|Opening theme||"Back to the Blue" by Arnetia Walker|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||14 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||David Gerber|
|Running time||60 min. (including commercials)|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television|
|Original release||April 15, 1985 –|
Lady Blue is an American detective and action-adventure television series. Produced by David Gerber, it originally aired for one season on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network from September 15, 1985 to January 25, 1986. It was picked up by ABC after its pilot aired as a television film on April 15, 1985. The show revolves around Chicago detective Katy Mahoney (Jamie Rose) and her violent methods of handling cases. The supporting cast includes Danny Aiello, Ron Dean, Diane Dorsey, Bruce A. Young, Nan Woods, and Ricardo Gutierrez. Johnny Depp also guest-starred on the series for one of his earliest roles. With cinematography by Jack Priestley, the episodes were filmed on location in Chicago. Television critics focused on Lady Blue's emphasis on violence, calling Mahoney "Dirty Harriet" (after Clint Eastwood's character Dirty Harry). Rose said that she joined the project after being drawn to its genre. She prepared for the role by watching Eastwood's films, received advice from Eastwood on how to handle a gun, and practiced at a shooting range.
After the pilot aired, Lady Blue was criticized by several watchdog organizations (particularly the National Coalition on Television Violence) as the most violent show on television. ABC moved the series between several time slots before cancelling it in 1986, partially due to the complaints about excessive violence. Critical reception to the series was primarily negative during its run, but television studies author Cary O'Dell questions whether that stemmed from contemporary sexism. Lady Blue has not been released on DVD, Blu-ray, or an online streaming service. The series' rights are owned by 20th Century Fox, but there are no plans for future home releases.
A detective and action-adventure television series, Lady Blue revolves around Chicago investigator Katy Mahoney (Jamie Rose), her violent means of dealing with criminals and tension with her co-workers. She works in the Violent Crimes Division of the Chicago Police Department. The New York Observer's Bryan Reesman described Mahoney as "the fiery red head" with a "trigger happy" personality and "violent excesses". She frequently uses a .357 Magnum (which John J. O'Connor of The New York Times called "a grotesque extension of her right arm"), and was introduced as capable of "read[ing] a crime in progress like most guys read the sports page".
Mahoney's reliance on violence is emphasized in the opening scene of the pilot; she sees a bank robbery while she is in a beauty parlor, shoots and kills three of the perpetrators, and returns to the salon for a pedicure. Television critics and the show's promotional materials called Mahoney "Dirty Harriet" and "Dirty Harriette", comparing her aggressive behavior to Clint Eastwood's character Dirty Harry, and Jon Anderson of the Chicago Tribune described her as "somewhat like Quick Draw McGraw with touches of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood". According to Rose, Mahoney was inspired by Dirty Harry, Wayne, and Rambo. Mahoney and other characters refer to the number of excessive-force complaints filed against her during the series, and she often has difficulties with Internal Affairs.
Although Mahoney was portrayed at odds with most of her superiors, her boss Lt. Terry McNichols (Danny Aiello) is more sympathetic and understanding towards her. McNichols is portrayed as fond of chili dogs and appreciative of Mahoney's more unorthodox methods of handling criminals, although he still criticizes her reliance on violence. Rose described McNichols as similar to a character in the crime drama The Sopranos. Describing Aiello's performance, O'Connor wrote that McNichols "offer[ed] an uncanny impersonation of the punch-drunk Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom in a 1940's movie".
Mahoney's father, brother, and married lover were killed in the line of duty before the series begins, and O'Connor connected these events to the character's "toughness and determination to survive". Other characters include detective Gino Gianelli (Ron Dean) and his wife Rose (Diane Dorsey), Officer Cassidy (Bruce A. Young), McNichols' niece Willow (Nan Woods), and Mahoney's informant Harvey (Ricardo Gutierrez). In one of his earliest roles, American actor Johnny Depp guest-starred in an episode as the brother of a serial killer. Mexican actress Katy Jurado appeared in the pilot as cocaine kingpin Dona Maria Theresa, and American actors Ajay Naidu and Jim Brown portrayed "worldly-wise waif" Paquito and a "South Side drug czar", respectively. Aiello's best friend was an extra in the series, with the cast and crew calling his character "Detective Joe Background". Tom Shales of The Washington Post described the show's tone as "baldly campy [and] ultra-violent".
