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Cagney & Lacey, Featuring Me as Mr. Crankypants

By admin Published: April 23, 2007

I loved "Cagney & Lacey" in its prime-time heyday, and it's nice to see a DVD box coming May 8 ...

tied to the 25th anniversary of the show. (Well, sort of tied. The pilot film aired in October 1981, the series began in March 1982 and the episodes in the DVD date to October 1982.)

That chronology hints at why the box for "Cagney & Lacey 1" calls it "the true beginning." A press release from MGM carefully calls it "Season One With Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly."

But the people who paid real attention to "C&L" know that the series did not begin with Sharon Gless.

First, there was that TV movie with Loretta Swit and Tyne Daly. Then there were six spring-tryout episodes with Meg Foster and Tyne Daly. As executive producer Barney Rosenzweig notes in his book Cagney, & Lacey ... and Me, the show's continued survival depended on recasting the part of Cagney, and Gless -- who had been kept from the earlier versions by a contractual commitment to another studio -- was finally available when the third incarnation came into being.

Again, I loved the show. Loved Tyne Daly in particular, but Gless held her own most of the time. My issue here has to do with the importance of DVDs as historical artifacts, as a place that could have offered people a chance to study the evolution of the series by including the earlier versions.

So that's not the case. And there may even be a sound reason involving who owns which episodes, or whether all the rights could be cleared on the early shows. Nevertheless, that "true beginning" line on the DVD box ticks me off.

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