Barney Miller is an American sitcom television series set in a New York City Police Department police station on East 6th St in Greenwich Village. The series was broadcast on ABC Network from January 23, 1975, to May 20, 1982. It was created by Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker. Noam Pitlik directed the majority of the episodes. It spawned a spin-off series, Fish, that ran from February 5, 1977, to May 18, 1978, focusing on the character Philip K. Fish.
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||170 (list of episodes)|
|Camera setup||Videotape; multi-camera|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production companies||Four D Productions|
Columbia Pictures Television
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Picture format||NTSC (480i)|
|Original release||January 23, 1975 –|
May 20, 1982
Barney Miller takes place almost entirely within the confines of the detectives' squad room and Captain Barney Miller's adjoining office of New York City's fictional 12th Precinct, located in Greenwich Village. A typical episode featured the detectives of the 12th bringing in several complainants and/or suspects to the squad room. Usually, two or three separate subplots are in a given episode, with different officers dealing with different crimes. Rarely, about once a year, an episode would feature one or more of the detectives outside of the walls of the precinct, either on a stakeout or at their homes.
- Captain Bernard "Barney" Miller (Hal Linden) is the sensible captain of the precinct who uses his odd and dry sense of humor to retain his sanity while dealing with the foibles of his staff, an unending stream of budget problems, and paperwork that make up his job. Several times during the series's run, he gets passed over for a promotion to deputy inspector before reaching that rank in the series finale.
- Sgt. Philip K. Fish (Abe Vigoda) is the senior detective on the squad. Crotchety, world-weary, and near retirement, he always seems to be suffering through some physical ailment, but his years of experience as a police officer make him a very good detective and mentor to other members of his squad. Frequently, he is on the phone dealing with a minor marital crisis with his wife Bernice. The character was eventually spun off into its own series.
- Det. 3rd Grade (later Sgt.) Stanley Thaddeus "Wojo" Wojciehowicz (Max Gail) is the naive, gung-ho but goodhearted Catholic Polish-American, who gradually transforms from a macho former Marine into a decidedly humanitarian character (the squad's conscience, in many ways), while performing his duties as a detective. He takes and fails the sergeant's examination four times, but finally passes on his fifth try and gets promoted in season four. He is a very dedicated, by-the-book police officer who at times tends to take his duties a little too seriously. In the final season, his name is spelled "Wojehowicz" on the duty roster.
- Det. 1st Grade (later Sgt.) Ron Nathan Harris (Ron Glass) is an ambitious, intellectual black criminologist who has a taste for the finer things in life and thus lives well beyond his means, and who frequently seems more preoccupied with his attire and his career as a writer than with his police work. A long-running plotline about his various attempts to establish a writing career eventually has Harris emerge as a published author; his lurid memoir Blood on the Badge (originally titled Precinct Diary) becomes a best-seller and thus prompts him to become more serious about his work. Harris was educated by Jesuits and served in the Coast Guard (in the legal department) prior to becoming a police officer. He is a self-professed Republican, but also a former war protester and an ardent supporter of the police officers' union strike action.
- Sgt. Nick Yemana (Jack Soo) is a surrealistically philosophical, wisecracking Japanese American detective. Though he is closely connected to his Japanese heritage, he is a native of Omaha, Nebraska. Yemana is noted for his "off the wall" sense of humor and wry observations about life, as well as for his gambling habits, extraordinarily erratic paperwork filing skills, and for making the squad's coffee (which is disliked by everyone who drinks it). After the retirement of Fish, Yemana becomes the ranking detective. In the two-part episode "Eviction," he becomes commanding officer, though he is replaced after a mere few hours. (Harris compares his tenure to that of President William Henry Harrison, who served for one month.)
- Sgt. Miguel "Chano" Amengual (Gregory Sierra) is a dauntless, beleaguered Puerto Rican detective, who is very emotionally attached to his job; as such, he has a habit of getting worked up when things go awry and, when this happens, he tends to explode in rapid Spanish should it happen. His lowest moment comes in "The Hero," when he kills two bank robbers and tries to hide his anguish.
