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Cagney & Lacey ... and Me    by Barney Rosenzweig order for
Cagney & Lacey ... and Me
by Barney Rosenzweig
Order:  USA  Can
iUniverse, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In the wake of the 25th anniversary of the Cagney & Lacey television series, producer Barney Rosenzweig launched his autobiography Cagney & Lacey ... and Me in conjunction with the series DVD release. Rosenzweig writes of his personal life, career path, TV productions and network affiliations along with management battles, and much more that crossed - or was thrown into - his path. The production of the 1980s dramatic television series is spotlighted, with its trials and tribulations, and ups and downs for Rosenzweig as producer, as well as for the actors, writers, and production staff.

As an American TV series, Cagney & Lacey is considered 'among the finest ever produced'. It was also highly-rated in the United Kingdom (BBC), and surmounted travails during six seasons on CBS, with one-hundred and twenty-five episodes, and five TV movies. It won fourteen of thirty-six Emmy nominations. Barney Rosenzweig, producer of it all, faced the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly - his book tells that story, and more. A phrase quipped by TV writer Barbara Corday during a meeting became a favorite: 'It's a show about two women who happen to be cops, not two cops who happen to be women.'

Rosenzweig was a supporter of the feminist movement when he approached the writing team of Barbara Corday and Barbara Avedon during a time when female buddies (like males Newman and Redford, Starsky and Hutch, et al) were unthought of in TV series development. (It was also a time with few women in the upper echelons of network management.) In the 1960s, Rosenzweig was one among others blacklisted for their forward ideas, labeled by major networks as troublemakers. Rosenzweig tells us that ABC executive Jerry Isenberg marked him as 'uncooperative, and therefore unemployable at the network', due to creative differences and fighting for what he believed in - 'demonstrating my passion for the material, by defending the original vision'.

The proposal of a Cagney & Lacey movie was turned down, but CBS executive Peter Frankovich suggested, 'take the project to our series people, Barney.'. Actresses Tyne Daly and Loretta Swit (of M.A.S.H. series fame) were offered the leads. Gloria Steinem's feminist monthly, Ms. Magazine, headlined 'Can Women Be Buddies--Under Pressure?' The leading roles were later established with Tyne Daly and Meg Foster. The actresses with the longest-run in the series were Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney, and Tyne Daly returning as Mary Beth Lacey. Since inception as a duo in 1983, Daly and Gless dominated the Annual Emmy Awards (for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Drama Series) for six consecutive years. Gless and Daly received the Gemini Award from the American Women in Radio and Television in 1986, their own stars on Hollywood Boulevard, were featured in the Washington D.C. Women's March, and are recognized for the many moral and social issues dealt with in the series.

Rosenzweig's tome expresses a great deal along the way about his career, his marriage to Barbara Corday (later to Sharon Gless), and the uneven, bumpy road between Cagney & Lacey cancellations and reinstatements. He shares his opinion of focus groups, Nielsen ratings, power plays and stealers of credit, along with turnovers in writers, and financiers. The author (who refers to himself as 'producer, padre, mediator') tells it all up close and personal, pulling no punches and at times throwing in the towel (briefly). Yet Rosenzweig also writes of uplifting times, e.g. when the public spoke (chapter titled Back By Popular Demand), and of the arrival of boxes of mail, containing hundreds of letters protesting the series' cancellation. CBS Chief Harvey Shephard announced that 'a mistake had been made and that Cagney & Lacey would be back' (after admonitions as well from Shepard's wife and daughter who asked, 'Daddy, how could you cancel that series?')

I confess to being a fan of Cagney & Lacey, but was unaware of any stars in the roles other then Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless. Absorbing Rosenzweig's autobiography brought a lot to my attention, especially the realization that what is seen so smoothly on the screen is not representative of the turmoil and battles that go on behind the scenes. I was keen to learn that Christine Cagney was once Loretta Swit, then Meg Foster, and that Tyne Daly had an accent added to the Mary Beth Lacey role. Of Tyne and Sharon, Rosenzweig says: 'a twelve-hour day, five days a week; a sixty-hour work week ... Tyne and Sharon were carrying the primary weight of our entire hour-long dramatic series. No other women in our industry were asked to do that. It merits comment.' I second that praise of an immense achievement by producer, writers, and actresses who gave so much to open the door for female buds.

The undaunted and tenacious Barney Rosenzweig is known for additional productions including Daniel Boone, John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Charlie's Angels, American Dream, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, and Christy, as well as four reunion Cagney & Lacey movies. Reading his work, I've come to extend the cliché, 'Never judge a book by its cover' to 'Never judge a book by its first chapters' (which seemed at first focused on ego). Cagney & Lacey ... and Me describes people committed to what they believe, expending passion, compassion, dedication, and hefty human labor. If you loved the Cagney & Lacey series of the 1980s, appreciate its impact in the industry, are interested in the behind the scenes of show production or in film and television history, this book is a must read. Sharon Gless commented in an interview, 'There is nothing in broadcast television today that resembles Cagney & Lacey, It bothers me ... Tyne and I always said it was a shame we couldn't pass the gauntlet to anybody.'

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