By David Flynn
Female detectives had become popular on television throughout the 1970s and when the 80s came, two new characters were created that surpassed all that had come before in popularity and in awards.
Before ‘Cagney and Lacey’ saw the light of day in late 1981, the two most popular police dramas with female leads were ‘Charlie’s Angels’, which starred many actresses, including Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, and ‘Police Woman’ starring Angie Dickinson.
Producers were interested in combining realism with beauty and brains in their new series, ‘Cagney and Lacey’. The two detectives, Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey, worked out of a New York police department. Their story first surfaced as a ‘movie of the week’ on CBS television in late 1981.
Tyne Daly played Mary Beth and Loretta Switt played Chris in the movie. Tyne had previously acted in movies and television and Loretta was an award winner starring on the hit comedy series, ‘M.A.S.H.’
‘Cagney and Lacey’ was chosen by the network to continue as a series, but the ‘M.A.S.H.’ producers wouldn’t release Switt from their series to star in the new detective show. However, Daly was willing and signed up for the role of Mary Beth, and actress Meg Foster, was cast in the role of Chris.