- Sgt. Arthur P. Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) is a detective with a calm, unflappable nature and a seemingly endless supply of knowledge on a wide array of subjects (he has, as Barney once observed, a "flair for the esoteric"), yet he enjoys elements of entertainment that can be seen as ironically simple, such as early morning cartoons and the Three Stooges (his personal favorite). He can usually find a topic to discuss with those he encounters in the squad room, whatever their interest or occupation, though his contribution usually comes out of him in an overly intellectual manner. In "The Photographer," Barney goes so far as to suggest to Dietrich that he has a "pedantic" way of expressing himself. Despite his perspicacity, he seems to possess a deep-rooted sense of self-doubt, giving up on more than a few career paths (law and medical school, to name a few) when he finds he isn't a perfect representation of the position in his own eyes; that's why he "became a cop."
- Inspector Franklin D. Luger (James Gregory) is Miller's rambling, out-of-touch, and unapologetically old-school superior who frequently drops by the precinct to "chat with" Barney "in his office." He refers to Harris as "Har'", Dietrich as "D. D." (short for "Detective Dietrich") and Levitt as "Levine." As time goes by, Luger becomes more and more melancholy and his outdated approach to police work more and more problematic. He has a habit of getting lost in his thoughts, particularly when he reminisces about his old partners Foster, Kleiner and "Brownie," which usually ends up with him getting worked up as he remembers how much he "loved those guys."
- Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey) is a diminutive, obsequious (but competent and hard-working) uniformed officer who constantly, passive-aggressively badgers Miller about being promoted. In the series finale, he is finally promoted to sergeant.
- Elizabeth "Liz" Miller (Barbara Barrie) is Barney's wife. A dedicated social worker, she was intended to be a regular character and, during seasons one and two, was listed in the opening credits. Nevertheless, Liz is seen fairly infrequently. She is, however, often referred to, and Barney is often seen (and heard) on the phone with her. Later on in the run of the show, she and Barney separate due to the ongoing tension between home life and his work at the 12th, but end up reconciling.
The show's focus was split between the detectives' interactions with each other and with the suspects and witnesses they detained, processed, and interviewed. Some typical conflicts and long-running plotlines included Miller's frustration with red tape and paperwork, his constant efforts to maintain peace, order, and discipline, and his numerous failed attempts to get a promotion; Harris's preoccupation with outside interests, such as his living arrangements but mainly his novel (Blood on the Badge), and his inability to remain focused on his police work; Fish's age-related health issues, marital problems, and reluctance to retire; Wojciehowicz's impulsive behavior and love life; Luger's nostalgia for the old days with partners Foster, Kleiner, and "Brownie" Brown; Levitt's quest to become a detective (which is eventually successful); the rivalry between the precinct's resident intellectuals, Harris and Dietrich; and continually but reliably bad coffee, usually made by Yemana.
|Hal Linden||Captain Barney Miller||Main star and regular character throughout the series's run. In the Season 5 episode "Accusation", it is learned that he worked Vice for a time previous to being assigned to the 12th Precinct. Frequently passed over for promotion, but rises to Deputy Inspector in the final episode.|
|Max Gail||Detective Stan
|Regular character throughout the series's run. In the second season he is billed as "Maxwell Gail".|
|Ron Glass||Detective Ron Harris||Regular character throughout the series' run.|
|James Gregory||Deputy Inspector
Franklin D. Luger
|A regular character throughout the series, usually seen in about a third to a half of any given season's episodes. Gregory was only listed in the opening credits during Season 4, and in the first four episodes and last episode of Season 5; in other seasons, he was listed as a "Special Guest" in the closing credits.|
|Abe Vigoda||Sergeant Philip K. Fish||Vigoda was a regular for the first three seasons. Though still in the opening credits, he appeared in only about half of the episodes in the last half of Season 3, by contractual agreement to accommodate his starring series, the spin-off show Fish.) Fish "retired" as of Season 4, Episode 2, though he returned for two guest appearances, one later in Season 4 and one in Season 7.|
