Retro T.V. Reviews: Barney Miller (1975) (Part 1: History)
Updated: Sep 13
Show Name: Barney Miller
Producer: Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee
Creator: Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker
Starring: Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, Abe Vigoda, Max Gail, Ron Glass, Jack Soo, Gregory Sierra, James Gregory, Steve Landesberg, Ron Carey
Air Dates: January 23, 1975 to May 20, 1982
Number of Seasons: 8
Number of Episodes: 170 (other sources say 168)
I have been wanting to review this show for a while now. I have always heard about this sitcom from my brother or father. Most people probably do not even remember or have even heard about this show. However, it is one of the most loved sitcoms of all time.
Here in Canada, CTV.ca has a section on their website called Throwback. This is an area where you can watch old shows free of charge. You do not need any login or cable subscription. as you would know it, Barney Miller is one of the shows that they offer. So I decided to watch it. I usually put it in the background when I work. The episodes are only about 22 to 24 minutes without commercials, so it is a quick watch.
Is this show just as good as it once was or have the jokes become stale. Let us take a look. However, first we will look at the background of this show and who were the actors that were able to make it happen.
History / Background
The show had a pilot that was filmed in 1973 and 1974. The pilot which had a hard time getting picked up was called, The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller. This was aired on ABC's anthology series, Just for Laughs. In recent DVD releases this is officially the first episode of the series. However, only 2 actors (Hal Linden and Abe Vigoda) from this pilot eventually would make it on the subsequent series Barney Miller.
The initial idea for the show, was to focus on Captain Miller's home life and work life. Half the show would be at the precinct whereas the rest of the show would take place in his apartment. However that formula did not last too long. After the first few episodes, the story focused solely on the experience at the Police Station. Very few episodes ever divert from that location.
At first the show was shot in front of a studio audience and then moved to strictly tape. In an interview with Pop Goes The Culture TV, Hal Linden welcomed this change as it gave it a different dynamic to the show.
Throughout its run, there were a lot of cast changes. Abe Vigoda left the show to star in his own spinoff series called Fish. Gregory Sierra (Chano Amanguale) left the show after season 2 to star in the show AES Hudson Street. Jack Soo (Nick Yamana) unfortunately passed way due to cancer during filming of season 5. Some would have wondered how the show carried on with these original characters. However, the show, due to its strong writing managed to stay strong.
The show ended in 1982, but not because it was canceled but because the show was retired. According to Hal Linden, the reason the show stopped was due to a lack of writers. They had trouble finding writers to write the show as of season 7. In season 8, they opened up the writing to everyone, students, freelancers and so on. At that point they had noticed the quality of the writing was not as good as it once was and the show became one big formula. So Danny Arnold put a stop to the show.
If you want to see a good interview to catch a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes of Barney Miller, this is awesome. This is an interview by Pop Goes the Culture TV with Hal Linden. It is short 6, 10 minute episodes.
Pop Goes the Culture TV (Hal Linden) - Part 1
This was just a little background about this show. Next, we will look at the actors that made this show so memorable.