If you loved Cagney & Lacey, you’ll probably enjoy The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, which returns Cagney, Sharon Gless, to prime-time as a crusading lawyer. Like the earlier series, Rosie O’Neill is produced by Barney Rosenzweig, and it looks as if Rosie will feature the sort of well-crafted drama and implicit feminism that earned Cagney & Lacey its devoted following.
But if you didn’t really care for Cagney & Lacey — if you found it admirable in theory but self-important, head-bangingly loud, and obvious in practice — you might still like Rosie O’Neill. One great advantage is that it doesn’t have Tyne Daly glowering and yelling at everyone in that oppressively ostentatious New Yawk accent. Daly having temporarily left television to glower and yell at people from the Broadway stage in Gypsy, Gless is free to pursue her more subtle style.
In Rosie, that means that Gless defends helpless victims, knowing crooks, and artful liars with intelligence, skepticism, and compassion. Even when she’s most earnest, there’s a nice element of modesty built into Gless’ acting style — she tosses off her big, serious speeches, and makes the most of small comic moments.
It helps, too, that Rosie shares her cramped office with a fellow lawyer played by Dorian Harewood, a fine, underrated actor whose low-key manner stands in glowing contrast to the scene-stealers who populate many TV dramas.
Incidentally, does the title of this lawyer show ring a bell in your memory? Remember The Trials of O’Brien, a much-praised, low-rated show that ran for one season in 1965? It starred Peter Falk as — hmmm — a crusading lawyer. One, to be sure, more rumpled than Sharon Gless. B+