|Jack Soo||Sergeant Nick Yemana||A regular in Seasons 1 to 5, Soo died on January 11, 1979 (midway through Season 5). A special memorial episode was aired, with the actors breaking character and recalling their favorite Yemana scenes. The episode ended with the entire cast raising their coffee cups in tribute.|
|Barbara Barrie||Elizabeth "Liz" Miller||1–2, 4, 5||Though appearing in only a handful of episodes after the pilot, Barrie received billing in the opening credits of every episode in Seasons 1 and 2. Often mentioned, her character returned for a one-episode guest appearance in Season 4 and another in Season 5.|
|Gregory Sierra||Sergeant Miguel "Chano" Amengual||Regular character for seasons 1 and 2, then left the show. No explanation is given for his character's absence at the start of Season 3. In Season 4, Officer Roslyn Licori is brought in as his replacement two years after the official request was made (with no satisfactory explanation from the Personnel Department as to why the request took so long to be filled).|
|Steve Landesberg||Detective Arthur P. Dietrich||Landesberg was first seen as a one-shot character, a con man posing as a priest (Father Paul), in Season 2 Episode 1 – "Doomsday". Later that season, he first appeared as Dietrich in the twelfth episode, "Fish". Dietrich was a transfer from the 33rd when budget cuts closed that precinct. He became a semi-regular in Season 3 and a full-time cast member from Season 4 forward (essentially replacing the retired Det. Fish).|
|Ron Carey||Officer Carl Levitt||Carey first appeared as a perp, Angelo "The Mole" Molinari, in the last episode of Season 2. He began his role as a recurring character, Officer Levitt, in Season 3, becoming a full-time cast member by Season 4 (his character would finally make sergeant in the series's final episode).|
Other officers and staff
|Milt Kogan||Desk Sergeant Kogan||Though not seen after season 2, Kogan (the downstairs desk sergeant) was frequently referred to throughout the series's run.|
|Paul Lichtman||Mr. Beckman, the
|He also played a Bellevue Hospital attendant in season 1.|
|George Murdock ‡||Lt. Ben Scanlon,
|2, 4–8||A member of the Internal Affairs Department, the eternally suspicious Scanlon was not attached to the 12th Precinct. He was first shown to be a lieutenant from Manhattan South. Previously worked as a member of the vice squad for 17 years. His visits from headquarters involved trying to find corruption inside the precinct, especially in the detective squad, and he gradually became more and more obsessive in his determination to prove that Barney was not as upright and honest as he appeared.|
|Linda Lavin||Detective Janice Wentworth||An extremely dedicated and enthusiastic (sometimes overly so) member of the squad who developed a romantic relationship with Wojo. After a short run as a regular guest on Barney Miller (beginning with episode 8 of the first season, "Ms. Cop"), Lavin left the series to star in Alice. Wentworth's name can still be seen on the staff duty roster through most of Season 3, and a flashback scene with Wentworth was used in the final episode.|
|June Gable||Detective Maria Battista||Short-lived addition to the 12th Precinct's detective room, lasting two episodes. Almost as gung-ho as her predecessor Wentworth. Secretly disliked by Levitt for having made detective even though she was shorter than he was.|
|Mari Gorman ‡||Officer Roslyn Licori||Gorman made a guest appearance (season 4, episode 3) as an amateur prostitute housewife, and then, after a three-episode run as Licori in season 4, she played another recurring role during season 8, as Mrs. Binder, wife of frequent precinct visitor Bruno Binder.|
|Dino Natali||Officer Zitelli||A gay officer. Particularly loathed by the homophobic Lt. Scanlon, who desperately wants to find a reason to fire him; after he was outed by a careless remark by Wojo, he was promoted to a position as Administrative Assistant at Police Headquarters.|
|Paul Lieber ‡||Detective Eric Dorsey||Lieber had appeared as a comically inept gunman in the 1980 episode "The Architect." He later joined the cast as another three-episode detective, who came in with a cynical attitude toward the squad that Levitt took as a good sign that the newcomer would not fit in. Dorsey straightened out, but was reassigned regardless.|
|Ed Peck||Patrolman Slater||Attended police academy with Fish in the 1940s, he reminisces about his past crush on the then-single "Bernice Gruber" and heavily implies not only an actual history with her but an abiding interest, much to Fish's aggravation. Slater is later partnered with Patrolman Darvec, a rookie, and they both fire shots at Harris, who they misidentify as a perpetrator.|
‡ Murdock, Gorman, and Leiber all made guest appearances in other roles in addition to their regularly recurring series roles.
