Obituary: Barbara Avedon

Barbara Hammer, screenwriter: born New York 14 June 1925; married first Phil Sharp (deceased), secondly Mel Avedon (one son; marriage dissolved); died Palm Springs, California 31 August 1994.

AS CO-CREATOR of Cagney & Lacey, the feminist and peace campaigner Barbara Avedon helped to break the mould of small-screen American police series. For the first time, two women were featured in the lead roles and presented as equals. The concept did not revolve around the characters being particularly beautiful or one being attractive and the other plain. Here, on peak-time television, was a female-buddy programme. The series ran for six years and was screened around the world.

Born in New York, Avedon spent her early career as a writer for television situation comedies. She penned episodes of long-

running Fifties and Sixties series such as The Donna Reed Show, a wholesome family programme starring the Oscar-winning actress, Father Knows Best, featuring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt, and Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York (later Dick Sargent). These shows were part of the so-called Golden Age of Television in America and are still looked back on as landmarks in broadcast comedy. Their writing was far superior to many of the more vulgar programmes that were later to become a staple diet of American television.

Avedon later wrote for the police series Barney Miller and The Partridge Family, which was a vehicle for the film actress and singer Shirley Jones, but also featured her real-life stepson, David Cassidy, who went on to become a teenage pop idol, and Susan Dey, now a star herself.

Then, with Barney Rosenzweig and Barbara Corday, she created the characters of Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey. The main idea was to show two women in partnership - just as, traditionally, men were seen in series such as Starsky and Hutch - and the roles of police officers were given to them simply in an attempt to get the programme screened, but their job alwavs played second fiddle to the characterisations and issues raised. Cagney was single, liberated and a career woman, while Lacey was a wife and mother, committed to the job and juggling her family and working lives. The pair, carrying .38s, driving like saloon car racers and using any means marginally within the law to catch villains, made their bow in a television film, Cagney & Lacey (1981), with Loretta Swit and Tyne Daly taking the lead roles. When the American network CBS decided to turn it into a series the following year, Swit was still playing Major Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan in the popular Korean War comedy MASH, so Meg Foster stepped in to take over as Cagney, although she was considered to be too butch and was replaced after one series by Sharon Gless.

Following another series, CBS announced that it was axing Cagney & Lacey, but the programme was reprieved after fans deluged the network with letters of protest and Tyne Daly won an Emmy award for her performance. The ground-breaking drama continued until 1988, exploring social issues such as rape and alcoholism in a way that was rare on peak-time American television, where ratings are everything and few risks are taken. There were two further television films, Cagney & Lacey Together Again and The Return.

Avedon was also writer of the 1983 television film This Girl For Hire, about a female detective joining forces with a mystery writer, and created the pilot for Private Sessions, a series starring Wayne Rogers, but that never reached the same heights as Cagney & Lacey, which preceded the American film industry's buddy-buddy pictures and reflected the writer's own

values.

It was those values that had led Avedon, during the Vietnam war, to become a founder of the protest group Another Mother for Peace, formed in Beverly Hills, California, with the motto 'War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things'.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role will cover all areas ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss