L.A. Times Article by Howard Rosenberg, 3/19/84



That has always been my strongest impression of "Cagney and Lacey" on CBS: Tyne Daly as mother-hen Det. Mary Beth Lacey, yammering in hyper-New Yorkese, supposedly to validate her as a genuine, hard-boiled policewoman. If she wasn't a cop, she'd be a cabbie.


In its first 1 1/2 seasons, the series was a TV rarity, offering strong female roles in Lacey and her partner, Det. Chris Cagney, briefly played by Meg Foster before Sharon Gless took over. Yet otherwise, it seemed like routine, rum-dum, unbelievable TV, with only the sexes changed to protect the innocent.

A better title would have been "Cagney & Crabby."

But "Cagney & Lacey" --rescued from last May's cancellation by a massive viewer mail campaign encouraged by executive producer Barney Rosenzweig--deserves another look now that it's returning at 10 tonight.

Either "Cagney and Lacey" has changed, or I have, for tonight's hour is vastly superior to the series that I recall. And this time I don't find myself wishing for subtitles to understand what Lacey is saying.

"Cagney and Lacey" also benefits from comparison with a new series arriving a 9 tonight on CBS. It's the alleged comedy, "Kate & Allie," about two immature mature women. They're more compatible with the hopelessly hapless females we're used to seeing on TV than the independent Mary Beth Lacey and Chris Cagney.

The renewed "Cagney & Lacey" gives us a thoughtful story by Chris Abbott about relationships, with an investigation of a wealthy matron's murder becoming more of a subtext than a major focus. When Lt. Samuels (Al Waxman) has a terrible blowout with his wayward son, David (Matthew Barry), it causes Cagney to review her own feelings about her late mother.

Karen Arthur directs some very nice scenes here, one between Lt. Samuels and his former wife. Another shows him almost pleading with his son, who tunes him out by whistling. And another finds Cagney revisiting the swanky neighborhood where she grew up. "What a lucky start, huh?" says Lacey. "I mean, you and your brother having all of that. You must must have had wonderful memories."

Cut to Cagney. No wonderful memories.

The hour also skillfully navigates the kind of fine line between horror and humor that marks some of the best work on NBC's humanistic cop series "Hill Street Blues." When a male stripper becomes a murder suspect, Lacey wants to arrest him right away. Not Cagney, who wants to see his act first.

Daly and Gless perform well on "Cagney & Lacey" and Waxman gets an opportunity to display some range as Lt. Samuels. A less-tidy conclusion, however, would have made this an even better revival for our two female detectives.

The distinguishing trait of these women is their believability. They're realistically firm-minded and strong, but not exaggerated superwomen. Yet, in a way, their very existence on TV seems out of sync. In a nation whose female majority is underrepresented as decision makers, a dramatic series about strong females in traditional male roles remains an oddity.

***This article was sent to me by Scott. Thanks, Scott!

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