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

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

  1. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's good to get that context and always fun to revisit a first-watched episode. I like, too, that you've been charting the progress of the women being accepted into the ranks.



    I'm glad to hear it. ;)

    The pronunciation of Kit Mainwaring's name in Dallas was a very similar experience for me. I would say "mannering", but the way it's pronounced on the show is very literal.



    Oh wow. I think I completely missed that appearance.

    Odder still, according to the official C&L site this was the first Season Two script commissioned, so there's a definite disparity between the script order, the production order and the air dates at this point. As I recall, things got much tighter and neater later on, but I may be wrong about that.
     
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  2. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Funny that you should mention Kit Mainwaring because here we have another episode tangential to the emerging gay rights movement with another protagonist that we've never heard of before and will never see again.

    Between Charlie's somewhat forlorn protestations that "I'm not gay" and Mary Beth's reassurance that it doesn't matter the issues raised are never really resolved - not that we would really expect them to be.

    I'm not sure whether we are to make anything of his having the same name as Christine's father. It is not mentioned but it sounds odd to hear her casually use the name in reference to somebody else.

    Other ironies are dealt with in a more heavy-handed manner - the direct cut from the crooked shell game to the squad arguing over the distribution of their lottery tickets; Charlie suggesting to the only women in the squad that if he were gay they would be afraid that he would become emotional on a case.

    More subtle is the evolving relationship between Cagney and Samuels. Gone are the lieutenant's raucous exchanges with the guys, instead there is a quiet drink with Cagney at the end of the work day. In the context of the series as whole, it can be viewed as the start of him realising that it is she who is his true kindred spirit in terms of professionalism and devotion to the job.
    I didn't quite buy that scene. I know there's sometimes a tendency to ignore people like waiters and drivers as if they don't exist but I found it hard to believe that the cabbie would not be suspicious of them discussing something like that so openly. Lacey's alter ego did not seem as if she was supposed to know about him,
    As you allude to later in your review, I never felt his answers were quite definitive.
     
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  3. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    The obligatory Christmas episode seems to hit most of the seasonal cliches - from giving it the title of a popular song to the glimpse of It's a Wonderful Life on the TV, the perp in the Santa suit, having to work late on Christmas Eve and the last-minute shopping (although with the nice twist that the flying helicopter thinghy was for the lieutenant rather than one of the Lacey boys as we might have been expecting), even a miracle baby for the Petries.

    A couple of touching moments were the surprise inclusion of Cagney in the Lacey family gift-giving, and Isbecki being revealed as not quite the sleaze he was making himself out to be.

    This also marked the introduction of Dory - the first love interest for Cagney that lasted more than one episode. Knowing what's coming with him, I had an almost instinctive revulsion to just hearing his name.
     
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  4. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    The Dory episode.

    What I had forgotten was that Chris actually knew about his drug use from the beginning so that there was no shocking moment of discovery. Instead it is a gradual story of inevitable decline.

    You can track the whole thing on her face. From the girlish grin when she still thinks love will conquer all, to the annoyance when he brings the stuff to the job, the realisation that he is out of control and the futility of trying to help him, and the hurt and anger of the final confrontation.

    Light relief comes in the form of new dad Petrie's running commentary the minutiae of his baby daughter's milestones, or, more accurately, Isbecki and La Guardia's not always successful attempts to look interested.
    It occurred to me as odd that Harv would recognise this when none of the cops either in the squad or Dory's own Homicide Division seemed to notice. Were they all turning a blind eye?
    Yes. That's why Cagney's expressions are so important - and perhaps it also answers my previous question.
    Good catch. I liked the scene but didn't make that connection.
     
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  5. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes. I like the way it played out which felt a little different from standard episodic drug storylines of the era. Even today I think people may still expect that moment of discovery, so the presentation here really sets this one apart.



    This arc would make for an interesting psychological exploration of Chris as an Al-Anon candidate, for anyone inclined to do so. Chris has grown up turning a blind eye to Charlie's heavy drinking and here she is in another significant relationship with some similarities (albeit a different substance). While I don't believe it was intended to, this episode goes a long way towards strengthening future storylines.




    Good point. Subconsciously, I think I put it down to the point to which Dory's addiction had progressed. We joined him just as things were tailspinning and I suppose it would only have been a matter of time before his colleagues would have had to address it.

    But yes - I think it's a case that it hadn't gone completely unnoticed and the old boys network was in action. They'd look the other way and even cover for him as long as he was able to do his job. Or perhaps as long as he turned a blind eye to some of their own bad habits. And I think that my view of it is influenced by similar ethical dilemmas that cropped up in the 14th in other episodes of Cagney & Lacey.
     
