"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 Dream Maker

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    I think you'll find that the elder boy is Harve, Jr. It should be easy to keep straight - it's the conventional choice for the first born son to be named after the father.
     
  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    He is. I finally started to get it straight last night when he got into trouble at school.

    Yes, but I've been getting the Lacey boys mixed up with the Brody boys from Jaws, where the elder son is named Michael. Confusing things even more, the Jaws novel has a third son named Martin Jr., but I believe he's the middle son rather than the eldest.

    But I think I finally have it now.
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BURN OUT

    Starting with the obvious: this is the episode that won Tyne the first of her four Emmys for the series. And it does have an almost vanity project feel to it, with a crisis and major dramatic arc for the character. Looking back over recent episodes and in terms of high drama it's felt like Sharon Gless has had the meatier material with a lot of obsession and investment for her character. So in a way this episode feels like Tyne getting her due. Both actors are very giving and seem absolutely fine with the ebb and flow of their characters arcs. There is a sense of balance and equality there. Above all, both are consistently excellent, no matter how much screentime they have. After a year and a half and twenty four note-perfect episodes, there no doubt in my mind that Daly deserved her win.

    That said, there's something about this particular episode being nominated that almost does Daly an injustice. She's absolutely amazing in it, no doubt. But I also feel that she delivers amazing on a week in/week out basis. One could select almost any scene of hers and find things that are Emmy worthy in it. I suppose my gripe is that the Emmy process only involves one episode. And the point I'm coming towards is that if the process involved choosing a performance from a completely random episode; or the entire season; or indeed, the entire series, Daly would still rank tops for the amount of awards won in this category.

    Mary Beth having a nervous breakdown gives her the chance to get angry, to shout and rant, to cry. So while still reeled in from full-on Mama Rose, things do get quite big here. But it's the first part of the show, the events that lead up to her snapping, that really shows Daly and the series at their best.

    The writing and the frenetic way it's filmed really gives us a sense of the pressure faced by police officers. As a viewer I got that sense of being inundated and of chaos: the lack of quiet time; trying to sort things at home over the phone from the office; leave being cancelled to work on a case; trying to make a phone call while files are being placed in front of them, drunks are singing in cells and colleagues are having a conversation with you. The 14th Precinct always feels like it has a buzz to it, and here it's ramped right up to reflect Mary Beth's emotional state.

    I appreciated that as the episode opens we join Mary Beth running on her nerves. She's showing less empathy to people she's arresting and snapping at her family at home. The most powerful moment in the entire show for me was right after she'd bawled at Harv Jr. for fighting at school only for him to try to explain her reasons. She says nothing (even though she seems to want to), but the look on her face is just incredible. I could feel the wheels turning and pick up on the varied emotions she's feeling.

    So Lacey dropping her life and disappearing felt very organic. On paper, her leaving her children is entirely out of character. But that's exactly the point of the episode.

    Daly's erstwhile scene partner for her beach scenes is Jennifer Warren as artist Maggie. She's an interesting character. Not entirely likeable, and quite difficult to work out. She has that "free spirit" air that frequently translates as an irresponsible person who is oblivious to others' feelings. In other words, the complete opposite of Mary Beth. And that proves to be just what she needs. Tyne brought a sense of history to her character as she talked about the Sixties and explained - in as many words - why she chose to become a police officer.

    Thinking of an Emmy episode being a 'time capsule' version of the show, the biggest disappointment her is how little time the partnership with Chris gets, as that chemistry is just incredible. That said, the time that is given to it is spot on. There's no doubt that this is a working team, and we see all aspects of it including Chris's wry remarks (an edgy Mary Beth comments that Chris is probably looking forward to the Laceys' holiday as much as Mary Beth herself, to which Chris fires back "More"). But what comes through most of all is the support she offers. Chris backs Mary Beth's pleas for Samuels to honour her leave, assuring him that she can handle the undercover case herself. And her initial anger towards her upon her return shows her concern too.

