memories of the ’80s – Cagney & Lacey

Opposites made the difference when these two New Yorkers paired up and took to the streets to protect and serve in Cagney & Lacey. 

Created by Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday, the duo initially wanted to make a buddy film with two women, but when no studio wanted to support it, they made it into a tv movie, hoping for a series.

Actress Loretta Swit appeared in the movie, but wasn’t allowed out of her contract with MASH, paired with Tyne Daley as Mary Beth Lacey.

Debuting on CBS TV in March 1982, the show’s main sidekick was Lt. Bert Samuels played by Al Waxman. Meg Foster replaced Swit as Christine Cagney for the first six episodes, but was perceived as too masculine and the network cancelled the show.

In 1983, after Sharon Gless finally escaped her long-running TV contract for the show House Calls, the producers once again got another chance at the series but once again the now second season of the series was plagued with so-so ratings and the studio perception the characters were too aggressive.

But a determined group of viewers staged a letter writing campaign to bring back the series and with an Emmy win for Tyne Daley, the series was resurrected again and went back into production in January 1984.

The show finished in the top 10 at the end of that season was awarded 36 Emmy nominations for that season.

The duo were quite opposites – Lacey was a brash working class married Mom of two young sons while Cagney was a single uptown girl who had been raised in Westchester, but had become a cop like her Dad.

Despite its unique storylines and female perceptions of the changing world, being cops and dealing with daily life, the show was always seemingly under threat of cancellation by CBS.

The continued Emmy wins kept this show on air – to date, no other show has ever won a Best Actor Emmy every year of its existence – four times for Tyne Daley and twice for Sharon Gless.

When the show was cancelled in 1988, the network had moved its last season to the summer and focused on new series like Wiseguy. But internationally the show continued to do well and was shown on BBC1 among other international networks.

The duo’s lasting effect of the female buddy left a lasting impression on television and changed not just the way women were depicted but also how viewers were perceived in supporting their shows.

memories of the ’70s – Starsky & Hutch

An ex-New Yorker and a quiet guy from Minnesota became a police duo in sunny California in the series Starsky & Hutch. 

Created by William Frederick Blinn and produced by Spelling Goldberg Productions, the show was based on Blinn’s observations of the relationships that developed between cops.

The production company did a 70 minute tv movie that was well-received and got the green light from ABC to start a series.

Paul Michael Glaser was Michael Starsky, the brash loudmouth who loved his red Ford Gran Torino, while the thoughtful Ken Hutchinson was played by David Soul, whose battered tan Ford Galaxie 500 occasionally made an appearance.

The cop duo wandered the streets of fictional Bay City, California, chasing after the bad guys, finding information from their guy Huggy Bear, played by Antonio Fargas, and reporting in to their Captain Harold Dobey, played by Bernie Hamilton.

The show covered many storylines from poverty and drugs to prostitution and murder – each one reflecting the changing society of the 1970s and a masculine view of the world.

Debuting on ABC TV in April 1975, the show was a hit with viewers for its unique writing and for revealing the friendship that developed between Starsky & Hutch. Even their informant Huggy Bear became so popular, a spin-off series was considered, a pilot created, but the response was lukewarm from viewers.

By the beginning of season three, Paul Michael Glaser wanted out of his contract to try to for the big screen. The producers offered him more money and creative control, which lasted for a season before he asked again for more, knowing the series was a hit and his star was rising in Hollywood.

But at the end of season four, the complaints by Glaser and his desire to leave as well as declining ratings resulted in ABC cancelling the series. But its lasting effect was on showing the close relationships that develop under the circumstances of being a police officer.

memories of the ’70s – Ironside

For those who don’t know, there was a series that started in the late 1960s and featured a former police detective who becomes a consultant despite the fact that he’s in a wheelchair – he’s Robert T. Ironside.

Even with the societal prejudice against someone who resided in a wheelchair, Raymond Burr proudly portrayed Ironside, who helped solve police cases with what was most needed, his brains.

