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.