Note: This review is
covering the 38-disc
limited edition set released by VEI available here. There is also a 32-disc non-limited edition
that is in wide release. The smaller set
does not include the first TV movie, the first season of the show, the
'reunion' made-for-TV movies, and presumably many of the extras.
Why can't Cagney & Lacey get any respect? The
show had several false starts when it was
on TV, but finally earned critical and popular acclaim.
It was nominated for a slew of awards when it
was on the air, including an impressive 36 Emmys (it would win 14) and
after it was cancelled it was brought back of four 'reunion' films. Yet even with that cache the
gotten a decent home video release. In
2007 the second season was released, skipping over the TV movie that
all and the first short season, and then... nothing.
The DVD series wasn't continued leaving fans
hanging. Until now that is.
VEI, a Canadian company, in cooperation with
MGM and Fox, has released a comprehensive collection of the ground
show: Cagney & Lacey: The
Complete Collection 30th Anniversary
Limited Edition. It's a fantastic
set that is really worth the money.
When you mention Cagney
& Lacey to someone who was around in the mid-80's, they'll
recognize the name of the show, even if they didn't watch it on a
basis. It was a show that was mentioned
a lot in articles and on TV, often cited along with Hill
Street Blues as a show that just got it right.
But the program was anything but an overnight
sensation, and the original version was a bit different than many
The idea was simple:
A buddy/cop show, but with two women officers rather than men. It sounds like it'd make good television,
after all police shows were popular and making the leads female would
interesting twist. It wasn't that easy
however. After being stuck in
development hell for seven years, the show's champion, executive
Barney Rosenzweig, was finally able to get a made-for-TV movie made and
This initial version of Cagney & Lacey stared Tyne Daly
as Mary Beth Lacey and Loretta Swit (from M*A*S*H
fame) as her partner, Christine Cagney.
As the show opens, they're both street cops, and Lacey is having
horrible day: she gets in a fight with
her husband, her partner is running late, and to top it off someone
personal car when she chases after someone who is robbing a house. Not everything goes poorly however. When she and Cagney are nabbing the thief,
Lacey looks into a skylight and sees a big-time heroine operation. The two cops manage to bust the pushers and
the next thing they know they're promoted to Detective.
Their new assignment isn't as rewarding as they had hoped
however: they both have to dress up as
hookers and bust Johns. Their misogynistic
supervisor, Lt. Bert Samuels, figures women can't do real detective
the other detectives in the squad, Isbecki, and LaGuardia feel exactly
same. The only person who is sympathetic
to their plight is Detective Marcus Petrie (Carl Lumbly, Alias),
an African-American who has experienced the same
prejudice. With a little help from
Petrie and a lot of perseverance, the two new detectives help solve a
murders and gain a bit of respect from their colleagues.
This first TV movie is really very good. Loretta
Swit is fabulous as Christine Cagney,
an attractive blond who see no problem in sleeping around if she feels
it. She's tough and stubborn and, coming
from a long line of cops, willing to do what it takes to get the job
That's sharp contrast to Lacey, a blue collar working mother
with two kids and an out of work husband who works construction when he
can. She doesn't want to make any waves in
department... she wants to do her job and go home at the end of the day.
The movie received great ratings and six-episodes were
ordered. Things were looking up except
Loretta Swit was under contract for M*A*S*H
and they wouldn't release her. That's a
tragedy, because she really did exceptionally well in the role. Instead, they signed Meg Foster; a TV actress
who had appeared in a lot of shows previously, but didn't have nearly
drawing power of Swit.
The six-episode first season opened up with a short montage
showing how the pair made detective (pointing their guns into a room
putting handcuffs on someone) and in the first episode they're still
the hooker detail. They still have a lot
of trouble with the men in the department and Lacey still has to juggle
home and work lives, but they slowly start to earn the respect that
The show pulled in some pretty mediocre ratings, and
watching it today it's not hard to see why:
Foster just wasn't suited for her role.
She wasn't as gregarious as Swit and played the part with in a
sedate tone. I never really believed
that this Cagney was as driven to succeed as the Swit version was.
In any case the show was cancelled after the six episodes...
not because of the so-so ratings however.
It turns out that the executives at CBS thought that Cagney and
desire to be treated as equals with the male members of the department
as crazy as Lt. Samuels did. As related
to a TV Guide reporter by an unnamed executive, the network thought the
characters "seemed more intent on fighting the system than doing police
We perceived them as dykes." One wonders
why Starsky and Hutch, who were more dissimilar than alike, who bucked
system, and cared for each other, weren't perceived a as being gay.
When the TV Guide article appeared, many people were rightly
outraged. It's one thing to cancel a
show because of the ratings and another to do it because it has strong
characters. Realizing that all publicity
is good, the powers-that-be ordered a new season.
In the second season, viewers were introduced to the third,
and final, Christine Cagney: Sharon
Gless. They didn't bother explaining the
change or retelling how the pair got to be detectives in the opening
anymore... they just cut to the chase, so to speak.