    The most telling Chris scene of the episode is actually one with Harv, where she visits him at work and confesses that she sometimes pushes Mary Beth too hard and gets ambitious, forgetting that Mary Beth has other people in her life. It's a sweet and simple scene that strengthens their relationship through common ground and respect for each other.

    As Harv, John Karlen also gets to go large with an outburst at Samuels in which Harv blames the Lieutenant for giving Mary Beth a hard time. There's a really strong moment where the two get really personal as they butt heads: with Harvey bringing up Samuels' failed marriage at the expense of his job and Samuels retaliating that Harv is pressuring Mary Beth with his constant phone calls and demands, commenting that Harv reminds Samuels of his ex-wife. It's gratifying to see these two great actors having such a potent scene together, and the quiet moment at the tail end, where they both try to smooth things over, is nice too.

    Gless spends much of the episode in a slightly more thankless role as Chris goes undercover as a nun. It sounds silly, but the writing and actors make it work. That said, other than the sight of Cagney in a habit, the B-story is quite forgettable. But like I said at the start, it's all part of the ebb and flow.

    So - this is a must-see episode of the show by any measure. Just don't make it the only episode you watch.
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    CHOP SHOP

    With these latter Season Two episodes, there's a feeling that the supporting cast are stepping into the sunlight a little more, creating a more ensemble feel. They've been serving an important role thus far, but there are some minor changes that suggest a recognition of the quality of the cast. The two main stories in this episode can best be described as "Isbecki is kidnapped after an undercover operation gets blown" and "Petrie shoots and kills a mugger in Harlem". Perhaps the first time the entire plot could be summed up without a mention of either of the titular characters. Equally significantly, for the first time to the best of my memory, the end-of-episode freeze-frame features neither of the two leads.

    That's not to say the format of the show has changed, and Chris and Mary Beth remain in the thick of things, and their responses remain key. But this episode has a refreshing - and organic - sense of evolution. An appreciation, if you will, for the underdog.

    Both Isbecki's kidnap and Petrie's shooting are cop show clichés on the surface. Isbecki's story in particular ticks some very familiar boxes: he's held in a garage, tied to a chair, effects an escape after slipping his bonds, is caught and beaten and eventually put into a car that's put into a crusher in a scrap yard which is stopped in the nick of time. This shows things haven't changed too much, as the most gripping parts of the story involve the bungled operation at the beginning where Chris and Mary Beth lose the wired Isbecki as they tail him (the setup and execution feeling very familiar to anyone who watched Conduct Unbecoming), and their phone calls with one of the kidnappers who is helping them in return for immunity (there's a really nice, tense scene where Chris bluffs her way though a conversation with him while they wait for Samuels to show up with the papers they need). So really, it's when Chris and Mary Beth are thrown into the mix that the story really goes somewhere special.

    Petrie's storyline is just great. Layered, carefully woven and thought-provoking. The political side to policing comes to the fore (something this show does incredibly well). Because the young man that Petrie shot and killed was black, there's the view from high up that there will be less fallout for the force if it is publicised that the cop who fired the shot was also black. Not wanting any part of it, Petrie finds himself the unwilling participant in a race relations exercise. On a deeper level, it also prompts Petrie to question himself about his internalised racism and the fact that he views Harlem differently as a result of being on the force.

    There are some nice touches of continuity. Two journalists have appeared in earlier episodes and Mary Beth references her own experience of killing someone back in Season One's Pop Used To Work Chinatown. I enjoyed having a number of Mary Beth/Petrie scenes in this episode. I always enjoy the friendship between these two. Chris aside, Petrie was the first person to connect with Mary Beth at the 14th, and while the series has moved on following their initial bonding over being persecuted minorities, it's such a strong foundation that the history is implicit in all of their scenes, something that is utilised well here. Besides, Carl Lumbly is a wonderful actor, and I look forward to more Petrie goodness in future episodes.
     
