Episodes: 125 (hour)
TV show dates: March 25, 1982 – May 16, 1988
Series status: Cancelled/ended
Performers include: Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless, Al Waxman, John Karlen, Martin Kove, Carl Lumbly, Harvey Atkin, Troy W. Slaten, Tony La Torre, Paul Mantee, Sidney Clute, Robert Hegyes, Barry Laws, Dick O’Neill, Jo Corday, Beverley Faverty, Stephen Macht, Michael Fairman, Dan Shor, and Merry Clayton.
TV show description:
One of the first TV dramas with two female leads, this police procedural show stars Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless as two very different detectives from New York. Starting out as a successful television movie in 1981 starring Daly and Loretta Swit, it was then turned into a series the following year. Swit wasn’t allowed out of her contract for M*A*S*H and had to give up the role. She was initially replaced by Meg Foster, who was then replaced by Gless when CBS decided that Foster was too aggressive and looked too similar to Daly.
Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) is a married, working mother. She became a cop as it was one of the few well-paying jobs that was open to women. The child of a single mom, Mary Beth works hard to ensure that her own children don’t grow up as latch-key kids. Her husband, Harvey (John Karlen), is a steel worker until an inner ear infection forces him into abandoning his career and subsequently becoming a remodeling contractor.
Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) is single and is also the product of a broken home. Her mother died when Christine was a very young woman, and she was left a substantial amount of money in a trust fund. Her father is a retired police officer and an alcoholic, something that spurs on her own alcoholism. Christine’s goal is to become the first female Police Commissioner, and her rough and gruff exterior doesn’t always allow her to show her vulnerability. She deeply resents the sexism she finds on the job.
Cagney and Lacey work in the Fourteenth Precinct in lower Manhattan. Their boss, Lieutenant Albert Samuels (Al Waxman), is a traditional cop that worked his way up in the ranks. He doesn’t always appreciate having two women under his command, but it’s not because he doesn’t feel like they can’t do the job. He just doesn’t want to have to deal with those particular challenges. Victor Isbecki (Margin Kove) is another cop at the precinct. He’s a sexist womanizer and has to learn to adjust to having women as fellow cops. Marcus Petrie (Carl Lumbly) is Isbecki’s partner until he’s promoted.
Despite being the first to show two women partnered together as cops, the series focuses mostly on general people problems rather than sexist issues. The series tackles controversial issues as well, such as an abortion clinic bombing, racial incidents, date rape, alcoholism, and AIDS.