime. It's socially significant crime. Specially, it's crime relating to women. New York seems to be crawling with creeps growling, "Say, dere's some a 'dem women's libbers. Let's git 'em." There's a rapist who preys on women who use birth control pills; a ruthless baby-buying gang; suburban wives shtupping male strippers and winding up dead for their efforts. And for each crime, Cagney and Lacey have related personal crises, one per detective, like matching handbags. On one show Lacey is so upset by the indignity of pornography that she rolls poor, horny Harv over to his side of the bed. These women really feel things.
"I go home at night," Lacey tells Cagney on a noisy street, "and I think, well, at least we took a little inch a' crud off the city." She's like New York's mother-law come for a visit, her sponge and rubber gloves in her valise. Just look at this place! It's a pig sty! And sometimes when Lacey looks at the morally filthy streets, she begins to sob. They shoot straight, and they're nurturing too. These little ladies can do it all. Cagney and Lacey, ace detectives bucking the prejudices of male cops are really just TV's up-dated packaging for that old feminist anathema, the "woman's picture."
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