"You call this plain clothes…?" (Re)watching Cagney & Lacey

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O’Drama, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    :rolleyes:
     
  2. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I've now finally resumed my own much-delayed and no doubt what will continue to be sporadic rewatch so I'm now in a position to offer some more recent impressions.

    You Call These Plain Clothes

    I fear that I have been overly harsh about Meg Foster's suitability. As you say, the heart of the character is still there. As shallow as it may seem, I can't help thinking that if they'd simply lightened her hair a little the recast would not seemed so off and she would have she would have stood out more from Tyne. She did have a blonde wig as part of her hooker gear and seemed more "right" wearing it.
    I noticed that, too. There was one moment in particular, a punch I think, that was accompanied by an unmistakable Batman musical effect. But if I saw Riddle's name in the credits I didn't make the connection. I'll look out for it in the next one.
    That was my other big takeaway. I'd quite forgotten that Samuels was so nasty in these episodes. Quite a contrast to the proud mentor he becomes later on.
     
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  3. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh great. The show is still fresh in my mind and I'm missing it, so your ongoing rewatch will give me my fix.

    Foster was quite a revelation to me this time round. I'd watched her episodes before, but in the latest viewing I could see that she could have worked in the role on an ongoing basis.

    Rosenzweig frequently gives so much credit to Gless for saving the show. As much as I loved Sharon in the role, feel she hit the ground running and wouldn't want to be deprived of her presence, I do think that's an oversimplification. There were a number of tweaks made around the time that Gless came on board and I see no reason why Christine couldn't have evolved into an equally rich character in Foster's hands under the same team.

    Off the back of my recent watch, I've indulged in a great deal of supplemental material - interviews, featurettes, written articles and the audiobook version of Rosenzweig's book documenting the show. I forget who and where, but at some point, one of the three key people (Gless, Daly or Rosenzweig) said just that. In response to the network's complaint about them looking too similar, one of them asked why they couldn't just put a blonde wig on Foster.

    I just did a quick search, and while I didn't find the exact article, I did find this quote from an interview with Sharon:

    Interviewer: Well, let's go way back. Is it true that Meg Foster —whom you replaced on Cagney & Lacey—was axed because she was considered too butch?
    Gless: She was not butch at all. It's just that she and Tyne Daly were too similar. There was no contrast between the two. They should have put a blond wig on her.


    There was much about the Foster season that I started out hating and learnt to love, but Riddle wasn't one of them. I was glad to see the back of him.


    Yes indeed. I like both versions very much.
     
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  4. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad to see that. Now I don't feel quite so foolish suggesting it.

    According to Rosenzweig's book, and repeated on the back of the supplemental DVD cover, Gless was always first choice. You can understand the choice of Swit since MASH was so popular at the time but Foster's casting does seem to come out of left field.
     
  5. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    POP USED TO WORK CHINATOWN

    ... only to have an old crony come up and greet him ... :)

    Of course it's impossible to "re" watch without some degree of hindsight. I was struck in the previous episode by how much Mary Beth was smoking. Here Christine is leaning on her to quit - then invites her out to drink, blissfully unaware of her own addiction battle to come.
     
  6. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I liked, too, that Harvey was seen in his own world and not just as an adjunct to Mary Beth's life.

    I'm not sure that was real pigeon in all the scenes. He seemed to pull it loose very easily when he finally got there. I was more concerned about it being smothered inside his jacket.

    Samuels already seems to be mellowing toward the "girls", as he calls them, defending their right to the "collar" and so forth. Of course it didn't hurt that they were showing up the FBI guy either.

    Nelson Riddle's music didn't seem so blatant this time around. No obvious "Ka-pows", although there is one repeated refrain which sounds just like that which accompanies the changes of scene on Batman.

    And, is it my imagination, or have they actually lightened Foster's hair? Her portrayal of Cagney continues to impress with much more nuance in the softer moments than I remembered.
     
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  7. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Let's hope that's the case. I was quite bothered by the thought it was a real, distressed bird.


    Yes, I think the thaw from Samuels began earlier than I'd realised too. Perhaps necessary for the character to be watchable in an ongoing series (certainly for a show in the Eighties).


    I'm glad you're enjoying Foster's portrayal. She was really starting to click for me this time round.
     
