Tyne Daly Knows Her Way Around Legends

PlayBlog   Tyne Daly Knows Her Way Around Legends
 
Before her Tony-winning turn as Gypsy's voracious, magnetic Rose (in 1989 and reprised in 1991), before the Master Class she is currently conducting at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, where she gives a towering performance as Terrence McNally's glamorous, dynamic, temperamental, theatrical diva Maria Callas, Daly inhabited another legend on the small-screen in the form of Mary Beth Lacey, a cop from Queens, on a TV show called "Cagney & Lacey."


In six years on the CBS television series, the woman The New York Times' Ben Brantley called "one of the finest American actresses working," she breathed life into this everywoman, mother of three by telling stories, with her equally adept partner-in-crime-solving Sharon Gless, from a woman's point of view. While the show focused on a myriad of serious issues affecting women, such as breast cancer, alcoholism and sexism, it rarely preached, opting instead to dramatize them through the eyes of two working women, their lives, their relationships, their successes and failures, prejudices and triumphs. In the process, Daly and Gless left an indelible mark on scores of fans hungry for some nourishment (Daly would often refer to the show as the green salad portion of the prevailing television menu).

Since the show left the air in 1988, fans mostly have had to make due with their fading videotapes and memories. While the 1982-1983 season as well as the four "Cagney & Lacey" movies broadcast in 1994 and 1995 have been released on DVD, the balance of the series remains in the vault.

Or does it? Not if executive producer Barney Rosenzweig has his way. Rosenzweig — whose 2007 memoir of his life in the TV trenches, "Cagney & Lacey . . . and Me," has just been published as an e-book on iTunes and Amazon.com — has always been the show's indefatigable dragon slayer, battling network executive myopia through the years, orchestrating write-in campaigns when his baby was cancelled (one of the few such efforts that actually succeeded in bringing a show back on the air). Time has not diminished his zeal, and through a new survey being conducted on Cagney & Lacey's official website, Rosenzweig is hoping "C&L's" loyal fan base will respond to a few simple questions to "persuade MGM to release the rest of 'Cagney & Lacey' on DVD."

In one of Master Class' most memorable exchanges, Tyne Daly's Maria Callas instructs her students on an essential ingredient of fame. "It's important to have a look," she says, or risk obscurity. "Cagney & Lacey" "had a look," and a humanist sensibility. Fans, chiefly because of the extraordinarily committed work of Daly and Gless, have not forgotten it. In fact, early respondents to the survey have commented that the show changed their lives—no small accomplishment for a fictional entertainment on network television. These same fans remain hopeful that by taking Rosenzweig's survey, their unequivocal support will cajole the DVD gods to give this dynamic duo the same sort of standing ovation that currently greets one of them every night at her Master Class curtain call.

-- Judy Samelson

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