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  5. Kevmac

    Kevmac Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    "Burn Out".... Yes, I really enjoyed this one, Mel'. As soon as it started, I recalled seeing it before. When Harv' mentions that Mary-Beth usually goes to the movies to think things through, I was expecting to see a scene of her in a dark movie theatre, face reflected by the screen.... I'm almost sure I've seen such a scene so maybe it comes up again in another season ? :eck: Jennifer Warren..... is that who that was ? I've definitely seen her in something before.... she was good.

    Yes... I thought this was a great little scene. Cleverly written too....

    Yes, he's a fave of mine too..... I also enjoy an' get a chuckle from Isbecki's constant vanity.... :D
     
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  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    LET THEM EAT PRETZELS

    Stakeouts are the order of the day, as the two women try to take in a wealthy Middle Eastern playboy, Moqtadi who was in a hit and run that hospitalised an elderly man and is now claiming refuge in a building that is owned by his country.

    The cat and mouse game is interesting enough, but it's the small moments that really make this work. There are some themed gags running through the episode: Mary Beth's dislike of the coffee she is served is one. The pretzel vendor's series of bad jokes is another. Harv's mother Muriel is staying and Mary Beth keeps getting met with sympathy from others even though she insists she is happy with the situation.

    Muriel's visit feels like generic episodic fare, with Mary Beth feeling threatened when Muriel takes over cooking and does it better than she does. There's a nice moment between the two women late in the episode, where Mary Beth shows empathy and encourages her into some activities to occupy her time.

    The stakeout itself again shows the tedium of police work. Mary Beth and Chris play cards. Mary Beth takes a nap while Chris watches the building through binoculars. They talk and eat pretzels (commenting that stakeouts are fattening).

    I wasn't fond of some of the stereotypical music that was used for much of the episode, which seemed a little too obvious and slightly patronising.

    There's a double ended payoff to the storyline. First the injustice as it's revealed that Moqtadi will just receive a small fine ($100) and warning with no arrest. Then a kind of twist as the women - armed with this knowledge before Moqtadi finds out - visit him and under threat of arrest, they bluff him into covering his victim's hospital bills AND a holiday to recover along with a donation to charity. It was enjoyable to see the leads using this kind of wile, but it also felt a little unrealistic.

    So a good enough episode, but there was nothing really strong or groundbreaking that made this one pop. Sometimes the ordinary is riveting, and sometimes it's just ordinary. This one leaned towards the latter for me.
     
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  7. Kevmac

    Kevmac Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I watched this one quite recently, Mel'. :) I recognised the actor playing "Moqtadi" form a few early Charlie's Angels episodes..... it's just come to me that he was also in "Night Terror"... a 1977 movie starring Valerie Harper. (also known as Night Drive) ?

    Yes... I thought more would have been made of this but I guess it was enough family background within one episode. I like all the background stuff, particularly Mary-Beth's which we seem to see the most of so far...

    I suppose the whole story was fairly predictable... :oops:

    I've still to watch "Cry for Help" and "The Informant" from this season.
     
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  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I love seeing familiar faces in shows from this era, but it can get distracting when I don't immediately recognise where I know them from. ;)

    Oh yes, definitely. I so enjoy that we learn about the characters' backgrounds piecemeal which means that there is plenty of room to learn more about them in future seasons.

    It was. But very well done. In a way, the series made a rod for its own back: because the standards are as good as or better than other shows of this era, my expectations are getting to be very high.


    We're almost in sync, Kev. I watched A Cry For Help last night and hope to view The Informant this evening. Then it's on to Season Three. :popcorn:
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Recycled footage alert: this episode re-showed some of the opening scene from the Pilot with the residents in sleepwear moving their car from one side of the road to the other as the parking limitations came into force. It felt very long here too, as part of a standard-length episode, but it was fun to see it again.
     
