Baretta is an American detective television series which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1978.[1]

Baretta title screen
GenreDetective fiction
Police procedural
Created byStephen J. Cannell
Theme music composer
Opening theme
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes82 (list of episodes)
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 17, 1975 (1975-01-17) –
May 18, 1978 (1978-05-18)

The show was a revised and milder version of a 1973–1974 ABC series, Toma, starring Tony Musante as chameleon-like, real-life New Jersey police officer David Toma. When Musante left the series after a single season, the concept was retooled as Baretta, with Robert Blake in the title role.[2][3]

"Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow," the show's theme music, was composed by Dave Grusin and Morgan Ames[4] and sung by Sammy Davis Jr.,[5] in addition to being a chart hit for two other artists.



Anthony Vincenzo "Tony" Baretta is an unorthodox plainclothes police detective (Badge #609) with the 53rd Precinct in an unnamed, fictional city. He resides in Apartment 2C of the run-down King Edward Hotel with Fred, his Triton cockatoo. A master of disguise, Baretta wears many while performing his duties. When not working he usually wears a short-sleeve sweatshirt, casual slacks, a brown suede jacket and a newsboy cap.

Baretta is often seen with an unlit cigarette in his lips or behind his ear. His catchphrases include "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time", "You can take dat to da bank" and "And dat's the name of dat tune." When exasperated, he occasionally speaks in asides to his late father, Louie Baretta. He drives a rusted-out Mist Blue 1966 Chevrolet Impala four-door sport sedan nicknamed "The Blue Ghost" (license plate 532 BEM). He frequents Ross's Billiard Academy and refers to his numerous girlfriends as his "cousins".


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
112January 17, 1975 (1975-01-17)April 30, 1975 (1975-04-30)
222September 10, 1975 (1975-09-10)April 28, 1976 (1976-04-28)
324September 22, 1976 (1976-09-22)May 4, 1977 (1977-05-04)
424September 28, 1977 (1977-09-28)May 18, 1978 (1978-05-18)





Upon watching Blake in the 1973 film Electra Glide in Blue, then ABC executive Michael Eisner contacted him about doing a police series, which culminated in Baretta. Blake was given creative control in most aspects of production.[7]

The series came about as a reboot of Toma when actor Tony Musante chose to move on after completing his single season commitment to the series.[8]

Baretta with Fred.

The theme song, "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow", was written by Dave Grusin and Morgan Ames; initially an instrumental, lyrics were added in later seasons that were sung by Sammy Davis, Jr. Every episode of Baretta began with the song, which contained the motto, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." According to Blake, studio executives did not want Davis's vocals for the theme song for fear that audiences would think Baretta was a black series. Blake threatened to leave production if Davis's recording was rejected. His bosses relented.[9]

The song was released as a single in Europe in 1976, reaching number one in the Dutch Top 40 as "Baretta's Theme". The music for the theme song was performed by Los Angeles-based Latin influenced Rock band El Chicano. El Chicano also released the song as a 45 and also as a track on one of their albums. The Baretta theme song by El Chicano was a huge hit in many countries including Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, France and The Philippines.

The song was released as a single in the US, but only charted as high as #42 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, while it "bubbled under the Hot 100" at #101.

Fred the cockatoo was portrayed by two Triton cockatoos named Lalah and Weird Harold, the latter used as a stunt double for flying sequences.[10]



On April 27, 1977, Blake announced that he would leave after completing his contractual run on the show for the season. "I proved everything I had to prove," he said. Through his efforts, he said, Baretta became the only midseason replacement to win an Emmy.

"I put Baretta in the top 10, I tried to make a human being out of a cop and I tried to do a cop show and make social comment," he added.[11]

In a 1996 TV interview with Tom Snyder, Blake stated that he hated being committed to the series and compared it to screwing a gorilla. "Baretta was a terrible experience," Blake stated, "you do a series so you can work with giants [in film]."[12]

Broadcast syndication


After its initial run in syndication beginning in 1979, the series later re-appeared on TV Land in 1999 as part of a package of series licensed from Universal. MeTV aired reruns of Baretta on Saturday afternoons in 2007. It was also aired on WKAQ-TV.

Home media


On October 29, 2002, Universal Studios released the first season of Baretta on Region 1 DVD in the United States.[13]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 12 October 29, 2002

Cultural references


Mad magazine spoofed the series as "Barfetta".

In Taskmaster Live, a 2016 show at the Edinburgh Festival contested by five television executives, Jeff Ford, the UK Managing Director of Fox Networks Group and SVP and Content Development Manager for Europe and Africa, described Baretta as a "lesser known 1960s vehicle".

In the Barney Miller episode "Copycat", Detective Arthur Dietrich tells a copycat criminal that cops and committing a crime are not like they are depicted on television, and ends by saying, "And dat's the name of dat tune."

In the film Reservoir Dogs, protagonist Mr. Orange steels himself before meeting main antagonist Joe Cabot by saying "You're not gonna get hurt. You're fucking Baretta. They believe every fucking word 'cause you're super cool."[14]

In the sitcom That '70s Show, in the season one episode “Stolen Car”, Bob Pinciotti tells his wife Midge, "you can't tell me anything while I'm watching Baretta, it's complicated."

In the Party Down episode "Investors Dinner" (2009), the opening scene is an argument about why Tony Baretta is named so, with two characters arguing that it's because he carries a Beretta pistol.


  1. ^ "Baretta". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  2. ^ McMurran, Kristin (July 7, 1980). "With Stunning Intensity, David Toma, Ex-Cop, Ex-Addict and Model for TV's 'Baretta', Harangues Kids Against Drugs". People.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Lois (April 28, 1975). "A Time Bomb Named Robert Blake Re-Explodes as 'Baretta'". People.
  4. ^ "Dave Grusin & Morgan Ames: Baretta ('Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow')". Dave Tomkins: Musica Database. University of British Columbia. Retrieved August 22, 2018 – via
  5. ^ "Sammy Davis Jr. added lyrics to so many instrumental TV theme songs". October 29, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  6. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (August 2, 2012). "'American Pop'... Matters: Ron Thompson, the Illustrated Man Unsung". PopMatters.
  7. ^ Robert Blake: I ain't dead yet, so stay tuned... on YouTube
  8. ^ O'Connor, John (1974-07-24). "TV: Star of Dropped Toma Tells What Happened". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Robert Blake: I ain't dead yet, so stay tuned... on YouTube
  10. ^ "Cockatoo". San Diego Zoo. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  11. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (April 2, 1977). "Robert Blake Plans to Quit 'Baretta' Show". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 29, 2023.
  12. ^ "Tom Snyder: Robert Blake Feb 23 1996". YouTube. March 6, 2018.
  13. ^ "Announcements". Archived from the original on October 17, 2002. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  14. ^ "The mirror has two faces: 15 great movie scenes where characters meet their reflection". The A.V. Club. October 15, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2023.