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  6. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    A robbery involving the somewhat ironic notion of a crippled girl's bicycle gives the squad - especially Christine - the chance to show off their softer sides.

    The only sour note comes when Christine tries to deceive the girl into thinking that they have recovered the bike when the truth - that they have all chipped in for a new one - would have been more caring.

    The moral aspect aside, it's hard to believe that a detective would not have realised that the original bike would have distinguishing features that a new one would not, but it does lead to an emotional bonding scene where the girl compares Chris to her grandmother and a moving finale where they admit that the bike will probably never be found and she agrees to accept one which does not resemble the lost one.

    A highlight is the guest star turn by an appropriately sepulchral Lance Henriksen as the mortuary employee behind the thefts.

    On the home front, the Laceys are now apparently well to do enough to afford a cleaning lady - much to the chagrin of Mary Beth who was expecting a refrigerator.

    No mention of their agreement in the last epsiode to have another baby - or whether they get the refrigerator.
     
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  7. Seaviewer

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    An unusual episode, in parts like an oldstyle caper movie, veering into darker territory with Chris's increasing obsession with catching the legendary thief.

    I was also bemused by Samuels' somewhat erratic attempts at mentoring Cagney. The technique seems to consist of moments of buddy-to-buddy advice punctuated by fiery outbursts at perceived breaches of discipline which in at least some cases are arguably prompted by his own previous lapses into informality.

    Whatever is the opposite of light relief is provided by another solo Harve story where he allows himself a dalliance with an old girlfriend. It's hard to see how he could have expected it to go in any direction but what it did but he ends up doing the right thing - just as Mary Beth knew he would.
    Again, similar observations. The changing tone of the episode carries you along.
    An example of the dichotomy I mentioned. In fact, Samuels appears as taken with Grand as she does. One more thing they have in common.
     
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  8. Seaviewer

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    The 14th gets a third female detective.

    The most striking thing about this is the happiness with which she is welcomed by Samuels and the other men.

    Chris and Mary Beth are more conflicted and the episode is really about their struggles to understand their own reactions. Contrasts are drawn with the lack of enthusiasm which greeted their own arrival and they wonder if their misgivings are merely the result of resentment. Mary Beth in particular goes out of her way to make allowances for the newcomer's early mistakes.

    Typically, Christine is harsher in her judgement and in the end is proven correct - the woman really has been promoted beyond her level of competence - although there's nothing to indicate that it was because of "affirmative action" as suggested by the title; more a case of the Peter principle - and there's general relief to see her shipped of to another precinct.
    It's impossible not to think of Knots Landing whenever anything like that comes up. Sometimes real life news stories.

    It's true. I was expecting that!

    Here's at least one thing we've disagreed about. I didn't notice that. Maybe on the next re-watch. ;) Actually, Diane mentions her interest in the medical examiner's office (or words to that effect); she would probably be more suited to that.
     
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  9. Seaviewer

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    A busy episode, with the "open and shut" homicide inevitably turning out to be anything but, and a rape victim, an acquaintance from an old case, being subjected to the ongoing humiliation of having to recount her testimony for a re-trial.

    The unifying legal theme, complete with quirky courtroom scenes, is no doubt courtesy of future LA Law co-creator Terry Louise Fisher here making her Cagney & Lacey writing debut.

    With the two cases going on simultaneously, Chris and Mary Beth are forced to trade off their time supporting their friend (not to mention encroaching on Cagney's purchase of a new car) and Chris at one point declares that they don't have to go everywhere together because they're not the Bobbsey Twins.

    Now I've heard that expression many times and the meaning is pretty self-explanatory but had no idea where it came from - so I Googled it.

    http://www.dictionary.com/browse/bobbsey-twins

    You're welcome. :)
    Agreed. Most of the episode is character interaction which you have chronicled well.
     
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  10. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking as I watched that we seldom get to see them acting as real detectives in this way. Nicely done.

    And still very much an issue today. The same applies to a lot of those covered in the series, which keeps it timely but also reveals how little progress has been made in thirty years.
    They never did say exactly which birthday.
    Interesting way to put it.
    I was surprised that Christine especially didn't complain about being back I uniform - she even rushes out to the crime scene still wearing it. Side point: There are a lot of pictures of Swit and Foster in the pre-detective days but have we ever seen Gless in the uniform before? Offhand I don't recall it.
     
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  11. Seaviewer

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    A pair of showcase episodes. Interesting that they should air back-to-back.

    It's been a while since I read Barney Rosenzweig's book but he gives some space to both of these, describing the conversation where Gless is given to understand that Cagney is not to be the traditional TV hero cop, and the stresses in Daly's own life which inspired her performance.
     
