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Cagney & Lacey ... and Me Paperback – Dec 26 2006
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CAGNEY AND LACEY was credited as being the first big feminist TV show and it was hailed as such by Gloria Steinem and other pundits in the pages of MS. Magazine.
Rosenzweig was there from the beginning, after a checkered and mostly D-level career as a producer and sort of go-fer for more famous producers. He had worked his way up to a midlevel status when the job that made him notorious sort of fell in his lap. As he sees it, his then-wife created the show with another woman, and he managed to get it made and shown on the air, albeit with different stars. There was a version with Loretta Swit, another with Meg Foster, etc. Finally the lineup shifted to Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, and after a year of threatened cancellations, CAGNEY AND LACEY became a huge hit and won Emmys for everyone involved with it.
Rosenzweig's tale of what it was like producing the show is filled with ugliness. He savages some of his writers, including the man who went on to become the renowned thriller writer Robert Crais, but he saves most of his venom for his blow by blow depiction of the vanity and ego wars between his two leading ladies. Both equally insecure, Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly come off in Rosenzweig's rendition as supremely neurotic and paranoid, each one afraid the other was getting more money, perks, or directorial attention. Gless was a blonde beauty on the model, Barney admits, of Doris Day. But could she act? Tyne Daly could act, or should I say "act" in capital letters, but was she attractive enough for TV? Neither of them ever enjoyed a single happy moment, and made everyone miserable on the set and off for years and years. As a producer, it was Rosenzweig's job to keep them content, butter them up, flatter them outrageously, promise each one that the other wasn't getting anything she didn't have, and so on.
This element of the book just goes on and on and on and on. You feel like you were in the stars' trailers for every beef they had. Gless would complain that Daly was married to the show's director, Georg Stanford Brown (another diva according to Barney). Daly would say that Gless was getting all the close-ups. The picture got even grimmer once Barney himself started seeing past the tantrums that Gless threw on a daily basis, and started falling for her, leaving his wife and eventually making Gless his number one woman. After the way he writes about her throughout the first three quarters of the book, I'm surprised he could stomach her, much less love her. And they're still married apparently! Life is stranger than fiction and this book proves it for sure.
I wanted to read a book about Cagney and Lacey, with a possible sprinkling or two of anyone else connected to the show. I did not want to read a book about Mr. Rosenzweig's life with Cagney and Lacey sprinkled in every now and then. The title is very deceiving.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading Rosenzweig's story. "Cagney & Lacey" aired from 1981 to 1988. These were my high school, through college and marriage, years. I remember enjoying the show when it aired on television. The show presented two strong women who were working in a male-dominated field and having to deal with their issues as women. I had no clue how much hard work went into getting this show on the air and keeping it there. Rosenzweig truly believed in this series and fought hard to get it on the air. He felt that it was time to have a show that stop focusing on the sexual exploitation of women. He was tired of seeing this reoccurring pattern of disrespect in both media forms of movies and television. "Cagney & Lacey" was to be his vehicle in which to start a new trend. I am grateful to him for doing this and had no idea how much of a struggle it took to get a great show on the air.
In addition to having to fight studio execs to get this project rolling, Rosenzweig also had to deal with the myriad of egos involved in producing the show - this ranged from writers, to actors, to investors and so on. The stress of having to compromise and placate everyone had to have been totally exhausting and quite a learning experience. To get the show to succeed, he also had to go to battle to get it into the best time slot. There were other issues going on such as getting screwed over financially by people that looked after their own best interests. He had to learn creative ways to get publicity for the show when he was dealing with people that weren't very supportive of its success. Rosenzweig also had personal issues going on while he was on the set. At the beginning of the series, he was married to a woman who helped get the show started. By the end of the series, he was seeing Sharon Gless, who he eventually married.
I learned a lot about what goes on in Tinseltown with trying to get shows to air. Normally, when I watch a television show, I might only wonder about how they did their special effects. Now when I watch a show, I am going to wonder a lot more than that. I am going to think about how many struggles it took just to get that show to air. I will never look at another television show the same again.
"Cagney & Lacey...and Me," is a must read for fans of the entertainment industry. In addition to learning about how show biz works, there is also a fascinating story going on about the personal issues that were being dealt with at the time. To quote Rosenzweig: "Approaching my 70th year on the planet, I confess to being less interested in what is to come than what has transpired. My past...the mistakes and the triumphs, the wins and all of the other stuff, is my legacy." This autobiography is also Rosenzweig's legacy.
Received book free of charge.
The actresses and Producer Rosenzweig brilliantly "saved" the show from cancellation, twice and I am sure it was no accident that this book coincides with the long awaited release "Cagney and Lacey's" first season on DVD!
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