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Cagney & Lacey is an Americanmarker television series that first aired on the CBS television network for seven seasons from March 25, 1982 to May 16, 1988. It is considered to be American television's first serious drama series with two female leads . A police procedural, the show starred Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly as New York City police detectives who led very different lives: Christine Cagney (Gless) was a single, career-minded woman, while Mary Beth Lacey (Daly) was a married working mother. The series was set in a fictionalized version of Manhattanmarker's 14th Precinct (Midtown South), which in real life is located at 357 West 35th Street.

Al Waxman co-starred as Cagney and Lacey's supervisor, Lt. Bert Samuels. Dick O'Neill played a recurring role as Cagney's alcoholic father, Charlie Cagney, a former NYPD officer who regaled her with stories of the old days; Christine later fought alcoholism as well.

The two main actresses combined to win the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama six straight years in a row, a winning streak unmatched in any major category by a show.

Original cast

Loretta Swit played the role of Christine Cagney in the original television movie (1981), but she was forced to decline the role in the series when the producers of M*A*S*H refused to let her out of her contract. The movie was then picked up as series, first airing with six episodes as a midseason replacement in the spring of 1982, with Meg Foster playing the role of Cagney. The show was then picked up for a regular season beginning with the 1982-83 season, but Foster was replaced by Sharon Gless because CBS deemed Foster too aggressive and too likely to be perceived as lesbian by the viewers.

CBS executives hoped that Sharon Gless would portray Christine Cagney as more conventionally "feminine" and attempted to pressure the producers to remake Christine into a more "high-class," snobbish woman from wealthy parents. Barney Rosenzweig and Barbara Corday stood their ground, refusing to change Christine Cagney from a tough, witty, working-class woman. Their stand proved wise, as the working class character's enduring popularity with millions of fans was a significant factor in the show's success.

Cancellation and return

Following its first full season, the series was canceled by CBS in 1983 due to unimpressive ratings, but was subsequently brought back to the network's schedule after fans of the show, organized by executive producer Barney Rosenzweig, staged a letter-writing campaign. TV Guide celebrated the show's return with the cover reading Welcome Back. The show finished in the top 10 for the 1983-84 season, and went on to earn 36 Emmy nominations and 14 wins throughout its run until 1988, including six nominations for stars Daly and Gless: four wins for Daly and two for Gless. The series itself won two consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Drama Series in 1985 and 1986.

The series also gained considerable popularity internationally. It was originally shown in the UK on BBC1 where it regularly made the top 20.

Controversial episodes

The show also garnered controversy . In 1985 there was an episode about the bombing of an abortion clinic which several CBS affiliates refused to air. Perhaps the most shocking and controversial episode was in 1987, The City is Burning, based on the December 1986 racial incident in Queensmarker' Howard Beachmarker neighborhood. The explosive episode included racial slurs, such as "nigger," that were, and still are, taboo in prime time. Other storylines included the birth of Lacey's third child, AIDS in the school system, Homophobia, Cagney's experience as a victim of date rape, and her decline into alcoholism.

Theme music

The first-season main-titles are accompanied by the theme song "Ain't That the Way" by Michael Stull, sung by Marie Cain, and show Cagney and Lacey being promoted to plainclothes detectives and later disguised as prostitutes. This was replaced the following season by an instrumental theme composed by Bill Conti set to a collage of action and comical scenes featuring the characters from the series.

The theme tune is sampled in the 2006 "Uniting Nations Dance Remix" of the song "All Out Of Love" by the band 14th Precinct.


After the series

The series was followed by four television movies which reunited the characters Christine Cagney (promoted and now working at the District Attorney's office) and Mary Beth Lacey (now retired from the police force).

  • Cagney & Lacey: The Return (1994)
  • Cagney & Lacey: Together Again (1995)
  • Cagney & Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling (1995)
  • Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions (1996)

DVD release

On May 8, 2007, MGM Home Entertainment released Season 1 of Cagney & Lacey on DVD in Region 1. The release coincided with the 25th anniversary of the series and it features the first full season of the show (which is actually the 2nd season of the series) when Sharon Gless joined the cast as Cagney.

The quartet of TV-movies entitled "The Menopause Years" was released in 2009 by S'more Entertainment. The deluxe set contains the complete collection of post-series TV-movies. In addition, one of the features titled "Cagney & Lacey: The Return" was released separately on the same day.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
The Complete First Season 22 May 8 2007 "Breaking The Laws of TV" featurette
The Menopause Years 4 Sept 29 2009 Interviews with Cast, Producer and Writer


From October 2009 all 125 episodes of Cagney and Lacey has been available to download at iTunes both in the USA and the UK.



  1. Irish
  2. TV Guide: The Televisionary (column of Feb. 16, 2006), by Michael Peck
  3. The New York Times (July 2, 1984): "'Cagney & Lacey,' Police Series on CBS", by John J. O'Connor

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