Barney Miller had a stock company of character actors who made frequent appearances in different roles, among them Don Calfa (7 episodes), Rod Colbin (7), Phil Leeds (7), Ralph Manza (7), Oliver Clark (6), Arny Freeman (6), Peggy Pope (6), Philip Sterling (6), Kenneth Tigar (6), Martin Garner (5), Walter Janowitz (5), Howard Platt (5), Leonard Stone (5), Ivor Francis (4), Jay Gerber (4), Larry Gelman (4), Michael Lombard (4), Edwin Malave (4), Rosanna DeSoto (4), Todd Susman (4), Michael Tucci (4), Sal Viscuso (4), Candice Azzara (3), Eugene Elman (3), Bruce Kirby (3), Jack Kruschen (3), Richard Libertini (3), Kay Medford (3), Nehemiah Persoff (3), Titos Vandis (3), Michael Durrell (2), Alix Elias (2), Peter Jurasik (2), Jenny O'Hara (2), Walter Olkewicz (2) and Lyman Ward (2).
12th Precinct regulars
The 12th Precinct had a number of regular complainants, habitués of the holding cell, or other people who often dropped by. Characters seen on three or more episodes included:
|Jack DeLeon||Marty Morrison||Marty, an openly gay man, is arrested for snatching purses in the series's second episode. Later he is occasionally brought in as a suspect, other times as a complainant.|
|Alex Henteloff ‡||Arnold Ripner||Henteloff had appeared as an unemployable master forger in the first-season episode "The Social Worker." He joined the ensemble cast the next year in the role of Arnold Ripner. An ambulance-chasing attorney, Ripner visits the precinct whenever he has a client to defend. His first appearance is in the series's second episode as Marty Morrison's lawyer. (He also sometimes visits just to try to drum up business among those in the holding cell.) Ripner later sues Harris for Harris's unauthorized depiction of Ripner in his novel Blood on the Badge, winning a $320,000 judgment and stripping Harris of most of his luxurious possessions.|
|Stanley Brock ‡||Bruno Binder||The owner of a sporting goods store and would-be vigilante, frequently in trouble for his overzealous ways to get rid of what he considered undesirable elements.|
|Jack Somack||Mr. Cotterman||Owner of the frequently robbed Cotterman's Liquor Store. In the season 7 episode "Homicide", the squad (unable to aid Cotterman due to a temporary reassignment to Homicide) learns that Cotterman was shot and killed by two would-be extortionists.|
|Ray Stewart||Darryl Driscoll||Marty's somewhat more sensible and grounded lover, who lends Marty moral support during his visits to the precinct; formerly married with a young son.|
|Ray Brewer||A transient, Ray stops by the precinct during open houses to talk and sample the coffee, and once to report that other residents of the mission where he stays have been abducted. Later joins the Salvation Army.|
|J.J. Barry ‡||Arthur Duncan||A small-time crook who is frequently arrested.|
|Ralph Manza ‡||Leon Roth||A blind man who is first arrested for shoplifting, Mr. Roth returned later as both arrestee and complainant.|
|Doris Roberts ‡||Harriet Brauer||A frequent complainant (against her husband).|
|Peter Hobbs||Phillip Brauer||A middle-aged married man whose attempts to bring excitement and meaning into his life result in conflict with his wife.|
|Paula Shaw||Paula Capshaw||A cynical prostitute who is a frequent arrestee.|
|Carina Afable||Perlita Avilar||Inspector Luger's prospective Filipina "mail-order bride".|
‡ cast in several different roles over the series's run
- Billy Barty
- Todd Bridges
- Roscoe Lee Browne
- Don Calfa
- Diana Canova
- Oliver Clark
- David Clennon
- Jeff Corey
- James Cromwell
- Danny Dayton
- Jack Dodson
- David Dukes
- Nancy Dussault
- Herbert Edelman
- Marla Gibbs
- Florence Halop
- David Lander
- Richard Libertini
- Christopher Lloyd
- Dave Madden
- Barney Martin
- A Martinez
- Caroline McWilliams
- Kay Medford
- Dick O'Neill
- Ben Piazza
- Charlotte Rae
- Jack Riley
- Larry B. Scott
- Ray Sharkey
- Trinidad Silva
- Queenie Smith
- Brett Somers
- Jeffrey Tambor
- Michael Tucci
- David Wayne
- William Windom
- Luis Avalos
Fish's wife Bernice made an appearance from time to time in Seasons 1 to 4. In Seasons 1, 3 and 4 she was played by Florence Stanley (in a total of seven appearances); in Bernice's only Season 2 appearance she was portrayed by Doris Belack. In that episode, Fish also had a grown daughter named Beverly, played by Emily Levine. Also seen as recurring characters in Season 3 were group home children Jilly (Denise Miller) and Victor (John Cassisi), who would eventually become Fish's foster children. In 1977, the Fishes were spun off into their own show, Fish which also starred Barry Gordon, who memorably played an embezzler who gets a pay raise and promotion in Season 5 and a lawyer representing Wojo in Season 8.