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  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE GANG'S ALL THERE

    More Petrie goodness in this episode, with Mark moving up a grade and celebrating by buying an engagement ring for Claudia (he couldn't afford one when they actually got engaged). There was a sign of the times when Mary Beth made a comment about it being odd to buy the mother of his children an engagement ring which was more novel thirty years ago than it is now.

    Chris seizing the opportunity to get everyone to go out that evening was a great excuse to reflect the character dynamics, in particular Chris's free and easy spontaneity versus Mary Beth's sense of responsibility to her family. It was refreshing to see the group away from the office.

    The armed robbery played out well. The powerlessness of these characters in that situation came across well. I really appreciated the lack of kickass, which was completely realistic given the situation, and fuelled the anger that they felt afterwards. Again, the responses were in character with Chris wanting revenge and Mary Beth wanting justice on the surface. Then it got turned on its head with Mary Beth admitting her vengeful feelings to Harv and Chris feeling bad about running on ego when capturing the robbers. The latter was moment that played out like a stereotypical wisecracking cop. It's typical of this show to have emotional resonance from that scene, with Chris feeling less professional for behaving that way. It was good, too, to see a little more of LaGuardia with his concern that he's past it.

    The sub-plot with the grandparents' kidnap of their late son's child played out well too. I found the grandparents far more sympathetic than the child's mother, so it's good to see a story with shades of grey. The only moment that I found a little too in your face was Mary Beth happening to find her son's PBJ sandwich which she'd packed by mistake. This was immediately following a relatively subtle scene where the grandparents (who claimed not to have seen their grandson) had peanut butter, jam and milk on the table. I was completely accepting of Mary Beth working it out afterwards, but her happening to have the same sandwich filling was just far too contrived. Surely the penny would still have dropped if she'd had a ham sandwich.

    Having Chris and Mary Beth involved in both plots continued to show off their differences nicely. Mary Beth unable to think about anything but the missing child while Chris wanted Mary Beth to use their driving time to go through files to find the armed robbers. I enjoyed Chris's inability to see Mary Beth's point of view ("We're driving out to see the grandparents, for God's sake. What more can we do?").

    There were a couple of nice one liners in the episode too. Such as Chris talking about a date: "Did you see his teeth? They were longer than his nose."*


    *I'm pretty sure that line was from this episode, but I watched it back-to-back with
    A Cry For Help, so I may be an episode out.
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    A CRY FOR HELP

    Another episode that neatly tied together the main and sub plots when one of the two officers helping the women - a fellow graduate from Mary Beth's police academy days - turns out to be the violent husband that a mysterious woman keeps calling Mary Beth about. It's nicely played. Being episodic TV, a jaded viewer will understand it's likely to be one of the guest characters. Here the show rolls with that, giving us a very intense and unpredictable officer who exhibits little regard for his wife when hitting on Chris (Stanley Kamel, who plays this kind of character so well). Then the reveal comes that it's the quieter, more peaceable of the two that is the wife-beater.

    There are some powerful moments for all concerned, with more revelations about the characters' backstories: Samuels tells how he turned a blind eye to a former partner who was beating his wife and has regretted it ever since. Chris confides in a shocked Mary Beth that her relationship with an old boyfriend (who Mary Beth liked) ended because he beat her. This revelation in particular challenges the view of victims of domestic violence as weak, stupid or enablers: something suggested by both Harv and - to a lesser degree - Mary Beth herself. If it can happen to Chris, it could happen to anyone. There's a great scene at the Laceys when the exposed cop comes banging on the door, blaming Mary Beth for ruining his career and marriage. After a point, Mary Beth and Harvey are wordless as his attempts to gain Harvey's sympathy are met with silence and his rants turn to tears. It begins with Mary Beth having a gun on her colleague, and ends with her embracing him to console him. The view of the bully as the truly weak and pitiful one felt like a profound and truthful message.

    The intensity of the storyline is balanced by a cute little storyline where a "friend" of Christine's has written erotic fiction. Chris has been asked for her opinion and can't face reading it, so she asks Mary Beth to read it in her place. The friend turns out to be Chris's very romantic new lover, who is wooing her. There's an interesting counterbalance with the main story here. The romantic, sensitive, new man at the start of a relationship contrasting with the angry, bitter wife-beater. Both objectifying women in their own way.

