Cagney & Lacey entry in The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946-present, 1992 fifth edition

Police Drama. First telecast: March 25, 1982. Last telecast: August 25, 1988.

Broadcast history:

  • Mar 1982-Apr 1982, CBS Thu 9:00-10:00
  • Oct. 1982-Sep 1983, CBS Mon 10:00-11:00
  • Mar 1984-Dec.1987, CBS Mon 10:00-11:00
  • Jan. 1988-Apr. 1988, CBS Tue 10:00-11:00
  • Apr.1988-Jun.1988, CBS Mon 10:00-11:00
  • Jun.1988-Aug.1988,CBS Thu 10:00-11:00


  • Det. Mary Beth Lacey....Tyne Daly
  • Det. Chris Cagney (1982)...Meg Foster
  • Det. Chris Cagney (1982-1988)...Sharon Gless
  • Lt. Bert Samuels....Al Waxman
  • Det. Mark Petrie...Carl Lumbly
  • Det. Victor Isbecki...Martin Kove
  • Det. Paul La Guardia (1982-1985)...Sidney Clute
  • Deputy Inspector Marquette (1982-1983)...Jason Bernard
  • Desk Sergeant Ronald Coleman...Harvey Atkin
  • Harvey Lacey...John Karlen
  • Harvey Lacey, Jr....Tony La Torre
  • Sgt. Dory McKenna (1984-1985).....Barry Primus
  • Insp. Knelman (1984-1988).....Michael Fairman
  • Det, Jonah Newman(1985-1986)....Dan Shor
  • David Keeler (1985-1988)......Stephen Macht
  • Alice Lacey (1985-1987).....Dana& Paige Bardolph
  • Alice Lacey (1987-1988)....Michelle Sepe
  • Det, Manny Esposito (1986-1988)....Robert Hegyves
  • Det. Al Corassa (1986-1988)...Paul Mantee
  • Josie (1986-1988)....Jo Corday
  • Kazak (986-1987)....Stewart Coss
  • Beverley Faverty (1986-1987)....Beverly Faverty
  • Tom Basil (1986-1988)....Barry Laws
  • Verna Dee Jordan (1987-1988)....Merry Clayton

"We had a shot," said producer Barney Rosenzweig, "at television history." Cagney & Lacey was certainly unusual for commercial TV, asserting that two women could be best buddies in the Starsky-and-Hutch, Paul Newman-Robert Redford tradition and do a "man's job" just as well as any man could. With male leads it would have been a rather ordinary TV police series. Mary Beth Lacey was the married one, trying to be a wife and mother, as well as a New York City police officer. Chris Cagney was single, ambitious, and full of the joys of living. Though beautiful, she was often disappointed in love. Despite their different life-styles, Mary Beth and Chris were partners and fast friends, determined to break the stereotypes often ascribed to women in jobs not traditionally associated with them. They fought criminals, the chauvinism of their male fellow officers, the ignorance of their friends regarding their unusual careers, and sometimes each other-with shouting sessions in the ladies' room. Working primarily as undercover cops, they infiltrated criminal organizations and sometimes served as decoys to capture street criminals.

Not all of the cases worked out, either. Like Hill Street blues and other "reality" shows, Cagney & Lacey reflected the real world of the big-city cop.

The off screen troubles of this series were almost as dramatic as the on screen problems of its stars. Conceived by Rosenzweig with the help of feminists Barbara Corday and Barbara Avedon in 1974, it was turned down as a series by all three networks, finally airing as a made-for-TV movie on CBS in October 1981 with Loretta Swit as Cagney. The movie drew a tremendous audience, and a limited-run series was commissioned for the following spring. Loretta Swit was unavailable, so Meg Foster was cast as Cagney. This time the ratings were poor, and CBS thought it knew why. "They were too harshly women's lib," said an unnamed CBS executive in TV Guide, "too tough, too hard, and not feminine." "The American public doesn't respond to the bra burners, the fighters, the women who insist on calling manhole covers peoplehole covers," he continued.. "We perceived them as dykes."

The last remark set off a storm of protest, but the role of Cagney was once again recast, this time with beautiful Sharon Gless, who was to provide a softer, more feminine counterpart for Lacey. Gay groups protested that ("She's from the Copacabana school of acting," complained the Gay Media Task Force, "very kittenish and feminine...", but the decision stuck.

Despite the changes, audiences were disappointing small in 1982-1983, and the series was canceled at the end of the season amid a flurry of publicity about the cop show that had tried to be "different." Loyal viewers thereupon inundated CBS with letters, and summer reruns began to pick up new viewers who were curious about the fuss. In September the show won an Emmy. Much to everyone's surprise, CBS relented and the series surfaced once again in the spring of 1984-accompanied by the TV Guide headline "Welcome Back, Cagney & Lacey," and advertising that proclaimed "You Want Them! You Got Them!"

The series flourished after being brought back and the personal lives of Cagney and Lacey became more prominent in the story lines. Mary Beth had another child, a daughter named Alice. Chris' social life, first her relationship with drug-addicted fellow cop Dory McKenna and later with attorney David Keeler, was featured. At one point she was even the victim of date rape. Her personal problems, including a bout with alcoholism, were also depicted. Chris' father Charlie (Dick O'Neill) also turned up from time to time, until he passed away in the spring of 1987. That year she was promoted to sergeant.

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