Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
national | REPORTS

Back On the Beat
Twenty-five years after they captured feminist hearts, Cagney & Lacey return on DVD

As the 23-year-old daughter of a feminist, I’ve always known about Cagney & Lacey. The show about two women plainclothes cops affirmed the idea that women can do the rough jobs that men often do. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see the crime-fighting friends in action onscreen— until now. Twenty- five years after Cagney & Lacey debuted, the inaugural season of the groundbreaking drama comes to DVD.

New York City detectives Christine Cagney (played by Sharon Gless) and Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) embodied a new kind of hero—not perfect cops nor perfect women, but fallible and real. “I think that’s what captured everyone—the reality of the emotions of these two women, the vulnerability of them and their strength,” says Gless, who went on to star in television shows The Trials of Rosie O’Neill and Queer As Folk. “In our day, I guess you can say we pushed the envelope.” Adds Daly, “We were the heroes in terms of being able to somehow rise to the occasion when tested, and figure it out— us—with no arriving cavalry.”

They both quip that in a different world the show could have been about two women who worked in a post office. “At any rate, the cop stuff was an excuse for us to talk about women’s lives,” says Daly, who has since starred in “Gypsy” on Broadway, for which she won a Tony, and in television’s Judging Amy, for which she won an Emmy.

As the show developed, it tackled topics such as date rape, alcoholism, abortion and breast cancer. “People were relating to these women and we were in a position to demonstrate issues,” says Daly. Gless remains proud of the show’s boldness, remembering “the women who were healed as a result of it.”

Originally a 1981 television movie starring Daly and Loretta Swit, the TV series began with Meg Foster in the Cagney role for six episodes (not included in the DVD package), but it was quickly cancelled. It was revived with Gless as Cagney, but canceled again at the end of the first season. This time, fans—many of them Ms. readers—wrote letters to the network, which brought the show back.

Tyne Daly (left) and Sharon Gless with Ms. Magazine“Gloria [Steinem] and Ms. magazine were really powerful in keeping the show going,” says Gless. “Especially Gloria—she believed in it and helped us a lot.” By the time its six-season run ended, the show had garnered 14 Emmy awards, including four “outstanding lead actress” statuettes for Daly and two for Gless.

 

With 22 hour-long episodes, a two-part documentary featurette and commentary from Gloria Steinem, the DVD set will undoubtedly delight original fans as well as garner new ones. Daly admits she hasn’t watched the episodes since they aired but is curious to see how they hold up. Gless is excited that young women can finally discover “what changed their mothers’ lives or their aunts’ lives or their grandmothers’ lives.” Personally, I am looking forward to “meeting” Christine and Mary Beth, two characters who pushed the envelope.

Photo credit: Kevin Parry/MTR