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  8. Seaviewer

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    This episode seemed to have an oddly comedic tone. I suppose the banter between Isbecki and La Guardia could be classed as gallows humour but it extended to Mary Beth and Harvey's marital issues and even the scene where C&L are surrounded by the gang at the traffic lights, although the later one where they were being harassed as they returned to the car was quite harrowing.

    I recognised Harve Smithfield right away - a bit of a jolt when the door opened on the familiar face.

    Speaking of Isbecki and La Guardia, are they partners? I remember Isbecki and Petrie being partners. Maybe that comes later.

    And what's with Christine calling her partner "M.L."? That didn't sound right at all. :)
     
  9. Seaviewer

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    They seem to have found the right balance this time between the lighter and more sombre moments with the ongoing saga of Chris's romantic escapades nicely interspersed between the unfolding drama of the family and the missing girl. It was odd to see Chris defending the downtrodden in her discussions with the prosecutor. She will take the opposite side when she begins dating defence lawyer David. Gail Strickland's role was different to the outspoken feminist types I'd seen her in before but she was most effective.

    Isbecki still seems to be partnered with La Guardia with Petrie somewhat on the outer. The show's natural emphasis is on the misogyny the "girls" are facing. Having come through the seventies I guess Petrie's struggles as a black man a now a given. I'll be interested to see how the relationships develop into what I remember from later.

    The unnamed desk sergeant is also starting to make his presence felt. I'd forgotten him as a character and had to check Wikipedia to remind myself that his name is eventually revealed but his scenes do break up proceedings and add to the feeling of a working precinct.

    The episode title does annoy me. "Suffer the children" is a often-used misappropriation of a Biblical quote, "Suffer little children to come unto me". In this context "suffer" means to allow or permit. It has nothing to do with "suffering" in its modern sense. Just the literalist in me.
     
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  10. Seaviewer

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    I felt that they really hit their stride with this episode. All the characters were finally set and everything seemed to fall into place. It's a shame that's just where they were cancelled (the first time).

    Guest star Julie Adams makes a good antagonist. My first memory of her is as the wife in the short-lived sitcom The Jimmy Stewart Show but she's quite different here as the sort of detached harridan I more associate with Jessica Walter or Holland Taylor. I wonder what it would have been like if she had switched roles with Gail Strickland from the previous episode. I did find it odd that the irony - if not the downright hypocrisy of her making a lucrative and potentially political career out of campaigning for women to stay in the kitchen was not examined.

    Other points of interest: the elongated opening scene in which neither of the leads was present and the one with the sketch artist which I found almost as fascinating as the witness did. It's also worth noting that the fact that the artist (and the typist to whom La Guardia was dictating) were both black men went unremarked, despite Petrie being invited to compare C&L's situation with protecting a member of the KKK in another scene.

    If there was a flaw it was with the music. Nelson Riddle seems to have dropped his Batman shtick in favour of ripping off the score from Psycho. The perp is even called "The Psycho" several times in case we don't get the point.

    But overall a fine ending to the "lost" season and to Meg Foster's too brief tenure as Cagney. I didn't expect to say this when I started, but I'm going to miss her.

    Yes. A good payoff (I hope) to the otherwise puzzling repetition of the point throughout the season.
    I wrote my notes before reading your post. Nice to see we've come to some of the same conclusions. :)
     
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  11. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting. I always instantly associate her with the role of Jane and Syd's mother from Melrose Place and don't remember seeing her in too much else, barring a short lived medical show called Heartbeat and a few episodes of Dallas. She made an impression on me in C&L. Maybe I should look out for some of her outspoken feminist roles too.


    Agreed on all points.


    Funny you should mention JW. I watched her in The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman just last night, typecast as the vain, shallow, slightly evil antagonist.



    Good point. I suppose the irony was there by default given the plot, but maybe it could have been explored a little more.


    Yes indeed!! :) I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Season Two.
     
  12. Seaviewer

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    I was tempted to skip on to season 3 since I already had this season in the original MGM release but in the end I decided just to continue in sequence.

    Calling this "the true beginning" is something of a misnomer. (For that matter, the "lost episodes" aren't really lost; they're right there on my shelf.) According to the back of the DVD it refers to the introduction of Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly as team. As well as that there are the spiffy new opening titles and the beloved Bill Conti theme music replacing the somewhat dreary "Ain't That the Way".