    The story of the man ripping off older women with a property scam also fits in there somewhere. Someone selling a romantic idea while not giving a damn about them. Plus it gave us some great minor characters in the three older women he'd targeted.
     
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  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE INFORMANT

    There was a musical motif played immediately post credits that recurred throughout the episode. It was a slowed-down piano version of the main theme that actually sounded much more like the Hill Street Blues theme than Cagney & Lacey. I liked it. It made me think of The Gentle Touch, which had a couple of different versions of its theme - one fast and catchy and the other slow and poignant.

    Alan Hayes brought a certain cheeky charm as the titular character with a fondness for tight jeans. The relationship that grew between him and the women was enjoyable, and I felt invested enough to feel let down when they did.

    Harv Jr's interviews of the 14th Precinct crew were also enjoyable, particularly LaGuardia using the opportunity to find out more about Harv's grandmother, Muriel who he is still crushing on from Let Them Eat Pretzels (a nice bit of continuity, and he actually got a date by the end of this episode).

    There were a couple of pop culture references this episode. Rosemary's Baby and Kojak were both mentioned, which suggests that Cagney & Lacey's world is somehow a little more real than the one Telly Savalas inhabits on-screen.

    The unfairness of the system of using informants was nicely highlighted, and created some nice tension between the two leads who viewed it separately. There was a very real-feeling moment where Mary Beth in her frustration snapped that Chris only cared about her career. Something she immediately apologised for. I really felt for them both as they wrestled with the decision to allow a drug dealing creep to walk free in order to catch bigger fish. Once again, the outcome was a slight cop out (they eventually decided that in order to feel ok about things they needed to send the dealer to prison and to catch the bigger dealer without his help. Only to find they were too late and he'd made a deal with someone else), but I accepted it.

    And so the second season has wrapped up. This show is excellent. It's difficult to believe it was not renewed after this episode, but I'm glad it was, and I'm looking forward to moving on to Season Three.
     
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  13. Kevmac

    Kevmac Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Thank You, Mel'ster for these 2 crits on the last two episodes of Season 2. I'm going to watch them now that you've created these delicious posts.... ;):)

    ...... ??? :eek: I didn't know this....? They were going to cancel ?? :( I must read-up about it... I suppose it was a big deal cancelling a show back in the 80's ..? where as now, there are so many TV shows that are cancelled at the drop of a hat... as soon as the ratings drop a smidgin'.... it's over.... :oops:
     
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  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep. It actually was cancelled after Season Two, and they went as far as destroying the sets and letting all the cast and crew go. Everyone had to audition to get their jobs back, which caused a lot of unhappiness.

    Fortunately, they got everyone back. The actor playing Harv Jr. had been cast in another show, but that got cancelled before they brought back C&L as a mid-season replacement. That's why S3 is so short. It took that long for the fan's letter writing campaign to take effect and to rally everyone up again.
     
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  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Three - Back By Popular Demand


    [​IMG]


    MATINÉE

    The story behind the show's return to the air may be legendary, but onscreen the feeling is satisfyingly ordinary. This feels like just another episode. Which in Cagney & Lacey terms is a very good thing.

    This episode is notable for some significant reveals about the characters' backstories. Particularly significant is a retcon of sorts about Chris's background. Driving along an affluent Westchester street, Mary Beth is in complete awe of the beautiful homes and the lifestyles of the women. Then Chris casually mentions that she grew up in the area. Later in the episode she reluctantly points out the very grand family home in which she grew up. The storyline is essentially about Chris's estrangement from her now-dead mother and brother, but the background of affluence came out of pressure from CBS's vision for Chris as a more well-heeled character in contrast to Mary Beth. Given the sword of Damocles was pretty much hanging over the show at this point in time, it does seem a perfectly understandable move on the part of the creative team: give the network what they want and they may be less likely to cancel us. Again.