Gless is the person that everyone associates with Cagney, and
she does a great job. She and Tyne Daly
really mesh in the show, they're different but compliment each other. The two would be in the lead roles for the
next six years and one of the two would win the Emmy award for
Actress in a Drama Series every year.
Watching the show today, it's easy to see why it garnered so
much critical and popular success. The
show dealt with real-life problems in a realistic way, and one of the
first to do so from a woman's point of view.
Lacey's problems at home, her husband's inability to find work
feeling of worthlessness, weren't necessarily solved at the end of
episode. Cagney also develops a drinking
problem to which there is no easy fix.
That's one of the show's great strengths... it doesn't come up
There are a lot of stand out episodes over the course of the
series. Who Said it's Fair?
is a two-parter where Lacey discovers a lump in
one of her breasts and is afraid to go to the doctor.
After being pressured by her partner and
husband, she finally goes and gets very bad news: it's
a tumor and she needs to have a
mastectomy. The very first Gless/Daly
episode Witness to an Incident, was
also good. It really set the tone for
the series. After a perp has been chased
into an alleyway, a cop shoots him when he sees him pull a gun. Cagney was standing next to the officer who
fired but Lacey was in another position.
The man who was shot however wasn't the criminal they were
a supposedly unarmed member of a neighborhood watch committee. When Lacey states that she didn't see a gun,
although Cagney did and one was found at the scene, the tension between
partners rises. It's a good episode
where both sides of an issue are examined nicely.
How does the show stand up today? Surprisingly
well. Though a lot has changed in American
it's not so different that the problems that Cagney and Lacey face
relevant. There are some parts that are
a little dated, but it's more of a case of "they could never do that on
today" than a hokey story line. One good
example is in an early episode when Lacey brings home a young black
his sole guardian was arrested. Lacey
and her husband just finish up having sex when the officer has to go
meet her partner. Just as she's leaving,
the boy she's looking after walks into her bedroom and announces that
might be a ghost in the room he's staying in.
Lacey's husband, Harvey, still in bed naked, lifts up a corner
covers and invites the child to sleep in his bed. The
boy quickly jumps in. It was supposed to
show how Harvey
is a kind and caring guy, but seen
today it looks a little... odd.
This massive 38-disc collection arrives in a sturdy,
attractively illustrated box. Opening
the box at the top reveals each of the seven seasons in its own
keepcase. It's a very nice looking
The set comes with the original stereo soundtrack well
preserved. The dialog and audio effects
come through loud and clear and there aren't any defects worth noting. The soundstage isn't used as much as it could
be, but there really wasn't too much reason to get fancy with the audio
1982 when only a handful of houses bothered to hook their TVs up to
stereo system. Overall it's a fine
The full-frame color image has not been restored but it
generally looks good, though it does vary a bit. The original movie and
season look better than I expected, with a sharp, pleasing picture. The other seasons (with Sharon Gless) aren't
quite as strong. They're a bit softer
and the colors aren't quite as vibrant, and there's a bit of grain in
scenes. Don't get me wrong, video
quality is fine; just don't expect it to look like the latest season of
Thrones. Overall, the whole show looks
good for something that originally aired over 20 years ago.
The last DVD case, holding 6 discs, is devoted to the extras,
many of which are not found in the regular edition of this set. There's some great stuff here, and it's well
worth seeking out the LE to get them.
First off is the original TV movie featuring Loretta Swit as
followed by the first season of the show, the "lost episodes," with Meg
in the role. It's very deceiving that
the "30th Anniversary Complete Collection" doesn't include
This comprehensive set also includes the four made-for-TV
movies that aired after the series was cancelled: The Return (1994),
Again (1995), The View Through the Glass Ceiling (1995)
If that was all, I'd be content, but there's a lot more.
The two-part featurette that was included on
the stand-alone season two DVD release from 2007, Breaking
the Laws of TV, is ported over. It's a
nice look at the history of the show
and its impact. There's also a 30th
Anniversary interview with Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless, and producer
Rosenzweig that was recorded on November 11th, 2011 and runs
an hour and a half.
In addition to all of those video extras, there are a couple
more cool things packed in with this set.
The first is a 12-page booklet that has an introduction by
producer Barney Rosenzweig, an episode guide, and some great
pictures. Speaking of Barney Rosenzweig,
the unabridged audiobook version of his recollections on the show, Cagney & Lacey... and Me is included
and runs over 12 ½ hours. The most
exciting thing however is the still of Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless
signed by both actresses. That's a
really nice bonus.
This show received many awards when it was on the air, and
it deserved all of them. Sharon Gless
and Tyne Daly are impeccable as two NYC detectives who are trying to
job while handling the day to day problems that arise in any life. This one is a keeper, just make sure you
order the Limited Edition version that comes with all of the great
extras. Right now it's about the same
price as the
smaller set, so it's a no-brainer. Highly Recommended.