It has been a while since I have written anything for this site. Not true. It has been a while since I have had anything for release to this site. The truth is I have written…more than once, but…well, it is a matter of tone.
I live very well. I have a nice life and that, in no small respect, is partially due to a lot of you, the fans of Cagney & Lacey. No one has to take up a collection for me and I’m most definitely not someone for whom you should feel sorry. I emphasize this because, before submitting the last thing I wrote for this website, I asked a few intimates what they thought of what I wrote. They all said it was whiney and self-pitying. I didn’t mean that when I wrote it, didn’t see it when I read it, and certainly did not intend it to be that. But that is what they saw and so I ask that you please understand, this is not a pout.
Why write at all? I feel I owe you some answers and responses as well as updates. Here goes.
Thomas Wolfe wrote that one cannot “go home again,” yet the temptation to revisit a past as rich and full as the one I experienced during my last years in television was more than I could resist. It resulted in my first book, Cagney & Lace …and Me, and the repackaging of 22 episodes of the series on DVD through MGM/Fox.
Measuring the success of such an undertaking on strictly a financial basis turns out to be folly. No book with such a niche market as my memoir could sustain the kind of legal fees, insurance costs, publicity expenses, printing and shipping fees, distribution charges, and sales commissions that are built into such a venture. You have to think of it not as a business, but as a labor of love or, if you will, an ego trip.
The more potentially exploitable DVD market for such a jaunt down memory lane turns out to be more limited than you might think. The video marketplace for older television programming is dying. The retailers have been satiated with a glut of product and no group of itinerant managers in charge of distributing this kind of material can be expected to do the heavy lifting that is necessary, especially when one must factor in their need to husband energies they will have to expend over the next several years on the vast amount of product that fills their boss’s warehouses. It isn’t that they don’t care…they simply cannot reasonably be asked to care enough to make it happen for any one show.
But therein lies the problem and the bottom line factoid…we were not in the stores: not in Wal-Mart, not Blockbuster, not Costco, not Target. Walk into 10 stores in your neighborhood that sell videos and DVD material and you will find that maybe one of the 10 is carrying the DVD of Cagney & Lacey. It is hard with our demographic to rely solely on the internet and Amazon, but that is what we have had to do. Cagney & Lacey averaged a weekly audience of 20,000,000 viewers during its six years on the air. Less than one tenth of one percent came to Amazon to buy. We needed to be in those stores.
To overcome resistance from national chain stores and to find placement on those finite shelves that everyone covets requires a sales force with passion and zeal. Those are hard emotions to conjure for everyone of 150 or so different series that are in that huge MGM warehouse, and it is harder still when none of the sales team has ever been connected with the creation or production of the show, has never seen the episodes, or (as is the case with all too many of them) still don’t know which one is Cagney and which one is Lacey. It would be okay if it didn’t have any impact on the future, but (unfortunately) it probably does.
Fox and MGM will have to decide on whether to go to the expense of trying to launch another season of Cagney & Lacey on DVD. Normal “executive think” is to simply move on to whatever product is next in their warehouse, throw that up against the proverbial wall, hoping it will stick, and to keep doing that until something does. They have a lot of boxes, of a lot of different shows in those vaults, and executives, especially those not vested in the material in the first place, don’t like revisiting their failures. In other words: don’t hold your breath for Cagney & Lacey: Season II.
Thomas Wolfe comes back to mind, but I have to say I don’t regret the journey. I did some good work. I enjoyed writing the book and it was fun to get back on the road with Sharon and Tyne. It was a great high to be Rosie O’Donnell’s guest on “The View” and to hear the audience cheer and to see a line of nearly 400 people cue up outside Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. I liked doing the radio show in New York with Joey Reynolds and in San Francisco with Ronn Owens and it was terrific to have Helen Mirren appear at the Museum of Television and Radio event celebrating our show’s anniversary. Seeing old friends among the overflow crowd on that evening put together by Barbara Corday and hovered over by our own Carole R. Smith, was delightful. More than anything else, it was incredible to introduce my 12 year old grand daughter to Cagney & Lacey and for me to review some of those old episodes with her.
Wolfe’s thesis resonates nonetheless. I really don’t want to play David to the boss’s Goliath anymore. I am too old for that piece of casting and (as stated at the outset) have too nice a life to sacrifice much more of it to vainglorious battle.
But, no matter what, this trip home again is one I am glad I made.