In addition to Barney's wife Liz, Barney's son David (Michael Tessier) and daughter Rachel (Anne Wyndham) appeared in the pilot. Barney's son was written out of the show after the first episode (though was still occasionally mentioned), while his wife made appearances through the second season, and very sporadically thereafter. Wyndham also reprised her role in two later episodes, Season 1, episode 5 "The Courtesans", and Season 7, episode 140 "Rachel".
Darlene Parks played Wojo's ex-prostitute girlfriend Nancy in a 2-episode arc in Season 5. The episodes focus on the 'period of adjustment' following Nancy's move into Stan's apartment.
The series was born out of an unsold television pilot, The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller, that aired on August 22, 1974, as part of an ABC summer anthology series, Just for Laughs. Linden and Vigoda were cast in their series roles; no other eventual cast members were present. Abby Dalton played Barney Miller's wife, Liz, while Val Bisoglio, Rod Perry, and a pre-Hill Street Blues Charles Haid rounded out the cast of the pilot. Guest stars included Mike Moore, Chu Chu Mulave, Henry Beckman, Buddy Lester, Michael Tessier and Anne Wyndham.
The pilot script was later largely reused in the debut episode Ramon. For this reworked episode, Bisoglio's lines were more or less evenly split between the new characters of Yemana and Chano, while Haid's character of Kazinski became Max Gail's Wojciehowicz. Rod Perry's character, Sgt. Wilson, was replaced by Harris in the reworked episode, although Wilson would reappear one more time in the first-season episode Experience before disappearing from the series entirely. Abby Dalton was replaced by Barbara Barrie as Liz, and Henry Beckman's character of Uncle Charlie was dropped entirely. The rest of the guest cast (Moore, Malave, Lester, Tessier and Wyndham) reprised their roles in the debut episode.
Unlike the remainder of the series, the pilot was shot on film at CBS Studio Center, where the sets of the 12th Precinct and the Miller apartment were originally built. When the show went into regular production in late 1974, it was recorded on videotape. The sets were moved to the ABC Television Center in Hollywood, where they remained until production ended in 1982.
The pilot was never broadcast in syndication. It was released in 2011 as part of Shout Factory's complete series set on DVD.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Rank||Rating||Tied with|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||January 23, 1975||May 1, 1975||68||14.7||Ironside, Hot l Baltimore|
|2||22||September 11, 1975||March 18, 1976||37||N/A||N/A|
|3||22||September 23, 1976||March 31, 1977||17||22.2||N/A|
|4||23||September 15, 1977||May 18, 1978||17||21.4||Fantasy Island|
|5||24||September 14, 1978||May 17, 1979||15||22.6||The ABC Sunday Night Movie|
|6||22||September 13, 1979||May 8, 1980||20||20.9||Charlie's Angels|
|7||22||October 30, 1980||May 21, 1981||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|8||22||October 29, 1981||May 20, 1982||54||N/A||N/A|
The show's instrumental jazz fusion theme music, written by Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson, opens with a distinctive bass line performed by studio musician Chuck Berghofer. The bass line was improvised by Berghofer at the request of producer Dominik Hauser: "Can you do something on the bass? This guy is a cop in New York. Can we just start it out with the bass?" The theme song was ranked #23 and #27, respectively, by Complex and Paste magazines, in their lists of "best TV theme songs".
The theme plays over the Manhattan skyline, followed by shots of the characters and opening credits. Season 1 opened and closed with a shot of Midtown Manhattan as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey. Season 2 onward opened with a shot of Lower Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn Heights, with a barge being towed in the foreground, and closed with a shot of the Midtown Manhattan skyline as seen from Long Island City. Several versions of the theme were used during different seasons, sometimes more than one within the same season, with minor variations in composition and performance. The one version used for Season 3, however, is said to be the most well-known.