    But this is by no means a reboot. Storywise it simply picks up where they left off with Gless stepping in as though she's always been there. There's even a specific reference to the shooting in "Pop Used to Work in Chinatown" underlining the fact that these are characters we're already familiar with.

    That said, it still seems a strange choice to start this new era with an episode which places the partners at odds rather than spending a few episodes re-establishing their friendship for the benefit of any new viewers.

    The episode also marks the first appearance of Inspector Marquette - played by Jason Bernard, my first sighting of a Knots Landing alumnus - who ambiguously lets them know that he's "aware of their work."

    And, lastly, in light of the controversy over Meg Foster's hair colour, is it a deliberate in-joke that, within minutes of her first appearance Gless is addressed as "Blondie"?

    Again, I wrote my comments before reading yours. Although I advocated for the "safe" approach, for myself I agree. Probably just as well I'm not a producer.

    I'd forgotten about that but, as I noted, they did acknowledge Mary Beth's experience.

    Agreed. Currently my C&L DVDs are on the shelf taking up the space where Knots seasons 3-9 would be.

    I'm thinking especially of a Family Ties episode in which she (Gail Strickland) played a equal rights campaigner.
     
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  13. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    That's nice....but also very sad:(
     
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  14. Seaviewer

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    "One of or own" turns out to be someone we've never heard of before, making it difficult to emotionally connect with the loss.

    Likewise, who knew that the 14th had a Japanese detective? I had the impression that he was supposed to have been there all along but it might have been better to have explicitly brought him in on special assignment from another precinct. As it stands, his unheralded presence for the sole purpose of translating for the restaurant witnesses is somewhat jarring. Watching Mary Beth incongruously reviving her halting Spanish from "Beyond the Golden Door" is more fun.

    To the case itself, it is clear from the beginning that the officer was shot by accident. I couldn't make up my mind whether this was intentional or just poor direction but either way it renders much of the investigation pointless from an audience perspective. Resolution comes via a last-minute clue leading to Christine's sudden deduction as to the true intended target.

    Within the squad we see Petrie and La Guardia starting to trade places, with Petrie spending more time with Isbecki, and La Guardia seemingly relegated to answering phone calls. Petrie's increasing role as mediator between the "girls" and the "macho men" is interesting. Again, his own experience with discrimination implicitly making him more accepting.

    Also increasing is the rivalry between Isbecki and Cagney as Isbecki is slowly forced to take Cagney more seriously. Here they are sparring in a side story revolving around a softball game which requires that each team have members of both sexes, the final twist being that it is Lacey rather than Cagney on her way to a home run as the episode freeze frames to a close.
     
  15. Seaviewer

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    Another step forward for the women, being assigned to lead a task force investigating a series of robberies, with Christine brimming with confidence and Mary Beth somewhat less so.

    It was nice to see Samuels becoming more supportive, even if his credo seemed to be "if you can't say anything bad then don't say anything". In this context, his grunts of approval are quite touching.

    On the other hand Marquette's antagonism was curiously at odds with his previous attitude. Indeed he seems to have completely forgotten meeting them two episodes earlier, going through a fresh introduction scene as if that had never happened.

    Also worthy of note is the episode's guest cast. In addition to Dennis Patrick, instantly recognisable as Dallas's Vaughn Leland, there was a host of familiar faces I could not immediately place.

    The closing credits supplied the names: Henry Polic II (who I remembered from Monster Squad and When Things Were Rotten) and a trio of grande dames - Christine Belford (the time travel/western series Outlaws, among other things), Barbara Cason (the later incarnation of Temperatures Rising) and Anne
    Seymour (a television mainstay for many years).

    According to her IMDb page Cason and Patrick were married, too.
    Yes. That would apply to all of them, which is probably why I couldn't identify them with any one role straight away.
     
  16. Seaviewer

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    I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later: the Laceys' hitherto separate worlds collide in a case of murder and corruption involving some of Harvey's former construction colleagues

    The three-way dynamics of Mary Beth working with her husband and her partner are handled deftly, culminating in the mildly surprising team-up of Christine and Harvey trying to convince Mary Beth of what they believe is the correct way to proceed.

