L.A. Times Article, by Judith Michaelson, 9/14/83
IRONIES IN THE FIRED 'CAGNEY'
"There were moments...," Tyne Daly said of
the canceled television series "Cagney and Lacey,"
sounding saddened and angry at the same time.
Daly, who played Detective Mary Beth Lacey,
sat in her home in the canyons above Beverly Hills,
reminiscing. She and her partner Sharon Gless, who
played Detective Christine Cagney, has just returned
from "Good Morning America" in New York and yet
another interview trying to account for the demise of the
show about two New York policewomen, who were partners
The cancellation has some twists. "Cagney and
Lacey" has been nominated for four Emmys, including best
dramatic series, best sound mixing and two best-actress
entries with Daly and Gless. On Aug. 15, a rerun of the show,
which had generally scored in the middle of the range on the
Nielsen charts, came in first. It also has received favorable
attention from the women's movement, including the cover on
"I think of moments in scripts," Daly said, warming to
the subject. "For instance, there's the show where we're assigned
to the dumb job of spying on everyone else in the precinct, and we
feel awful. We've gotten to know more than we've wanted to know
about our colleagues. And we're following LaGuardia, who's the
dear older gentlemen, the expert on everything, and he turns out
just to be meeting a lady for the afternoon. Mary Beth starts to cry,
out of relief. Somebody's got something nice in their life. And her
friend says, 'Pull yourself together.' And she says leave me alone.
"'Starsky and Hutch' don't get to cry."
There was the moment in the segment "Date Rape," in
which the otherwise sensitive precinct captain casually suggested,
using "Gone With The Wind's" Rhett Butler as an example, that
women often say no, when they mean yes. "With respect sir,"
Lacey replied, "if you don't know the difference between rape and
romance, you've got a serious problem."
And there was the moment when Lacey in "Burn Out"
had a minor breakdown, went AWOL and off to the ocean to
think, Lacey--wife, mother, detective--has few moments for herself.
It is the program for which Daly received the Emmy nomination.
"I like Mary Beth because she's tired. Nobody's tired on TV."
At first glance, actress Daly, educated at fancy private
schools, including one in Sweden while her father, actor James
Daly, was on the set of TV's "Foreign Intrigue," bears little
resemblance to Det. Lacey. The actress has red hair, a glowing
tan and clearly a far better economic life style than her TV
counterpart. On TV, Lacey seemed to have darker hair and her
complexion looked pale. Even the accents are different, Daly has
unidentifiable classic American speech, while Lacey sounded like
the sidewalks of New York. Not a Brooklyn intonation or that of the
Bronx, but definitively Queens. "It's actually Queens via Boston, if
you have a careful ear. There's the flat 'a.'"
Still, Daly identified with Lacey. "Although she's
certainly not me--I would never be a cop--and raising boy
children is different, she was doing what I think a lot of
women in this country have been doing for a couple of
decades, which is being a juggler. She's trying to do the
work and the relationships and the kids and the house all
at once and keep all of that afloat. And I liked her because
she is opinionated."
Tyne Daly, married to actor-director Georg Sanford
Brown, who is black, certainly expresses her opinions. They
have been married 17 years and have two daughters, 15 and
12. Asked whether having an interracial marriage has caused
problems, she answered sharply: "I'm not involved in an inter-
racial marriage. He's black, but he's a human being. We're in
one race, the human race." Like Lacey she considers marriage
"a partnership" demanding skill and patience.
As for the loss of "Cagney and Lacey:"
I certainly will miss it on TV next year because you
won't find any women at the helm of dramatic television. Outside
of soaps and sitcoms where you have the classic woman victim
and the classic woman funny girl...(She neglected the "Falcon
Crest" -type female lead of victimizer) the woman as clown and
child, which is the same position that black people hold on television
or anybody but the white boys. Two new black people on
TV this year, one is a clown and one is a genie.
"We know that more black people (proportionately)
watch television than anyone else, and yet they are not there.
We know that women represent more than half of the population
of this country and yet they are there only in the position of dolly-
babies and clowns.
"So we made a tiny little difference. What we did was a
very classic formula cop show about grownup ladies. No 'Starsky
and Hutch,' no breakthrough stuff like 'Hill Street Blues' particularly.
It was just two ladies in the john talking it over instead of two guys."