Production of Barney Miller deliberately resembled a theatrical stage play; scenes rarely strayed from the precinct station's squad room, with its prominent open-barred holding cell, and Miller's adjoining office. The room was said to be on the second or third floor, depending on the episode. Clutter was plentiful and much of it seemed immobile over the years, including a coat hanging on a clothes rack near Harris' desk. A handful of episodes (fewer than a dozen of 170) were partially or fully set in other locations, including a stakeout location ("Stakeout"), a hospital room ("Hair"), an undercover operation ("Grand Hotel"), a jail (three separate rooms in "Contempt"), a hotel room ("Chinatown"), and the apartments of Barney ("Ramon" and "Graft"), Chano ("The Hero"), Fish ("Fish") and Wojo ("Wojo's Girl"). In "The DNA Story," we finally see the inside of the men's room. Barney Miller tended to obey two of the three classical unities of drama: unity of place and unity of time. The third unity, unity of action, was not followed, since each episode had multiple subplots.
Barney Miller was one of the few sitcoms of the period that occasionally mentioned the then-current year or allowed the audience to infer the then-current year.
Barney Miller was notorious for its marathon taping sessions. Early seasons were recorded before a live studio audience and used a laugh track for sweetening reactions during post-production. Creator and executive producer Danny Arnold would then rewrite and restage entire scenes after the audience departed, actively looking for quieter, subtler moments that would not play well before a crowd; a taping session that began in the afternoon or early evening would then continue into the early morning hours. Max Gail referred to this in the Jack Soo retrospective episode aired on May 17, 1979, remarking that one of the clips shown was a scene that "we finished around 2:30 in the morning." In a 1977 blooper, a crew member mentions it being 3:15 a.m.
Writer Tom Reeder described working on the show:
Danny Arnold was the creator of the show, and especially in the early years, he was a marvel. When he was "on", he could spin out entire scenes, ad-libbing dialogue—and great jokes—for every character. By the time those scenes got to script form, though, he obsessively rewrote them.
That's true of a lot of showrunners, but Danny couldn't seem to stop himself. Sometime during season 2 (or maybe it was 3) the show was no longer taped in front of an audience, partly because the script was rarely done by show night. When one season began, six pages were in print. Not six scripts—six pages of one script.
This meant that on the day the show was taped, the actors would hang around on the stage, waiting for pages to be sent down. Then—sometimes at 2 a.m.—they would have to learn new scenes. Ron Carey (Officer Levitt) would get his fairly quickly: "Here's your mail, Captain." On the other hand, poor Steve Landesberg (Dietrich) might have to memorize long speeches explaining how nuclear fission works.
In the early years, Danny benefited from the heroic writing efforts of Chris Hayward, who was a veteran writer, and rookies Tony Sheehan and Reinhold Weege who, like me, didn't know any better. They were the Barney Miller writing staff. My agent wisely turned down Danny's annual offers of staff jobs, negotiating freelance assignments (so-called "multiple deals") for me instead. Even so, the pace was frantic—on one assignment I was given 3 hours to write the story outline. On another occasion, a friend came into my office at ABC-Vine Street and said, "Hey, Reeder, want to go get some lunch?" I pointed to the paper in my typewriter and said, "This script is on the stage—thanks anyway."
Employing a live audience became impractical as lengthy reshoots became commonplace. By Season 4, only a quiet laugh track was used when necessary.
Barney Miller's wife
When Barney Miller premiered in January, 1975, actress Barbara Barrie was hired as a regular cast member to play Liz Miller, Barney's wise, faithful, and loving wife. She received second billing in the opening credits after Hal Linden. During that half-season, Barrie appeared in seven episodes out of thirteen. At that time, the premise of the show was to focus on Barney's career as a police captain at the 12th precinct as well as his home life with his wife and children.
At the start of the 1975-76 season, when it became evident that storylines at the 12th precinct were taking precedence, Barrie went to producer Danny Arnold and asked to be released from the show. Arnold reluctantly agreed and Barrie appeared in only two episodes during that year – “The Social Worker” which was the second episode of the second season and the holiday installment “Happy New Year”. However, she continued to receive second billing in the opening credits throughout the second year.
In the third season, Barrie's character of Liz as well as Barney's children were occasionally mentioned but never seen. In the spring of 1978, Barrie returned to the series as a guest star reprising her role of Liz Miller in the episode “Quo Vadis”. In that installment Barney gets shot on duty but survives his attack virtually unharmed. However, Liz, upset by the incident and unable to stand the pressures of being a policeman's wife, gives Barney an ultimatum – to either give up his police job so they can move to a safer neighborhood or end their marriage. At the end of the episode, Barney and Liz separate.