    As I mentioned above:

    So the revelation from Chris doesn't come as a shock to the audience because it's not changing explicit information we have about the character. With the series' professional setting, it's natural that people only know so much. For instance, in the episode after this one, Samuels asks Petrie if his father is still living.

    Cagney & Lacey always has much going on in the background. Colourful characters that act out a story wordlessly to show the hubbub of a New York police station. People in wacky costumes wrestling in handcuffs giving background cops grief. Or humorous stories from the main cast of a call they've just got back from. The audience has been conditioned to expect this by now, and sometimes it gets used to slightly fake the viewer out. Case in point:

    Early in this episode Isbecki has arrested a young man who was trying to steal a car. Both are covered in dust and mud from wrestling offscreen. As Isbecki converses with Chris and Mary Beth, the young man nods and scoffs wordlessly on cue as we see extras do in every episode, then he's led to Isbecki's desk. A short while later, Samuels wanders out from his office, spots the young man and blows his stack, throwing the younger man against the wall and slapping him round. Literally slapping him round. When asked what he's done to annoy Samuels, the young man says he's his son.

    In a really nice move, Samuels' son David barely says anything during the episode. Instead, the characters bounce off him. This gives us a wonderful, and quite lengthy, Samuels monologue as he visits David in the cell. David says nothing during the scene, apart from some whistling to try to tune out his father. He is in the foreground facing us, his back to Samuels who is in the background on the other side of the bars, the shadows on his face meaning it's difficult to completely see him. It's a poignant scene that adds a further layer to Bert's already complex character.

    Another clever staging choice comes when Bert's ex-wife Thelma arrives. She says a few words to LaGuardia and then walks into Samuels' office. We hear their conversation from the perspective of the officers in the outer office - muffled and polite at first and quickly escalating to angry shouts. It's only then that we get to go into the office and be part of that conversation. It's a nice reminder to the viewer that we're only privy to part of this relationship with a lot of history.

    Harv is used in a similar way to David for a night-time bed scene where Mary Beth discusses her feelings out loud. She speaks of fidelity and excitement (a Westchester woman has been killed and it's transpired she and two of her female friends were all having affairs in the city and covering for each other). And of her relationship with her children (based on seeing Samuels and David). Still half asleep, Harv makes a few sounds on cue, but other than that it's a beautiful little Tyne Daly monologue with a lot of sadness in.

    Mary Beth and Chris's contrasting views to the objectification of people was once again subtly explored as they tracked down someone they needed to speak to working in "The Male Room" - a male strip club. Chris is loving it, while Mary Beth is quite uncomfortable.

    The familial revelations about Chris and Samuels come together at the end of the show, as Chris tells him she's sorry she can't make things right with her mother and convinces him to speak to David. In turn, she's inspired to ring her brother Brian in California.

    There's a nod to Columbo - with a direct mention - as Mary Beth is inspired by his method to get a confession from a murdererer. And the plot was a little Columbo-esque, with things coming together from LaGuardia's knowledge of a soap opera which was in the background of an incriminating photograph. It's all very convenient, but given the quality overall, I can forgive this episode that little indulgence.
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    A KILLER'S DOZEN

    There's a really beautiful opening shot to this episode. It's an aerial shot of The Statue Of Liberty where we do a 360° view, ending on a held shot of the statue with the World Trade Center in the background.

    This episode features quite a bit of Petrie, which is always a good thing. There's a strike by uniformed officers requiring the detectives of the 14th to get back in uniform to cover the shortage. Petrie is calling in sick every day due to his sympathies with the striking officers. It's quite moving to see how valued he is by the others. Samuels visits him at at home to discuss it and support him. Isbecki doesn't relish the idea of taking on a new partner, and tells Petrie that he'd give up his shield for him if he had to in a scene that's about as deep as it gets for Isbecki. I also appreciated seeing Petrie support his team when needed. Hearing about a sting going down to trap a strangler, he comes to be part of the operation to ensure there are enough people.

