About Cagney & Lacey

In the 1980s, the Emmy award winning television series Cagney & Lacey was on the air for six seasons, becoming a part of the landscape and the language of the 21st century.  

To many, it was more than mere entertainment; to some it was the quintessential show for working women - a flagship for the women's movement and an opportunity for real women to relate, and to identify with, what they were seeing on their tv screens.

The series "about two women who happened to be cops" and the issues they had to deal with in a primarily male work environment and in their private lives, was honoured throughout the world, setting new precedents in the USA and UK and making tv history.

The earliest version was created by writers Barbara Avedon & Barbara Corday  in 1974 and was originally intended to be a feature film.  

However, it was eventually made into a tv movie in 1981, by Barney Rosenzweig (at the time, Corday's husband).  


Tyne Daly was cast in the role of Mary Beth Lacey, and Loretta Swit played Christine Cagney.

High ratings led to the production of the series, which began in 1982.  Swit was working on M.A.S.H. and thus unavailable, so Meg Foster was replaced.

After the first series, CBS threatened to cancel Cagney & Lacey unless Foster was replaced, and Sharon Gless (whom Rosenzweig had sought to cast from the beginning but had been unable to, due to her work commitments elsewhere) played the role from the fall series of 1982.


However, low ratings led CBS to cancel the programs in spring of 1983. Rosenzweig received thousands of letters from unhappy viewers, many of whom were middle aged women in the exact demographic which the advertisers wanted to target. He organized a letter-writing campaign, urging the viewers to write to their local newspapers, suggesting that studio heads do not necessarily read their viewer-mail but they do read their daily papers.

The National Organization of Women, Gloria Steinem and MS Magazine were, amongst others, prominent in the campaign which also featured thousands of 'ordinary' men and - especially notably - women.  In a historical move, CBS reversed the cancellation and despite the fact that the casts' contracts had already been cancelled,  seven  episodes followed from March 1984, followed subsequently by four seasons.

The show was set in the fictionalized 14th Precinct in New York City and filmed primarily in Los Angeles, coincidentally on Lacy Street. 

Lacey was a married mother with two - and later, three - children, and Cagney a single career-minded woman.  Read more about the characters.

With viewer ratings at millions an episode at its peak, the show garnered a total of 36 Emmy Nominations and 14 wins for Cagney & Lacey during the course of the series - there was not a year the series was on air in which one or other of the lead actresses did not win an Emmy which eventually totalled 6 between them. Cagney & Lacey also won international success, where it regularly made the top twenty on the BBC.   

Its influence endures today, as the follow-up Cagney & LaceyThe Menopause Years movies of 1994-5, which are due to be released on DVD in August 2009. 

Sharon Gless, Tyne Daly and Barney Rosenzweig still regularly receive correspondence telling them how the series changed the viewer's life, and more recently from the original viewers' children, who still consider the program to have contemporary relevance to their lives. 

In 2008 Helen Mirren, star of the award-winning Prime Suspect, came to the Museum of Television and Radio in LA to pose for photographs with Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly at the 25th Anniversary celebrations and launch of the Cagney & Lacey:  The True Beginning DVDs of the first full series and payed tribute to its influence on subsequent tv.

Read more about Cagney & Lacey:

The Museum of Broadcast Communications

Internet Movie Database (imdb)


Cagney & Lacey ... and Me, An Inside Hollywood Story