During the 1978-79 season, Barrie made her final appearance on Barney Miller again as a guest star in the Christmas show “Toys”. In that episode, Liz meets Barney at the 12th precinct on Christmas Eve to discuss celebrating the holidays with their children leading up to the possibility of a reconciliation. After this installment, Liz is never seen again but towards the end of the fifth season, Barney happily announces to his police staff that he and Liz have ended their separation and that he is moving back to their apartment. Despite Barrie's absence, her character of Liz Miller continued to be mentioned throughout the rest of the show's run.
In the first season of Barney Miller, the character of Fish (played by Abe Vigoda) proved to be so popular that a spin-off was being considered by ABC as early as October, 1975. The series, Fish, premiered on February 5, 1977. The premise of the series focused on the domestic side of Fish's life as he and his wife Bernice (played by Florence Stanley) became foster parents to five racially mixed children known as “Persons In Need Of Supervision” or PINS. Vigoda's character of Fish continued to appear sporadically in the second half of Season 3 of Barney Miller while also starring in Fish. During the 1977-78 season, Fish officially retired from the NYPD in Season 4, Episode 2 episode of Barney Miller. While Fish did reasonably well in the ratings, it did not attract the same number of viewers as Barney Miller. ABC was going to renew the show for a third season, but, according to cast member Todd Bridges, Vigoda demanded more money than the producers were willing to pay. As a result, Fish was canceled by ABC in May, 1978 without a series finale. Vigoda did not return to Barney Miller as a regular cast member. However, in the spring of 1981, he did make a final appearance as Fish as a guest in a seventh season episode of the series called "Lady and the Bomb", thus giving his character some closure.
After Fish was canceled, a special one-hour episode of Barney Miller aired on January 25, 1979. It was created as a pilot episode for another possible Barney Miller spin-off to star series regular Max Gail. Titled “Wojo's Girl”, the first half of the episode was set at the 12th precinct in which Wojo (played by Gail) decides to have his girlfriend Nancy, a former prostitute (played by Darlene Parks), live with him. The second half of the installment takes place entirely in Wojo's apartment as he and Nancy try and struggle to adjust to living together. The pilot did not sell, Park's character of Nancy was never seen again and Gail remained with Barney Miller until the series ended in the spring of 1982.
Shortly after the premiere of Barney Miller in early 1975, actress Linda Lavin guest starred as Detective Janice Wentworth on the eighth episode "Ms. Cop". Her character in that installment went over very well with audiences and Lavin was brought back as a semi-regular for Barney Miller's second year. During that season, a romance began at the 12th precinct between Detective Wentworth and Detective Sergeant (Wojo) Wojciehowicz (played by Max Gail). However, at the same time, Lavin had just completed a television pilot for CBS called Alice, which was based on the Academy Award-winning film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The pilot quickly sold to CBS and they included it on their schedule for the 1976-1977 season. As a result, Lavin left Barney Miller at the end of the show's second season. Alice ran for nine years on CBS and immediately established Lavin as a television star. Lavin never returned to Barney Miller although her character of Detective Janice Wentworth was briefly seen in a flashback in the last episode of the series "Landmark: Part 3".
Death of Jack Soo
Towards the end of the fourth year, Jack Soo was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was absent for the last five episodes of the 1977-78 season. To help fill the void during his medical leave, actress Mari Gorman was brought in for three installments as Officer Rosslyn Licori. Cast member Ron Carey's role of Officer Carl Levitt was also expanded at this time to compensate for Soo's absence. Soo returned to Barney Miller at the start of the 1978-79 season but his cancer had already metastasized and spread very quickly. As a result, he was only able to complete nine episodes that year. By the time he taped his last appearance which was the installment "The Vandal" that aired on November 9, 1978, Soo's illness was quite evident in his rapid weight loss. Two months later, he died on January 11, 1979 at the age of 61. The fifth season finale "Jack Soo: A Retrospective" aired on May 17, 1979 and was a tribute to him. For this installment, the cast of Barney Miller led by Hal Linden appeared as themselves on the 12th precinct office set as they fondly shared stories and reminiscences about Soo as an actor and as a friend. At the end of the episode, the cast raised their coffee cups in loving memory of Jack Soo.