    The sting itself was quite gripping, with Chris used to lure out the strangler (all quite reminiscent of Donna Mills in The Bait). She had a nice scene with Mary Beth beforehand where she admitted she was scared. The moment where she turned to face the attacker following her and produced her gun gave me a strange sense of relief. It was quite cathartic. LaGuardia made a very convincing wino, too.

    There had been another fun moment in the ladies' room earlier in the episode as the two worked out who the killer was. Cagney did a Samuels impression to pre-empt how their conversation might go.

    The ongoing poker game, as well as being a bit of lighter entertainment, gave more insight to Chris when (after hustling her colleagues) she talked about her progression into being part of her father's weekly games from a young age.
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    VICTIMLESS CRIME

    As in some previous episodes - most notably Date Rape - this one explores the lead characters' contrasting views on the objectification of (in particular) women sex workers. Their almost accidental discovery of a porn film being shot because a gun was fired brought the first hint of conflict, with Mary Beth wanting to arrest them and Christine not wanting the red tape.

    The "actress" in the film - a Farrah Fawcett lookalike giving them attitude - was a great example of keeping an eye on everything that plays out in an episode, as she became far more important to the story as things went along.

    The film's director was played by Leo Rossi, utilising the cheerfully seedy persona he'd used as Bud in Halloween II.

    Chris's responses felt right in character, as did Mary Beth's. Importantly, the situation opened up some discussion between them, leading to a powerful scene with the porn actress who had been beaten on film where they challenged her furiously for her seeming insouciance to the situation. Mary Beth went for the jugular by bringing the woman's daughter into it, and even more tellingly, Chris was completely on board with Mary Beth by this point. A really strong message.

    The sub-plot had a visiting French policeman attracted to Mary Beth who was both flattered and uncomfortable. It was quite sweet to see her guilt over her enjoyment of being romanced with roses and champagne and Tyne played it perfectly.
     
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  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Three has proved to be my favourite season so far. The brevity has worked in its favour, condensing a year's worth of goodness into just seven episodes.

    It's interesting to compare this with Season One, which had one less episode but felt so much longer. Now that the show is established in its direction and premise, this short run just whizzed by.

    Unfortunately, I ran through it at such a pace that I'm having trouble keeping up with the write-ups here. So in the spirit of Season Three, I'm going to do a couple of breezy little comments for the remaining episodes of this season, before moving onto Season Four, which I began last night...
     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE BOUNTY HUNTER

    Sometimes it feels like a US drama show can't be truly great until Brian Dennehy has done an episode. His appearances, for instance, in those early experimental episodes of Dallas, Knots Landing and Dynasty brought a previously unseen gravitas.

    Probably not surprising then, that Dennehy was the actor of choice for The Bounty Hunter: not just the name of this episode, but also the title of the proposed Cagney & Lacey spin-off featuring his character, Mike MacGruder. The Encyclopedia Of Television Pilots gives this simple description:


    The date above was the air-date of this C&L episode which I assume was to serve as a backdoor pilot for the proposed series. I've no idea why it didn't happen. Maybe I need to delve into my audio version of Rosenzweig's book to find out a little more.

    Lots of the quirk was here in this episode which presumably would have carried over into the series. He lives in his van (filled with what appears to be used beer cans and other crap). He tells people he's a police officer - then denies it. He breaks and enters. He's smug and arrogant, with the testosterone levels of a Bull Shark.

    There were a lot of smiles to be had as a viewer, and it did get pretty intense at the end, with the two women watching as MacGruder and his prey circled each other with guns at point blank range, both soaking wet and Dennehy puffed up to his most formidable and intimidating. There was a darkness to Dennehy here that made me genuinely feel the unpredictability, and given his actions through the episode I was waiting for that gunshot.

