I am pissed. You might ask, what else is new? You would be wrong to do so, for I have been a relatively benign blogger for most of the life of this humble website. No more. It is one thing to suffer the itinerant managers that indifferently control the libraries of virtually all of the television industry, but it is quite something else when a by-liner at the Los Angeles Times (I won’t defame the journalism profession by calling this person a reporter) does such a poor job of research (read none) as that presnted by Lynn Smith this weekend. What this individual wrote would be terribly offensive to this writer (and quite possibly this site’s readers) even if it wasn’t printed in the paper of record for the world of entertainment and bound to be syndicated throughout the civilized world.
I refer to the Saturday, September 20 Los Angeles Times CALENDAR front page and the article Tough, like Jane, where Lynn Smith writes only peripherally of the forthcoming EMMYs and the cop show nominees Glenn Close (Damages), Holly Hunter (Saving Grace), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) while holding out for singular praise Prime Suspect, its creator Linda La Plante and its star Helen Mirren as the instigator of such roles.
Now, I am a huge fan of both La Plante and Mirren but that not the point. Ms. La Plante is on record referring to Prime Suspect as an homage to Cagney & Lacey or that the English BAFTRA Award producers flew Sharon Gless to London to present Ms La Plante her award when it was time to honor Prime Suspect as their “best dramatic series.” One might also ignore that upon receiving her EMMY for playing the famed English inspector, the fabulous Ms Mirren’s first words as she held her statue aloft were, “Thank you, Cagney & Lacey.” Still, it is hard to ignore, given that Ms. Mirren is always gracious about this and never lets folks forget that fact -- even showing up for a recent Cagney & Lacey tribute at The Museum of Radio & Television in Beverly Hills (now known as The Paley Center for Media) where she was photographed by various professional photographers, including many from the local and international press. One would think a TV reporter for a paper such as the LA Times might have noticed that.
The omissions, egregious enough all on their own, are something I might normally let pass, but Ms. Smith, not content with a sin of omission, felt she must go on, adding:
“Darker than American shows such as Police Woman and Cagney & Lacey….”
Now, I admire Angie Dickenson as much as anyone, but this linkage to Police Woman was pushing my envelope. Ms. Smith went on “…Prime Suspect, which was created by La Plante and starred Helen Mirren, is considered ground breaking for placing a tough mature and flawed woman at the helm of her own unit. Supported by legions of female fans, Prime Suspect practically established a new television genre…”
That did it: “ground breaking,” “tough mature and flawed woman…” “legions of female fans…new television genre..."
I take this as serious revisionism and, at the very least, very poor representation of historical fact. I guess as long as she stayed in the singular Ms Smith thought no one would notice. Still, if Ms. Smith was up on her subject she would know Cagney & Lacey was not only about women and their partnership… but was also about two singular women, Christine Cagney, who preceded Jane Tennyson as head of her own unit by years while demonstrating every bit as many flaws as her English counterpart, and Mary Beth Lacey who kept up with her partner’s frenetic pace while managing home, children, husband and a night school education was equally as ground breaking as a lead character in any television drama...ever.
Ms Smith then referenced the two acting awards Prime Suspect had garnered. Laudable though that is, it is only one-third the EMMY awards owned by the fabulous duo of Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly. I could go on, but believe I have made my point. This blogger encourages its readers to comment to the Times writer firstname.lastname@example.org and to invite her to write to this website for her free autographed copy of Cagney & Lacey…and Me. She will learn something about the business she has chosen to write about if she reads it.
September 21, 2008