During the seventh season, in an attempt to fill the void left by Jack Soo, a new character was added to Barney Miller. In November, 1980, actor Paul Lieber was cast as Detective Sergeant Eric Dorsey. Dorsey had a jaded, cynical attitude who initially alienated his fellow colleagues at the 12th precinct by assuming they were all corrupt. Even though he eventually realized that his convictions were not true, the character was not popular with viewers. As a result, Lieber's tenure on the show lasted only a few weeks with his character of Dorsey reassigned to another precinct. (Incidentally, Lieber had made a previous appearance on Barney Miller during the previous season in a small role as a gunman in the episode "The Architect").
Marty and Darryl were among the earliest recurring gay characters on American television. Danny Arnold worked closely with the Gay Media Task Force, an activist group that worked on LGBT representation in media, in developing the characters. Initially both characters were presented in a stereotypically effeminate manner but in later appearances Darryl began dressing and speaking in a more mainstream fashion. Officer Zitelli's coming out was not the first gay storyline on American television, but was a memorable one.
Slow ratings growth
In the 1975 "The Courtesans" episode (S1 E5) with Nancy Dussault, creator/producer/showrunner Danny Arnold threatened to quit his own show, if network censors removed a risque line. The network relented and the resulting publicity over the X-Rated episode that was banned in two markets ensured the series' ratings survival, according to Hal Linden.
Danny Arnold ended production of Barney Miller in 1982 after eight seasons for fear of repeating storylines; the show was not canceled by the network.
Reception by police
Barney Miller retains a devoted following among real-life police officers, who appreciate the show's emphasis on dialog and believably quirky characters, and its low-key portrayal of cops going about their jobs. In a 2005 op-ed for the New York Times, real-life New York police detective Lucas Miller wrote:
Real cops are not usually fans of cop shows. [...] Many police officers maintain that the most realistic police show in the history of television was the sitcom Barney Miller, [...] The action was mostly off screen, the squad room the only set, and the guys were a motley bunch of character actors who were in no danger of being picked for the N.Y.P.D. pin-up calendar. But they worked hard, made jokes, got hurt and answered to their straight-man commander. For real detectives, most of the action does happen off screen, and we spend a lot of time back in the squad room writing reports about it. Like Barney Miller's squad, we crack jokes at one another, at the cases that come in, and at the crazy suspect locked in the holding cell six feet from the new guy's desk. Life really is more like Barney Miller than NYPD Blue, but our jokes aren't nearly as funny.
Similarly, during his appearance on Jon Favreau's Independent Film Channel talk show Dinner for Five, Dennis Farina, who worked as a Chicago police officer before turning to acting, called Barney Miller the most realistic cop show ever seen on television.
Awards and honors
Barney Miller won a DGA Award from the Directors Guild of America in 1981. The series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1982, after it ended. It received six other nominations in that category, from 1976 to 1981. The series won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 1980 (in addition to nominations in 1976, 1977 and 1982), Outstanding Directing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety or Music Series in 1979, and was nominated for a number of others. It won Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Comedy or Musical Series in 1976 and 1977 (from a total of seven nominations), and won a Peabody Award in 1978. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Barney Miller at #46 on its list of the 60 best series of all time.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of Barney Miller on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 was released on January 20, 2004, to slow sales, and Sony decided not to release any more seasons. However, the decision was later reversed and Season 2 was released in 2008 (four years after the release of Season 1), followed by Season 3 in 2009.
Shout! Factory acquired the rights to the series in 2011 and subsequently released a complete series set on October 25, 2011. The 25-disc set features all 168 episodes of the series as well as bonus features and the first season of the Abe Vigoda spin-off, Fish.
In 2014, Shout! began releasing individual season sets, season 4 was released on January 7, 2014, season 5 on May 13, 2014. Season 6 on December 9, 2014. and Season 7 on April 7, 2015, followed by the eighth and final season on July 7, 2015.
Season 1 was released on DVD in Region 4 on December 20, 2006.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The First Season||13||January 20, 2004|
|The Complete Second Season||22||January 22, 2008|
|The Complete Third Season||22||March 17, 2009|
|The Complete Fourth Season||23||January 7, 2014|
|The Complete Fifth Season||24||May 13, 2014|
|The Complete Sixth Season||22||December 9, 2014|
|The Complete Seventh Season||22||April 7, 2015|
|The Complete Eighth Season||22||July 7, 2015|
|The Complete Series||168||October 25, 2011|
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- "Shout! Factory – Barney Miller: Season Six". shoutfactory.com. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
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