In the 1980s, the television series Cagney & Lacey was on the air for six seasons and to many it was more than mere entertainment; to some it was the quintessential show for working women, a flagship for the women's movement These episodes earned an impressive thirty-six Emmy nominations, winning fourteen of these awards.
I think it's safe to say that the road to release for this DVD set closely mirrors the road the show took. The role of "Cagney" was played by Loretta Swit in the pilot episode, and then by Meg Foster for the first season (which was only 6 episodes). This is why, when MGM released "The First Season" back in 2007, they released the true second season of the show. Foster was out as "Cagney" and Sharon Gless was in the role, one she would play for 119 episodes, and 4 TV movies. The show had great success after a bumpy start, and the DVDs were also off to a bumpy start after sales of the "first" season weren't enough for MGM to continue with it. There was also a release of the "Menopause Years" (the TV movies) from S'More Entertainment in 2009, but it was the episodes that the fans were clambering for. Thankfully VEI in Canada stepped up and licensed the show from MGM, and the result is this wonderful DVD set I have in my hands.
Now, VEI has released two "complete series" sets; this one that I have, which is the "Limited Edition" set only available online, and the "regular" set which is sold in stores. The regular set contains all the episodes featuring Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in a 32 disc set. You won't get the Loretta Swit pilot, the Meg Foster episodes, the "Menopause Years" TV movies, or the bonus discs. It's a good set, featuring the core series, but DVD collectors and fans are going to want the limited edition.
The limited edition is exactly what you expect; limited. There are just 3,000 sets available, and though the box looks similar to the "regular" edition except for the disc count, the contents are much better. You'll get a signed Cagney & Lacey photo featuring a snap taken during the first season with Daly and Gless. These are real autographs, not something that was signed once and reprinted, or signed by an auto-pen. You'll also get a nice booklet with an introduction by Barney Rosenzweig and a list of the set contents. The DVDs are all in matching cases, and contain 2 discs (season 2), up to 6 discs. I like that the cases look uniform, though I'm not a fan of the overlapping discs in most of the cases.
Be aware that there are actually 38 discs in the set; 36 with episodes (or movies), and 2 bonus discs.
VEI has put a disclaimer at the beginning of each disc which made me expect the worst when it came to the video quality of the set ("This DVD contains technical anomalies inherent in historical footage"). I've seen that on discs before, and it usually means the footage is very, very poor. My fears weren't realized though, as the episodes look as I expected for a show that's just over 30 years old. There's some wear in the episodes, and you'll see the occasional defect, but it's nothing that will shock anyone, and certainly doesn't warrant a disclaimer (I guess they were covering their bases). There's a play all option on each disc, but they haven't set a chapter after the opening credits, which is a shame because they're quite long (1:30).
This is a fairly standard English stereo track on the release. I didn't notice any major issues with the episodes I watched, and the dialog is clear. There aren't any subtitles or captions for the set, which will be a disappointment to hearing-impaired fans.
Breaking the Laws of TV Parts 1 & 2 (37:27)
A great two-part featurette on the history of the show featuring interviews with cast, crew and others. My one complaint is that they don't display the names of the people talking at all.
30th Anniversary Interview (1:04:52)
Shot in November, 2011, this is an interview conducted by the British Film Institute, and features Barney Rosenzweig, Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless. It's a shame the audio is a bit problematic (a bit too "hot").
Cagney & Lacey... and Me
This is an audio version of the book by Barney Rosenzweig, read by him. It's both a DVD-Audio disc, as well as MP3 files for your portable player.
I'm really impressed with the set that VEI has released for Cagney & Lacey fans. Not only have they "done it right" by releasing everything related to the show, along with some extras, they've also given those fans who only want the core episodes a set they can buy as well (plus individual season sets, for those that can't afford the big boxes). The set itself is compact, and features standard DVD cases - not these custom cases that potentially scratch all the discs inside, and it's an attractive box.
This is definitely the set to own for fans of the show. It's taken years to get the entire show released, but it was worth the wait. Don't forget that you won't find this in stores, so you'll have to order online. The cheapest option is using the link to the left that says "Available from this site" (you'll order directly from VEI).