Home Television Drama Cagney and Lacey

Cagney and Lacey

1 9 8 2 – 1 9 8 8 (USA)
125 x 60 minute episodes
Several TV movies

Christine Cagney and Mary-Beth Lacey were New York City police detectives and they were women –  a bizarre concept for TV cop shows at the time.

They did everything their male counterparts did, but they did it like women – talking incessantly and supporting each other through everything from bad dates to alcoholism to rape to breast cancer.

Lacey had a very complex and involving marriage, while Cagney was a career-driven woman with no desire to settle down.


They were friends because they admired each other’s honesty and competence and because they could rely on each other in a dangerous job that they both loved.

The “reality cop” series was based on a TV movie screened in 1981, which had starred Loretta Swit and Tyne Daly.

Swit was unable to appear in a series because of her prior commitment to M*A*S*H, so Meg Foster was signed to play Cagney in the 1982 episodes.

Foster was eventually dropped for being “too tough, too hard and not feminine”. She was replaced in late 1982 by Sharon Gless.

Detective Chris Cagney was the beautiful blonde; ambitious, hard-headed, single and following in the footsteps of her father Charlie. Detective Mary Beth Lacey couldn’t have been more different.

Away from work, she devoted her life to her dependable husband Harvey and their sons Harvey Lacey Jnr. and Michael.


At the 14th precinct, the duo (who sorted out most of their problems in the Ladies Room) were supported by their tough but caring boss Lieutenant Samuels, earnest Detective Mark Petrie and womanising Detective Victor Isbecki, who helped them to fight crime and stay undercover with the constant threat of being caught out.

Apart from facing some of New York’s toughest criminals Cagney and Lacey also had more than their share of personal traumas.

Cagney was a victim of date rape and struggled against alcoholism. Blurring the line between art and life, Sharon Gless later confessed to the same problem and checked into a rehab clinic after the series ended.

Mary Beth – who wore her heart on her sleeve – was gunned down in one episode and was also arrested for demonstrating against nuclear waste transportation.


Tyne Daley’s real-life pregnancy was written into the plots and the enormous Mary Beth was wheeled into the delivery room (clutching husband Harv’s bowling trophy) with Chris mopping her brow.

Later John Karlen, who played the idyllically supportive Harv, blamed the stresses of the show for the break-up of his 21-year marriage.

The show was cancelled in 1983 but was brought back the next year when CBS received a flood of mail supporting the show. Revived, it ran until 1988 and won 14 Emmy awards. A number of infrequent TV movies followed the series.

Mary Beth Lacey 
Tyne Daly
Chris Cagney 

Meg Foster (1)
Sharon Gless (2)
Lt. Bert Samuels 

Al Waxman
Det. Marcus Petrie 

Carl Lumbly
Det. Verna Dee Jordan 

Merry Clayton
Det. Victor Isbecki 

Martin Kove
Det. Corassa 

Paul Mantee
Det. Paul La Guardia 

Jason Bernard
Det. Manny Esposito 

Robert Hegyves
Sgt Ronald Coleman 

Harvey Atkin
Harvey Lacey 

John Karlen
Harvey Lacey Jr 

Tony La Torre
Michael Lacey 

Troy Slaten
David Keeler 

Stephen Macht
Charlie Cagney 

Dick O’Neill