  12. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    As an aside: In the wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Harvey (as it approaches the Texas coast), I find myself mocking the anchormen and meteorologists by re-stating the name of the hurricane in my mind using Mary Beth Lacey's accent. It's not Har-vey; it's "Hwa-vey" (as close as I can write it)
     
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  13. Seaviewer

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    That last scene was especially hard to take seriously since it reminded me of a similar one in an I Dream of Jeannie episode. The Petrie story was definitely the more involving strand.

    I can't believe it's been almost a year since Mel wrote these reviews but, if it's not too late, you may have seen her in Paper Dolls.
     
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  14. Seaviewer

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    I'm not finding much to comment on at this point. They've found their groove and it's just a matter of going along for the ride.
    It took me a while to identify Neva Patterson as Muriel, too, another stalwart from the 70s and 80s.

    I was also wondering if the comment from one of the boys about his mother's work being like Dirty Harry was an intentional reference to The Enforcer (the third Dirty Harry movie) which co-starred Tyne Daly.
     
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  15. Seaviewer

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    That got me thinking about Petrie's career path. He seems to be ahead of them here but, jumping ahead, from memory I think Chris makes sergeant before he does.
    Cops as victims. I liked the way Isbecki made an effort to be a "nice guy" even though he hadn't been there.
    A hunch that paid off. Chris objected that she likes PB&J. I still have all that stuff myself. :)
     
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  16. Seaviewer

    Seaviewer Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Another topical subject that has sadly retained it's relevance.
    Unfortunately, I found even the reveal predictable with a somewhat hammy performance by Greg Mullavey, perhaps not surprising given that he was best known for the now little-remembered Norman Lear soap satire Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (which actually pre-dated Soap, by the way).
    That was a more affecting moment, less expected.
    Was this a reference to an earlier episode? It sounded like someone we were supposed to remember but the name didn't ring a bell.
     
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  17. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh gosh - that hadn't even occurred to me. I'd assumed it was someone that Chris dated before the series began.
     
  18. Seaviewer

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    Yes, I was quite taken with that as well.

    The thought did strike me that Kojak was fictional in Cagney & Lacey's world, so... no crossovers?

    It was a nice ending, though. Everything wrapped up, everyone friends again and a nice freeze-frame of the two leads. If it had ended there it would not have been open-ended. But Season Three awaits. I've got an idea that they were never repeated here so it'll be my first ever re-watch. :)
     
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  19. Seaviewer

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    For once I can't fault the choice of DVD title. This is exactly what it is.

    The slightly revamped opening credits have warmer cast photos and the two leads are now billed separately. This must be the start of the agreement for alternate star billing - the previous season had dual credit. I must confess that I always saw it from left to right even though it is also possible to read it top down (I think Laverne & Shirley was the first show to do that) so I suppose alternating it makes sense.
    The episode title suggests a more risqué plot than it turns out to be, possibly to attract new (male?) viewers. Not that it matters. In the era of the super-soap it's no longer crime-of-the-week with a personal B-story. It's personal all the way now with the crime merely background. To this end we are introduced to Samuels' previously unseen ex-wife and son and learn of Christine's previously unmentioned brother. The episode ends on a phone call which is obviously only the beginning. Can we call it a cliffhanger?
    Yes, that's the way to do it. Good writing can change the course of events without contradicting them.

    I enjoyed that a lot. And it joins the Kojak and Dirty Harry references. They apparently like to keep up with their fictional counterparts.
     
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  20. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting that they didn't restrict the references to just CBS shows to play safe. Or just to non-CBS shows to suggest that shows on their network were more real. Kojak was another CBS show while Columbo was (at that point) NBC.


    How exciting!! :dance:


    I find billing quite fascinating and perhaps more so in a show with just a handful of definite lead characters - two in this case.

    As I recall from Rosenzweig's book, he suggested that Tyne's contractual demands about which episodes she had first billing in that meant she ended up with a worse deal. It had to do with which actress got odd-numbered episodes and which got even. There was some kind of miscalculation from Tyne (perhaps she hadn't accounted for Season Three having an odd number of episodes). Anyway, the bottom line was that for the last four seasons Sharon always got first billing in the premiere episode which is the one that is the most impactive.


    The first time I remember noticing it was when it was commented on in an audio commentary for Halloween II where Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence were billed in a similar way, with one bottom left and one top right.

    I see it from time to time and it never fails to make me smile. It's quite a clever solution, I think, but I can't help wondering if it creates still more arguments about who gets to be bottom left or top right. As you've pointed out, it's open to interpretation.


    Nice observations.


    Very true. And there's no shortage of good writing here.
     
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