And that in itself presented problems. In its two seasons,
"Cagney and Lacey" had been beset by critiques from within CBS
(and outside). One CBS official, who wanted anonymity, said at the
time that the show was "too harshly women's lib" and that the women
were perceived "as dykes." This attitude occurred despite the fact that
Lacey is apparently happily married to a construction worker and has
two healthy young sons. If the latter criticism seemed to decline with
the emergence of Gless' blond and glamorous Christine in sexy
sweaters--she was the second actress in the series and the third to
play the role if one includes the original made-for-television movie--
the issue of a woman doing so-called man's work, at least according
to Daly, never seemed to go away.
'It threatened everybody, and they all got terribly scared,"
"They were nervous about whether or not these ladies, who
liked and loved each other, were in fact homosexual, which is an
amazing conclusion to come to if you are just simply dealing with
a colleague at work you worked well with."
There were, as Daly told it, apparent contradictions. The
network powers were also nervous about the possibility that Christine
"would be considered a sleepabout" if she "had a boyfriend every
couple of weeks...The things they were nervous about were amazing
and appalling to anybody who...has been around for the last 30 years.
First they didn't want me to go to bed with my husband, and then
when I begged and pleaded for us to have a little fun in the hay, they
didn't want me to ever turn him down. When I got to the point where,
the woman was so tired, she turned around and said 'No.' all of it
seemed so threatening."
According to executive producer Barney Rosenzweig, the
real issue was that once the football season was over "Cagney and
Lacey" was forced to go up against movies and/or miniseries on
ABC and NBC that were "specifically designed to appeal to a
female audience...ABC's offerings was "The Thorn Birds."
"Cagney and Lacey" creators and chief writers were two
women as well: Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday. Corday is
married to Rosenzweig.
A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy
in New York where she met her husband, Daly has had a broad range
of professional experience. She's done numerous TV episodes,
including "Quincy," "Lou Grant," and "Magnum, P.I." She won her
first Emmy nomination in a supporting role in the TV movie "Intimate
Strangers." Her first screen role was opposite Clint Eastwood in "The
Enforcer." She has since appeared in "John and Mary," "Telefon" and
"Zoot Suit," for which she received good notices.
Onstage she's appeared at the Mark Taper Forum in such
productions as "Ashes," "Black Angel," and "Three Sisters." Most
recently, she played in "Skirmishes" at the Matrix in Hollywood.
"I loved Mary Beth from the beginning. A lot of actresses
were hot to play Christine. She's great-looking and she's a free
spirit and she owns the City of New York and she's tough and
all that. But I was attracted to Mary Beth. Because she had
Next for Tyne Daly is a "nice-spirited" movie about
Hollywood scheduled to begin shooting early next year with
Rosenzweig has suggested the possibility of a "Cagney
and Lacey" movie.
"The movies I've been offered in the last couple of years,"
Daly said, "have all been about people eating dead human flesh,
or the woman is raped by the devil or some 'horrendum' I simply
cannot get involved in. So you say, 'No, thank you' and go an play
theater for no dollars a night on Melrose instead."
At the moment, she's filming a segment for the new
prime-time program, "Mississippi," which is about a riverboat
country lawyer, Daly plays "a superior Southern liar." Her
husband is directing the series.
In the meantime, she concentrating on an Artists and
Athletes Against Apartheid benefit Oct. 10 at the Wilshire-Ebell
Theater against cultural participation of any sort in South Africa.
The purpose of the event, featuring Harry Belafonte and Arthur
Ashe, is to provide information to the arts and sports communities
about South Africa's apartheid policies and the UN's 1968 boycott.
The sponsors would like to make sure that such entertainers as
Frank Sinatra and Linda Ronstadt do not make repeat visits there.
Daly pointed out that black artists who go there have "honorary white"
stamped on their passports.
The Emmys will be awarded Sept. 25. "The fantasy is Sharon
and I come in, in a dead heat. We get to rush up on the stage together
and get to hold up two statuettes. That would be like the movies. The
'Rocky' ending. We do feel if she wins, I win, if I win she wins."
All of which, she said, proves the point of "Cagney and Lacey,"
"Women are not by nature in competition. They are not innately bitchy
and trying to get each other's husbands and family jewels as we get on
television every night. They are in fact wonderful cooperators with each
other and capable of kinds of friendship that are as deep and mutually
satisfying as all of those buddies."
***This article was sent to me by Scott. Thanks, Scott!
Back to start of Cagney and Lacey section
My Index Page