The executive producer of Lady Blue was David Gerber. Directors Guy Magar and Gary Nelson worked on the series, while Jack Priestley was the cinematographer. Produced by MGM Television and David Gerber Productions, its musical score was composed by John Cacavas. Actress Arnetia Walker performed the show's theme song, "Back to the Blue", a pop rock song featuring a drum machine. Lady Blue was filmed on location in various areas of Chicago, including the Cabrini–Green Homes. Rose recalled having a difficult time in Cabrini Green since the residents threatened the cast and crew and threw bottles at them during filming.
Mahoney was Rose's first role after playing Vickie Gioberti in the soap opera Falcon Crest; Reesman wrote that the decision to cast Rose in Lady Blue was a surprise, since she was primarily known for appearing as a child with Bugs Bunny in a Kool-Aid commercial. According to Reesman, Mahoney's "steely nerve and conservative stance on crime" contrasted with Rose's "more upbeat, fun-loving, liberal persona". Rose said that she was drawn to the show's genre: "Action shows are so fun because I got to be strapped to things, hoisted over things, shoot the gun, and jump on moving cars. It was like doing a western." According to the Orange County Register, Mahoney is one of the actress' best-known roles.
To prepare for Lady Blue, Rose watched Clint Eastwood films (including the Dirty Harry franchise) and practiced steadying her gun hand. She had worked with Eastwood in the 1984 film Tightrope and a portion of the anthology series Amazing Stories, and received advice on how to mimic using a gun from Eastwood. In addition to Eastwood's assistance, Rose practiced gun-handling at a Chicago shooting range. Although Rose described her role as "physically demanding", she said she was not attempting method acting and relied on stunt doubles during filming. Rose resisted comparisons to Dirty Harry, and said: "It's still going to be a lot different because I'm a woman and I can show lots more emotions than Mr. Eastwood."
According to Jamie Rose, Lady Blue had a similar concept as the crime dramas Police Woman and Get Christie Love!; Reesman stated that the latter was not as violent as Lady Blue. John J. O'Connor compared the series' violence to Eastwood's work, and saw it as a combination of Wonder Woman and Dick Tracy comic strips. In the 2011 book Triumph of the Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman's Zombie Epic on Page and Screen, horror fiction writer Vince A. Liaguno described Lady Blue and NYPD Blue as part of a movement towards "grittier depictions of violence". In a 2017 interview, Rose said that Lady Blue was the most violent series of its time and there had been little public exposure to a character as "bloodthirsty" as Mahoney; however, she said that the series was less graphic than future television programs.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"Pilot"||Gary Nelson||Robert Vincent O'Neil||April 15, 1985|
|Homicide detective Katy Mahoney is transferred to the "Matron Squad" of the Chicago Police Department after several charges of excessive force are filed against her. While investigating a shoplifting case and the murders of two women and their children, she discovers that they are all related to cocaine trafficking.|
|2||"Death Valley Day"||Virgil Vogel||Nancy Audley and Howard Chesley||September 26, 1985|
|Mahoney investigates a murder at a housing project and discovers that the area is terrorized by Alvin Banger and his gang. When she learns that Banger forces children to steal from stores and homes, she decides to bring down the gang.|
|3||"Romeo and Juliet"||Robert Vincent O'Neil||Mark Rodgers||October 3, 1985|
|During a war between two rival street gangs, a man and a woman from the opposing sides develop feelings for one another and Mahoney tries to help them find a future together.|
|4||"Beasts of Prey"||Guy Magar||Nancy Lawrence||October 10, 1985|
|Mahoney tracks a serial killer while investigating a string of South Side murders.|
|5||"The Widow-Maker"||Mike Vejar||Allison Hock||October 17, 1985|
|Mahoney searches for a Vietnamese assassin who is programmed to kill former soldiers and refugees who have moved to America.|
|6||"The Hunter"||Christian I. Nyby II||Robert Vincent O'Neil||November 16, 1985|
|Mahoney investigates a series of murders committed with unconventional weapons and poisons.|
|7||"Portrait of Death"||Mike Vejar||Anthony Lawrence and Nancy Lawrence||November 23, 1985|
|An imprisoned criminal mastermind hires hitmen to kill everyone responsible for his conviction, starting with Mahoney and her former lover. Mahoney discovers that her ex-partner is a lawyer with questionable connections.|
|8||"Terror"||John Florea||Bill Driskill||November 30, 1985|
|While infiltrating a terrorist organization, Mahoney discovers that their main objective is to dismantle Chicago's political system.|
|9||"Designer White"||Arnold Laven||Michael Ahnemann||December 7, 1985|
|Mahoney is injected with a hallucinogen during an encounter with a drug dealer, and wanders around the city having strange visions.|
