Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Karen:” my response to an Email from a Cagney & Lacey admirer began. (I try to respond to each and every such missive… sometimes promptly, sometimes… well, not so much.)

I had always hoped these queries from the faithful would appear directly on the website, but alas the site was set up in the long ago and was too complex for me to run and even too much for my erstwhile loyal assistant, Carole Smith who, like her boss, is a died-in-the-wool luddite.

A true Web Master was needed. Jacqueline Danson volunteered but she resided in England, I lacked motivation, and…well…frankly, it all became too complex and too much trouble.

So, not unlike one of my old time pals here on Fisher Island---who has his Emails sent to his secretary in San Francisco, where they are printed, then faxed back to him in Florida---the fan’s notes for Cagney & Lacey (however circuitously) usually find their way to me.

In this case, Karen had written about an episode called The Taxi Cab Murders, interestingly enough the only one of the 125 episodes we made where the title of the episode appears on screen.

Here I digress… just a bit: I never liked on-screen titles for episodic television. Ever since my first year as a producer, where a Daniel Boone episode was named Then who will they hang from the yardarm if Willie gets away?

I mean, c’mon.

Sometimes it is possible to be too creative, and in my experience, titles always seemed to bring out the “cutes” in any writing staff. So…no titles.

The exception for this particular episode came about as an off shoot of the “final” cut being almost a minute short. You can’t have that happen in Network television without a whole brouhaha from Broadcast Standards.

My idea was to fill the 40some seconds we were lacking with New York stock footage of traffic… not just any traffic… but traffic featuring a whole bunch of taxi cabs. Besides establishing that we were in New York (always a good thing for a NY cop show filmed in Los Angeles), the music composer for the episode was asked to indicate something more sinister than the usual American in Paris kinda thing such filmed footage often evokes.

Why, you might ask, would an audience sit still for nearly an entire minute, watching taxis in traffic? Trust me, it helps if the music is a little sinister and there is a title that comes up proclaiming The Taxi Cab MURDERS.

Is this too much information? Let me return to the response to Karen.

“Always delighted to hear from fans such as yourself,” I wrote, then went on: “but you ask too much and let me tell you why. When titillated,” I continued, “I can come up with a whole bunch of stuff on any episode of just about anything I have ever produced... I am (was) always that ‘hands on.’ But the IRT route Lacey's youngest son took to get to Cagney's apartment? I must admit, you’ve got me.

As to your request that I look it up in the script, I am afraid those pages are not so easily come by. And there, dear Karen, lies a not uninteresting factoid:

Cagney & Lacey scripts were largely created before the common usage of word processors such as the PC or the MAC. A few writers used them in the early 1980’s, but they delivered their scripts to us the same as those who used conventional typewriters; scripts were then distributed to cast and crew by way of a mimeograph (or copy) machine. In other words, I just can't go to my PC, hit a keyword or two and come up with your answer.”

Not content to let it lie there, I went on: “To get to something as removed from my memory as your request, I would have to go to my den, get on a large step-ladder, try to figure out in which leather bound volume the episode called The Taxi Cab Murders exists (there are three to four episodes in each volume), then, having done that, I would have to climb down the ladder and go through the entire volume to come up with the answer to your question.

Karen, I am 82 years old. I ain’t doing that. It does occur to me, however, that if I make a posthumous donation of the scripts to my Alma mater, they might well digitalize the entire library of scripts to placate scholars as well as the simply curious. So, here is my answer:

Watch the obituary pages for word of my demise, wait a while, then contact the Cinema division of the University of Southern California. In the meanwhile, thanks for your interest and for making my day.

Oh yeah... you also asked where our two primary characters ‘lived.’ The Lacey's resided in Queens, and Cagney lived in the lower west side of Manhattan. The actual street addresses? That brings us back to the problem of the ladder.

Barney Rosenzweig

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