    Watching this, I found myself wondering if The Bounty Hunter was a series I would have watched. Possibly. His unconventional, unlawful methods and charisma had the makings of a one-man A-Team for adults. It certainly would have been quite a different show to C&L. Charismatic as Dennehy is, the answer to whether or not I would have watched would hinge on the entire cast. Certainly here, of most interest was seeing his interactions with Cagney in particular, who hated him on sight and spent the entire episode furious to find he was a step ahead. Naturally, this tapped into Chris's obsessive nature, which is no bad thing.

    The B-story, with Mary Beth discovering that Michael can't read felt a little unexpected too. What I found interesting was that Mary Beth and Harv were understandably angry at the school, but barely questioned how they hadn't noticed all these years, and I found myself going to a judgemental place towards them and then feeling bad for judging them. These two argue really well - it always feels very real when they get angry towards each other.

    The theme of money tied the two plots together nicely. Mary Beth had wished she had enough money to send the boys to a private school, and during the shootout at the end, MacGruder offered her a percentage of his money if she'd turn a blind eye to his actions. Even though it seemed obvious that there was no way Mary Beth was going to accept, there was just enough of a flicker on her face for me to believe she had a genuine choice in the matter.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE BABY BROKER

    Tyne's second Emmy winning episode, and in many ways quite a contrast to Burn Out, which is as it should be. The Baby Broker feels far more like a "typical" Cagney & Lacey episode, not least in that both leads are pretty even here. Despite her character's storyline here, this doesn't explicitly feel like a "Tyne Daly" episode. The Baby Broker is far more even in terms of screen time; character arcs and responses; even performance.

    Tyne's strongest scenes here are those she shares with Sharon. At her first Emmy win Tyne thanked her on-screen partners (Switt; Foster; Karlen and Gless) for teaching her about 50/50, and watching an episode of Cagney & Lacey, there's a definite sense that all the actors in the ensemble are better for having great people to bounce off. Could Daly's performance be as good if she was working with lesser actors? Debatable. Even if it were, would it be perceived as well without such strong screen partners? Almost definitely not. There's a thread of believability that runs through the entire show where all the parts work in synergy, from the chemistry of the cast to the quality of writing.

    So in a nutshell, either actress could have been awarded for this episode and it would have been fair (or unfair, depending on your point of view). Either way, I feel even better about the Emmy going to this episode than I did Burn Out, because this episode is really representative of what makes the series work week in/week out. We get to see that amazing chemistry at work. The interactions and small touches. The writing and the giving.

    There's material in here that foreshadows the characters' journeys later in the series. In particular, we get to explore Mary Beth's desire to have another baby. Chris's almost visceral reaction to Mary Beth taking in the abandoned baby, feeling it's unprofessional speaks to her character's motives: ever career minded but with concern for the emotional effect it could have on her partner and friend. Having watched the later episode Choices at the time of writing, I can now also see the subtle suggestion of something deeper behind Chris's response here too. At this point, the continuity is so implicit that I'm constantly rewarded as a viewer for spotting something in one episode that ties in with something I watched several episodes earlier or even half a season ago.

    Daly's performance here is fairly subtle. There are a couple of times when I expect her to go big - facing the mother of the child in the interview room, and the moment where she says goodbye to the child she's been looking after - but she's actually so really reigned in it makes me feel almost edgy. It's quite a different performance to the one she gave in Burn Out and I appreciate that although the writing builds the storyline to a moment of high emotion, the acting plays against it, which feels very unexpected. The same can be said for Gless and Karlen in the final scene. It's so understated it feels almost anti-climactic, but it resonates in such a profound way that I'm still haunted by it a day or two later.

    This episode being the "Emmy episode" this season feels almost like a validation that the audience is right: the series is special when it just does its thing. It's a bit like I said when writing about Burn Out - that there is greatness to be found in any episode or any scene. Season Four is when we get to multiple Emmy wins across several episodes, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's representative about the series as a whole in those episodes in addition to the contributions of the winners and nominees.
     
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