|10||"Death Grip"||Guy Magar||Mark Rodgers||December 21, 1985|
|While tracking down a hitman who kills local drug kingpins, Mahoney discovers that he is part of a larger plot to establish an international narcotics operation.|
|11||"Scorpio's Sting"||John Hancock||Robert Vincent O'Neill||January 11, 1986|
|Mahoney is tasked to find a former Green Beret and his gang, who are killing people for thrills.|
|12||"Sylvie"||Mike Vejar||Michael Ahemann||January 18, 1986|
|During an investigation, Mahoney discovers that a policewoman was murdered to cover up a scandal involving politicians, pornographers, and bankers.|
|13||"Maximum Force"||Jerry Jameson||Mark Rodgers||January 25, 1986|
|Mahoney and detective Gino Gianelli are kidnapped by a group seeking vengeance for an arrest.|
|14||"Willow's Cowboy"||Jerry Jameson||Mark Rodgers||1986|
|While searching for Terry McNichols' missing niece, Mahoney becomes involved with a group of cowboys trying to steal a shipment of bull semen.|
Thirteen episodes of Lady Blue were broadcast on ABC between September 15, 1985 and January 25, 1986. The pilot episode was aired as a television film on April 15, 1985, before it was aired as part of the series in September of that year. According to Lee Margulies of the Los Angeles Times, the pilot film received high ratings. When the series began, its emphasis on violence was criticized and it was included on watchdog organization lists. 18 characters were killed in the pilot, and producers had promised future episodes would feature more deaths. The National Coalition on Television Violence called it the "most violent program" on television during the series' run. In response to the criticism, Rose said that Lady Blue was set in "more of the heroic fantasy world" and compared Mahoney to a superhero; she explained that series was not intended to be a realistic representation of the police.
Lady Blue was initially broadcast on Thursday nights at 8 pm EST; the series ranked third in its time slot, behind the half-hour sitcoms Cheers and Night Court and the detective series Simon & Simon. After seven episodes aired, it was moved to Thursday nights at 9 pm EST to accommodate The Colbys. ABC announced that it ordered a limited number of episodes of Lady Blue in its new time, but the series would be moved to another day "without interrupting the weekly flow" if it was successful. The series was later moved to Saturday nights at 9 pm EST, when it aired against The Golden Girls and continued to receive complaints of excessive violence.
ABC cancelled Lady Blue in 1986. According to NewNowNext.com, criticism from watchdog groups contributed to the series' cancellation; Reesman also attributed it to low ratings. After the end of the series, Rose said: "It was still a great experience. You don't get much opportunity to star in your own series, especially if you're a woman." Lady Blue was rebroadcast on Lifetime, following the network's tradition of airing shows depicting female characters in traditionally-male occupations; other examples include female private detectives in Veronica Clare and Partners in Crime and a female physician in Kay O'Brien. The series has not been released on DVD, Blu-ray or an online-streaming service. 20th Century Fox owns the rights to Lady Blue, but a studio spokesperson said that there were no plans for a home release.
During its run, Lady Blue received primarily negative reviews due to its emphasis on violence. Although O'Connor criticized the series for its "mindless violence and questionable law enforcement", Anderson felt that the show had potential: "Perhaps, with a little more seasoning on the Chicago police department, Jamie Rose might become a star." In his 1991 book The TV Encyclopedia, David Inman called Lady Blue "one of the dumbest shows ever on ABC--and that's saying a lot". Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post criticized the reliance on violence "overpowers, and eventually sours, what could have been an agreeably fast-paced show". In response to the pilot, Grove also panned its writer Robert Vincent O'Neil for copying ideas from Clint Eastwood films and the 1971 movie The French Connection. Despite negative reviews, Reesman reported that teenage and young adult males responded positively to Mahoney's attitude and appearance.
In his 2013 book June Cleaver Was a Feminist!: Reconsidering the Female Characters of Early Television, television studies author Cary O'Dell called Lady Blue an "interesting experiment" in imagining the "hardcore cop genre with a female lead". According to O'Dell, criticism of Mahoney and the series' ultimate cancellation were the results of sexism: "Was such rebellion, contempt for authority, and brutal tactics considered too 'unfeminine'?" The author felt that Lady Blue was ahead of its time, contrasting Mahoney's negative reception with the positive reaction to the titular protagonists of the 1991 film Thelma & Louise, who have developed a legacy as "newfangled feminist icons".