Produced and created by Collier Young, Ironside debuted in September 1967 on NBC, and hit its stride in 1970, when Burr was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Robert T. Ironside.

Ironside worked with a posse of three others – Det. Sgt. Ed Brown, socialite turned police officer Eve Whitfield, and bodyguard/assistant Mark Sanger, who had initially been hired to kill Ironside.

Each week the group would learn about various crimes and find the culprits, with Ironside operating from his own specialized consultant’s area within the San Francisco Police Department and with his own van for transporting himself and his crew.

For eight seasons, the show may have fluctuated in ratings, but two Golden Globe nominations and four  Emmy nominations for Burr proved that this show was breaking ground in depicting a crime procedural drama on the 1970s airwaves.

memories of the ’70s – The Streets of San Francisco

These partners focused on keeping the Bay City safe with the police drama The Streets of San Francisco.

Starring Karl Malden and Michael Douglas, the Quinn Martin produced series was focused on the relationship between the two cops, Stone and Keller, the veteran and the newbie.

Each episode focused on a homicide, and the two unravelling the information, clues and tips to find out who was the main suspect. Stone was a 20 year veteran, a widower and becomes a mentor to the young Keller, an inexperienced and brash 28 year old, newly promoted to detective.

Both actors spent a lot of time with the local San Francisco Police Department, hoping to make the show as realistic as possible, and since it was filmed on location, it showcased the unique aspects of the Bay City.

As well Malden and Douglas became close friends, and their relationship made the difference on the small screen.

ABC TV was happy with the show, and its ratings, showcasing it on Thursday nights, and the duo were a popular choice for five seasons. From 1972 until 1977, the series was all about Malden and Douglas, who were both nominated for  Golden Globes and Emmys for their roles.

But in 1977, Douglas produced the successful film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and wanted to pursue his film career and left the series, with a new character to replace him – Richard Hatch as Insp. Dan Robbins.

But viewers like the Malden-Douglas combo and the series was cancelled by ABC TV at the end of the season due to low ratings.

I saw this show in re-runs several years later, and liked the duo as much as the views of San Francisco, a city I would only see many decades later, but  when I saw the cable cars, I was reminded of this tv series, a fave from my childhood.

memories of the ’70s – CHiPs

Dynamic duos are always popular, but put the two in cop uniforms and on motorcycles in Los Angeles and you got the late ’70s popular show CHiPs.

Starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as patrolman with the California Highway Patrol, Ponch and Jon handled the offenders of the highways of Los Angeles, with Ponch the renegade compared to Jon the straightlaced officer.

Debuting in September 1977 on NBC, CHiPs was an hour long light drama that balanced the antics of Ponch and Jon with their commanding officer, Sergeant Joe Getrar, played by Robert Pine.

Ironically the characters never used their weapons in the course of the series and had never ridden motorcycles. Although stuntmen were used, both Estrada and Wilcox did many of their own stunts for the show, with Estrada eventually breaking both wrists and ribs which was incorporated into the storyline.

Yet both brought something new to television despite this being a comedy/drama. Estrada’s portrayal of a Hispanic American was a positive role model in a time when few Latinos were seen on television, while Larry Wilcox’s status as a Vietnam veteran was shown in a positive light through his on-screen character, rare for this time period in American history.

But the reality was Estrada became a celebrity – his good looks put him on several magazine covers and this led to stress on the set, with Wilcox quitting the show after five seasons because of the continued focus on Estrada’s character. Estrada meanwhile got into contract disputes with the producers and didn’t work for seven episodes while the company employed another character to temporarily replace Estrada.

So although this lightweight show, which I used to watch occasionally because I did love (and still do) cop shows, it stayed strong in the ratings and became a favourite with viewers, enough so that action figures of the lead characters were sold in stores as well as mini-replicas of the motorcycles.

But does anyone remember episodes? Not really, since the crime wasn’t the focus – it was the camraderie of the two officers, riding their bikes on the wild highways of California.