Barney Miller is an American sitcom set in a New York City Police Department police station in Greenwich Village. The series was broadcast from January 23, 1975, to May 20, 1982, on ABC. It was created by Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker. Noam Pitlik directed the majority of the episodes.
|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 company(s)||Four D Productions|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|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. 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 one of their homes.
- Captain Barney Miller (Hal Linden) is the sensible captain of the precinct who tries to retain his sanity while dealing with the foibles of his staff and the unending stream of budget problems and paperwork that make up his job.
- 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. (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 sensitive character who tries to see things from a decidedly humanitarian point of view, 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.
- Sgt. Ron Nathan Harris (Ron Glass) is an ambitious, intellectual African American, who 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, with his lurid memoir Blood on the Badge.
- Sgt. Nick Yemana (Jack Soo) is a surrealistically philosophical, wisecracking Japanese American detective. He is noted for his "off the wall" sense of humor and wry observations about life, as well as for his gambling habits, extraordinarily poor paperwork filing skills, and for making extremely bad coffee for the other members of the squad.
- Sgt. Miguel "Chano" Amanguale (Gregory Sierra) is a dauntless, beleaguered Puerto Rican detective, who is very emotionally attached to his job.
- Sgt. Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) is an intellectual detective with a calm, unflappable nature and a seemingly endless supply of knowledge on a wide array of subjects.
- Deputy Inspector Frank Luger (James Gregory) is Miller's rambling, out-of-touch, and unapologetic old-school superior who frequently drops by the precinct to "chat with" Barney.
- Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey) is a diminutive and obsequious (but competent and hard-working) uniformed officer who constantly, passive-aggressively badgers Miller about being promoted, and in the last season is promoted to detective.
- Elizabeth Miller (Barbara Barrie): Barney's wife, a dedicated social worker is intended to be a regular character, and listed in the opening credits during seasons one and two, Liz is seen fairly infrequently; she is, however, often referred to, and Barney is often seen (and heard) on the phone with her.
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 memoir (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' run.|
|Max Gail (second season billed as Maxwell Gail)||Detective Stan "Wojo" Wojciehowicz||
||Regular character throughout the series' run.|
|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. (The character was simultaneously seen on the spin-off show Fish at this same time.) 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||
||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 a two-part guest appearance and a single episode guest appearance in Season 5.|
|Gregory Sierra||Sergeant Miguel "Chano" Amangual||
||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 Dietrich||
||Landesberg was first seen as a one-shot character, 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 onwards (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 detective in the series' final episode).|
With the 2016 deaths of Abe Vigoda and Ron Glass, Hal Linden and Max Gail are the only living full-time cast members. Although Gregory Sierra is still living, he left the show after Season 2. Barbara Barrie became a recurring character as Barney's wife Liz.
Other officers and staffEdit
|Milt Kogan||Officer Kogan||
||Though not seen after season 2, Kogan (the downstairs desk sergeant) was frequently referred to throughout the series' run.|
|Paul Lichtman||Mr. Beckman, the building repairman||
|George Murdock ‡||Lt. Ben Scanlon, Internal Affairs||
||A member of the Internal Affairs Department, the eternally suspicious Scanlon was not attached to the 12th Precinct. His visits from headquarters involved trying to find corruption inside the precinct, especially in the detective squad.|
|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 of her was used in the final episode.|
|June Gable||Detective Maria Battista||
||Short-lived addition to the 12th Precinct's detective room, lasting two episodes.|
|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 Zatelli||
||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||
||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.|
‡ Murdock, Gorman, Dullaghan, 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 Phil Leeds, Kay Medford, Bruce Kirby, Kenneth Tigar, Arny Freeman, Don Calfa, Walter Janowitz, Peggy Pope, Nehemiah Persoff, Rosana Soto (Rosanna DeSoto), Todd Susman, Leonard Stone, Philip Sterling, Sal Viscuso, Rod Colbin, Martin Garner, and Jack Kruschen.
12th Precinct regularsEdit
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:
|Actor||Character||# of appearances||Seasons||Notes|
|Jack DeLeon||Marty Morrison||
||Marty, a gay man, is arrested for snatching purses in the series' second episode. Later he is occasionally brought in as a suspect, other times as a complainant.|
|Alex Henteloff ‡||Arnold Ripner||
||An ambulance-chasing attorney, Ripner visits the precinct whenever he has a client to defend. His first appearance is in the series' second episode as Marty Morrison's lawyer. (He also sometimes visits just to try to drum up business amongst those in the holding cell.) Ripner later sues Harris for Harris' depiction of him in his novel Blood on the Badge, winning a $320,000 judgment.|
|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 second part of the season 7 episode "Homicide", the squad learns that he was shot in the head 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.|
|John Dullaghan ‡||Ray Brewer||
||A lonely transient, Ray stops by the precinct during open houses to talk and sample the coffee. 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 spice up his married life often end disastrously.|
|Paula Shaw||Paula Capshaw||
||A cynical prostitute who is a frequent arrestee.|
‡ cast in several different roles over the series' run
- Herbert Edelman
- Todd Bridges
- Billy Barty
- Barney Martin
- Marla Gibbs
- Danny Dayton
- Roscoe Lee Browne
- David Wayne
- Dick O'Neill
- David Lander
- Queenie Smith
- Jack Dodson
- Charlotte Rae
- Florence Halop
- Denise Miller
- Brett Somers
- James Cromwell
- Michael Tucci
- Peggy Pope
- Larry B. Scott
- Christopher Lloyd
- Ed Peck
- Ben Piazza
- Jeffrey Tambor
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.
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 his daughter appeared once more, in The Courtesans), while his wife made appearances through the second season. Wyndham also reprised her role in two later episodes.
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.
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, with minor variations in composition and performance.
Production of Barney Miller deliberately resembled a theatrical play; scenes rarely strayed from the precinct station's squadroom, with its prominent open-barred holding cell, and Miller's adjoining office. Characters came and went, but always within the confines of the precinct. 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 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.
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 Zatelli's coming out was not the first gay storyline on American television, but was a memorable one.
The series took a while to become a hit, but ABC supported it anyway. Danny Arnold ended production of Barney Miller in 1982 after eight seasons for fear of repeating storylines; the show was not cancelled by the network.
Reception by policeEdit
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 honorsEdit
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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