Next Monday night, "Cagney & Lacey," CBS' Emmy-winning series that has already taken on wife beating, sexual harassment, breast cancer, alcoholism and pornography, tackles the issue of abortion clinic bombing.
So nobody is really surprised that the episode is already under attack.
Least of all Tyne Daly, one of the costars in the series about two female detectives.
"The episode isn't about information," said Daly yesterday, in town for a lunch at the National Abortion Rights Action League, "as the breast cancer one was, nor about political stances. It is about what happens inside to both women when they have to deal with a crime.
"The crime is going around blowing up buildings, and you're not allowed to do that no matter how you feel about what's happening inside. Anyway, this brings up in both ladies a whole spectrum of emotions and I -- and I think Sharon costar Sharon Gless -- was interested as an actress in looking at that."
Barney Rosenzweig, the show's executive producer, tried to forestall opposition by going public early, screening the program for several pro-choice groups to muster their support. Yet, yesterday, the National Right to Life Committee asked CBS to either withdraw the episode or run an antiabortion program afterward. One CBS affiliate -- WOW-TV -- in Omaha has agreed to air the committee's "Matter of Choice."
According to Rosenzweig, the episode is carefully balanced. He said he went to groups like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), rather than the National Right to Life Committee, "because the former aren't book burners."
Says Daly, "We didn't play into the cliche' that we thought people familiar with Cagney and Lacey might expect -- that Lacey the family-oriented lady would say the family is important and it is antifamily to get an abortion, and Chris Cagney, who is a sexually free and experimental lady, would say, 'I have the right to do anything with my body.'
"Instead, we did a little flip-flop. We gave a piece of very painful personal history to Lacey, which I felt was appropriate to her character, and interesting in terms of her mosaic, and we called on Christine's background, which is Roman Catholic, and that whole series of tapes she has been taught from earliest childhood that say abortion is murder. And that rings in her psyche no matter how modern she purports to be in her life style."
Tyne Daly is a lot like Mary Beth Lacey.
Oh, there are a few differences, of course -- for one thing, Tyne Daly's baby was born Oct. 1, and Mary Beth is going to stay pregnant for a few more "Cagney & Lacey" episodes.
Tyne Daly's speech has no trace of Mary Beth's distinctly New York dialect, although the opinions of the actress are expressed as firmly as those of the New York policewoman she plays.
Daly, accompanied by 5-week-old Alyxandra Beatrice Brown, Alyxandra's nanny and Rosenzweig, was in town yesterday to talk about Monday's episode, receive a broadcasting award for the sexual harassment programs and be seen at several pro-choice affairs -- at a NARAL-sponsored press lunch, a Capitol Hill reception and a Voters for Choice fundraiser.
(Gless would have come along but is sick with a wheezy cold.)
Alyxandra Brown is nursing happily in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel as her mother settles in after their shuttle flight from New York. Daly is already an hour behind schedule because her oldest daughter, Alisabeth -- "her spelling, not mine," says Daly -- is "college shopping and we had to run up and look at Sarah Lawrence. First things first."
Alisabeth and her 14-year-old sister Kathryne felt some awkwardness at the advent of Alyxandra but, says Daly, "I started getting this disease I call womb wistfulness -- you know, it hits whenever you see a baby in the supermarket -- and I'm too young 39 to be a grandmother. I've been wanting to have a baby again for at least five years, and I'm having so much fun I may do it again next year."
Then she adds quickly, "Don't tell Rosenzweig."
Daly has been married since 1966 to actor Georg Stanford Brown, one-time star of the series "The Rookies," now directing a new film about Boys Town with Art Carney. He also has a role -- one of the few critically acclaimed -- in the ABC historical soap "North and South." Brown plays Grady, the liberated slave who marries the abolitionist Hazard daughter but who is killed in the abortive plan to rescue John Brown.
Daly does not think of her marriage to the black actor as interracial. She does not, she says, "like pigeonholes."
She is married to "another member of the human race. I gave up categories a long time ago. In fact, when we did Alyxandra's birth certificate, under 'race,' we put 'human'; under 'sex' we put 'yes'; and under ethnic origin we put 'citizen of the world.' "
"I have," she says firmly, "a good and interesting marriage that has gone on for quite some time and he's an interesting fellow and we have some fascinating young children . . ."
"Our girls," she grins the Mary Beth grin, "thought we were old fools to have this baby, but I told them that somebody had to have old parents because somebody had to have wise parents. But Kathryne really only decided it was okay when she found out Farrah Fawcett was 37 when she had hers. I guess," Daly says a bit whimsically, "I could thank Ms. Fawcett for making my road a little smoother."
Asked at the luncheon if Alyxandra will stand in as Mary Beth and Harvey's baby, she said "No, indeed. In the first place, she's a little brown and Harvey might wonder."
Daly, dressed in red silk, says carefully that "I don't think it is appropriate to use the show to air my private beliefs. I play a part that is written for me. I don't make up my own lines and I don't assign myself my own opinions. I hope that I'm seeking out and expressing Mary Beth's feelings."
However, she concedes wryly that when she has opinions about her role or about the script, she is not shy about voicing them and says firmly that being an actress doesn't mean she can't have private opinions.
Of next week's show she says, "I think it is really very well balanced. Both of these ladies have a very hard time with this subject matter, which I think is a very universal feeling. I don't think anybody goes skipping and laughing off to have an abortion.
"If they make that decision, it is a terribly difficult one and the conflicting emotions involved are very real in any woman's life, which is why I believe it is important to lend as much dignity as possible to the situation by not forcing a woman into a back alley or where she is begging her doctor to commit a crime with her."
Well, Barney Rosenzweig is asked, are Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless really feuding on the set?
"Oh that," says Rosenzweig, and sighs.
"There's no truth to it whatsoever, but it is impossible to combat. They are two of the best actresses in America and as good as they are, they couldn't play that relationship if they didn't like each other.
"Of course they're competitive and they each want to win -- like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. They hit the ball back and forth at each other quite strongly, but without that there's no game."
"Oh that," says Tyne Daly, and her brown eyes get a hard Mary Beth glint. But she sighs, too. "Sure," she says, "it's the same feud that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had."
Where the women may disagree is on the purpose of the show. "Gless," says Daly, "reminds me that our first purpose is to entertain.
"I'm not the sort of actor who tells stories to mollify or take people on a small vacation from their lives. I tend to be of the school of challenging people to think and moving them either out of the room to make a sandwich or to tears or to laughter or to turn to the next channel. But if I'm making them stay awake for the whole 47 minutes, then I think I've done my job.
"There are plenty of other things to take you into fantasy land." Later she says at a small luncheon, "There are issues that call out so loudly for attention, especially when you're doing a show that is designed for grown-ups and happens at 10 p.m. and is about making people think, rather than making them feel all yummy and soft before they fall asleep."
Reiterating that "I get to talk even though I'm an actress," Daly said of abortion, "If it becomes against the law again, we'll be back in the back alleys, and I think what is sinful is that in a free society to have people dictate to other people what they should have a private choice about.
"That's what I think is sinful."