    Mary Beth's high-rise rescue is reminiscent of Harvey's rescue of the pigeon under similar circumstances the previous season - either a clever callback or blatant recycling, take your pick. Maybe they just figured that nobody was watching that first season anyway.

    Some lighter moments highlighting Cagney's competitive streak come in what is literally a running gag with a fellow morning jogger. And there is a nice performance from Conchata Ferrell (from Knots Landing's "Hitchhike" two-parter) as a grieving widow. She really is a good actress. It's a shame that she will probably only be remembered for Two and a Half Men.

    Yes, quite a jolt.
     
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  17. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I was re-watching her L.A. Law episodes recently. She was part of the core cast for a season, so it was the show where I first noticed her. I watched her in that a couple of years before I finally got round to watching those first seasons of Knots in the early-mid Nineties. She seems a very reliable and quite charismatic actress.
     
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  18. Seaviewer

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    A punning title referring to the "erotic" phone service where a number of murder victims were employed.

    It's hard to know which is meant to be the A- and B- storylines here. The politicking and the effects on the inter-personal relationships are more interesting than the case itself.

    Marquette wants to downplay the possibility that the murders are linked but Samuels believes that a "strangler" is on the loose and says so to the press, resulting in a tongue-lashing from the inspector and cynicism from the squad.

    Samuels is also having marital troubles and puts all his energy into the case, demanding that the squad do the same despite their lack of enthusiasm for his theory. In a nicely judged scene, he turns to the women as confidantes, obviously needing something more than the joking relationship he has with the guys. He has already begun treating them with more professional respect and this cements that further.

    Of course, he turns out to be right, forcing a public backdown from Marquette which seems likely only to fuel the animosity between them. Isbecki pronounces that Samuels has the quality of all the great detectives. Isbecki also counts himself among that number provoking a sideways glance from Petrie (who finally appears to be officially his partner, the joined phrase Petrie-&-Isbecki now spilling regularly from Samuels's lips along with Cagney-&-Lacey).
    Yes, I guess that's what I was trying to say.
    I also remember her (Conchata Ferrell) in the short-lived Lindsay Wagner series A Peaceable Kingdom. David Ackroyd was in that as well - small world.
     
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  19. Seaviewer

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    Like I said, this is the first episode I ever saw.

    The interesting thing about that is that I unwittingly came in just when the women have become established in the squad, Samuels even overtly including them when he says he knows "his people". The only hint of their previous struggles is when Berwick says that he believes they are clean because women haven't been on the force long enough for the criminals to trust them (plus he's already checked them out).

    The first time around, having no familiarity with the characters, it seemed a real possiblity that the culprit could have been any of them. Watching it now, it's painfully obvious that it's Shelley. The way she flits in and out of camera range like a butterfly, no one really seeing her, much like Ben Stivers in Dallas. Knowing this was coming, I did notice her briefly appearing in a couple of previous episodes but not enough to dispell the notion that it was just to set her up for this.
    I had the same problem. We even have a suburb here called Berwick, pronounced "berrick".
    Very 80s. It reminded me of Pam's jazzercise studio in Dallas (or whatever they called it).

    I thought it was that. The Valkyries - great metaphor.

    Just to be sure I checked IMDb. Catherine Schreiber played Shelley in four episodes: One of Our Own, High Steel, Internal Affairs and, oddly, Mr. Lonelyhearts, the one after this. I'll be interested to see if there's any follow up or if it was just shown out of order.
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0775220/
    Indeed.
     
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  20. Seaviewer

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    A more emotional case than usual, with the title character being the target of the type of scam which younger viewers may be surprised to discover was not invented on the internet.

    Samuels orders them to drop it for one he considers more important which leads to the women pulling an impromptu scam of their own to pique the interest of a reporter played by Janet MacLachlan, another of those ubiquitous 80s faces.

    On the personal front, Harve and the Lacey boys take the week off and instead we get a peek at Cagney's romantic life. She's met a guy that she actually likes - apparently an unusual situation for her. It's hard to see what she sees in him behind the beard but it's fun watching Mary Beth's reactions.
    Her name was in the credits and I did spot her in the background a couple of times but I doubt that I would have noticed if I wasn't looking for her. In fact, this episode has a number of scenes which appear in the opening sequence which makes it pretty likely that it was filmed early on. It might be interesting to watch them one time in production order to see if they make more sense that way.
     
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