Why I Love Cagney & Lacey

“Chris, let me tell you: cop feet weren’t meant for hooker shoes.”

Oh, Mary Beth… Cagney & Lacey, a legend at TVClaw Towers, is back. Not in remade or rebooted form (please don’t), but in weekday afternoon repeats over on BBC 2.

And it’s still awesome.


Not many classic TV series really do stand the test of time, but Cagney & Lacey does. Yes, there’s a surfeit of chunky knitwear and questionable berets (and that’s just the men), but the scripts and performances are just as sharp, witty and moving as they always were.

And it’s great to see New York City in all its grimy, smoky, wise-cracking ’80s splendour again.

Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) and Chris Cagney (Sharon Gless) were successful detectives in Manhattan’s 14th Precinct. As a teenager I used to wait for each new episode with bated breath. I loved them. I loved their sense of humour. And I fell in love with their home town.

They worked hard and played hard, but they always looked good. Always coiffed, always made-up and always in heels, Cagney and Lacey chasing a perp through midtown whilst not letting go of their handbags was a sight to behold.

Whether it’s Chris being scraped off the windows at Bergdorf’s, the Robin Byrd lookalikes sassing the cops in the station house, or a bunch of old ladies moving their cars en masse because of alternate side parking restrictions, Cagney & Lacey was a realistic portrayal of life in the city.

I moved to New York City a decade after Cagney & Lacey had been cancelled. Rudy Giuliani and Donna Hanover were still an item, crime was down, rents were up and everyone was watching NYPD Blue. The Yankees were officially the winningest team in baseball.

Not knowing the city too well, and struggling to find an apartment bigger than a shoebox on our limited budget, we somehow stumbled into Cagney & Lacey territory when we signed the lease on a one-bedroom rental around the corner from the real-life 14th Precinct (a.k.a. Midtown South) station house.

Our side of the street was just inside the boundary of the 13th Precinct, but the other side of the street was in the 14th. For a Cagney & Lacey fan it was serendipitous. (Did I try to move to that side of the street? You bet I did. His nibs wouldn’t go for it though.)

When we bought a bed the salesman looked at our address and whistled through his teeth. “Couldn’t pay me to live over there,” he said. “Hookers everywhere.” Nowadays, like most of Manhattan, our old neighbourhood is expensive and glossy, the hookers having given way to hedge fund managers, but back in the ’90s it wasn’t so different from the Cagney & Lacey version.

Thanks to the magic of DVRs I’ve been rewatching Cagney & Lacey at my leisure, and I confess that I still get a thrill when I see them run down the block I lived on, or go into a bar I drank in. With another 100 or so episodes to go, I reckon there’s an outside chance of me spotting someone I know from the ‘hood in a scene, even if they’re just crossing the street in the background.

Cagney & Lacey airs weekday afternoons (time varies) on BBC2.


Doctor Who Recap: The Angels Take Manhattan

The Angels Take Manhattan
(Photo: Catherine Lawson)

What have the Weeping Angels got against the outer boroughs anyway? This mid-series/season Doctor Who Finale had a Manhattan-centric view of New York City.

The island was colonised and policed by a vengeful group of Weeping Angels who’d managed to not only remain in 1938 in perpetuity, but had also managed to turn the NYU dorms in the West Village into a time prison for anyone unlucky enough to catch their eye.

Freshers beware! Those eyes that look as if they’re following you around the room? That’s not just the Jäger-bombs taking effect … they are.

Now, obviously, let’s address the giant elephant in the room. This was the final outing for Amy and Rory. I interviewed Matt Smith and Karen Gillan the day after they’d had their first read-through of the script for this episode, and she said everyone was in floods of tears throughout.

Steven Moffat then promised me that the Ponds’/Williams’ exit would be heartbreaking. And it was. (But, he also said he wasn’t tweaking Doctor Who to make it more America-friendly, and now I’m not so sure I believe him.)

As for the rest of the episode, I’m torn. Yes, it’s always awesome to see my old home town featured so prominently, but it felt redundant. If having the action take place on an island was the most important bit of the plot then obviously it works better for the larger audience than using the Isles of Wight, Man or Sheppy, but still …

If Lady Liberty had been seen and not just heard stomping across the Hudson River to claim her victims it might have been more effective. But then again, it could also have come across as a low-budget Stay Puft Marshmallow Man moment.

Let’s face it: if Russell T. Davies was still running the show, this episode would have been filmed in Cardiff and the argh!-dive-behind-the-sofa! moment would have featured Ivor Novello. And personally, I think I would have preferred it.

It was great to see the always superb Alex Kingston back as River Song, and to have her relationship status confirmed with all the other TARDIS residents, but the Doctor healing the sick? Come on … I’m a Doctor Who fan, not a super-fan, so it’s entirely possible the Doctor has done it before, but it seemed to me that Moffat simply used this plot device as a way of not having Smith and Kingston snog each other’s faces off.

The insinuation that the Doctor only likes ’em young seemed a bit mean-spirited. Yes, we all know that the Doctor’s forever travelling with younger women but hey, that’s part of the schtick. (Frankly, no one’s going to watch his adventures with old women or other men, so get over it naysayers.) To now write the Doctor as a creepy old misogynist was like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to Moffat’s Who predecessors.

The Weeping Angels have long been in my pantheon of best Doctor Who villains, and I think their creepy putti progeny will be getting their own niche there in due course. However, there were so many dead ends and so much misdirection in this episode that even the introduction of these sinister toddlers was somehow lost in the mix.

  • Who was Grayle? And why was he feeding random people to the creepy Barbarella killer dolls in the basement?
  • Who were the statues watching Grayle’s house? His wife and child? Amy and a pint-sized Rory?
  • Just how did he capture a Weeping Angel in the first place?
  • Do basic Yale locks really work against intergalactic alien time vampires?
  • Why single out Rory when Central Park was packed with people, including a Time Lord?
  • Why on earth would Rory get into that creepy lift/elevator in the first place? (Is he really supposed to still be that stupid?)

There were also some nice touches.

  • Amy finally admitted to everyone that she loves Rory. Properly. At last: some loooong overdue payback for the aeons of time he stood outside the Pandorica.
  • I *think* that was the Calvary Cemetery in Queen’s (you know, the one you can see from the BQE on the way to and from JFK), so there was at least a nod to the outer boroughs. UPDATE: According to the “Doctor Who Official” production notes for the episode, all of Alex Kingston’s scenes were shot in Wales, not New York City, so I’m presumably wrong about the cemetery. Sorry, Queen’s residents. Maybe next time …
  • The TARDIS-washing made me smile. Yes, we’re an old married couple and we avoid snogging in front of the kids by washing like to wash the car TARDIS together of a weekend. (But, sidebar: have they gone and done a TARDIS equivalent of a loft conversion? Check out the spacious new interior.)

So now Doctor Who is on hiatus until the Christmas Special. To tide you over until then, here are some glimpses of what we can expect. Snow! Victorians! Withnail! Richard E. Grant! New companion Jenna-Louise Coleman!

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

Doctor Who, The Angels Take Manhattan: Trailers

So that’s why they call New York the city that never sleeps …

As Doctor Who viewers brace themselves for Amy and Rory’s swansong, the BBC have released a number of trailers ahead of Saturday’s episode, which was shot on location in New York City.

The Weeping Angels at WhoCon

Say hello sweetie to River Song (Alex Kingston) as the Doctor and his companions face off against the Weeping Angels.

Steven Moffat wrote “The Angels take Manhattan” and, judging from the trailers, it promises to live up to what he told me about Series/Season 7 back in March 2012: “There’ll be utter heartbreaking tragedy to knock about, silly fun … But if you’re laughing one minute, expect to be crying in five minutes.”

The cast had their first read-through of “The Angels Take Manhattan” the night before I interviewed Matt Smith and Karen Gillan at WhoCon, and Gillan especially was very moved by the manner of the Ponds’ departure.

She wouldn’t tell me exactly what happens to Amy (natch), but said “I want her to go out in all her sort of glory.”

The trailers have echoes of the classic David Tennant–Carey Mulligan episode “Blink,” which saw the first outing of the Weeping Angels. Check out the way Amy seems to be reading or writing a letter a la Kathy Nightingale.

One fanmade trailer caught my eye. Made by angelsblink2, it is a superb piece of editing and scoring. Watch it and remember all the best bits of the Matt Smith–Karen GillanArthur Darvill triumvirate. (And yes, don’t they look young?)

So here’s the BBC1 trailer:

And here’s the BBC America trailer:

Doctor Who Series 7 airs in the UK on Saturdays on BBC1 (transmission times keep changing so check local listings).

Doctor Who Season 7 airs in the US on Saturdays, 9pm ET on BBC America.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw