Monday, April 13, 2009


BARNEY MILLER is one of those forgotten gem sitcoms from the 70s. I guess because they were taped and now look like crap you rarely see them pop up in reruns. Set in a dectectives’ squad room in an NYPD precinct, BARNEY MILLER was a quirky character comedy revolving around the detectives and the nutcases that walked through their door (most in handcuffs).

It was created by Danny Arnold who was a true character. Brilliant, unpredictable (a nice term for bi-polar), demanding, and kind, Danny was an A-list show runner and a type-A+ personally. The man had a heart attack on the treadmill in his doctor’s office getting his heart checked. He had an oxygen tent installed on the BARNEY set so he could keep going during demanding shooting nights (which lasted routinely until 5 in the morning because of all the pick-ups he wanted). The results were fabulous but what a cost.

When David and I were starting out BARNEY MILLER was just starting to take off. It was one of the show we really wanted to write for. We had sold a couple of things and were making the freelance rounds. Our agent called with the good news that Danny had read our material and loved it. He wanted a meeting.

That meeting was one of the best EVER. We walked into his office and there was the nicest, most ebullient cigar-chomping uncle you’ve ever met. He was effusive in his praise. We couldn’t have been more excited. It was like the prettiest girl in school let you eat at her lunch table.

He invited us to come back with some story ideas and very much looked forward to working with us. A week later we were back in his office with our notions.

I noticed a bit of change right at the start. He was a little more gruff. Probably just the result of a long day. We started pitching and every idea was met with, “NO!!” “FUCK! ARE YOU KIDDING?” “JESUS, HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED OUR SHOW?” Needless to say we were shaken. After he had rejected all of them we started out and just before getting to the door he said, almost as an afterthought, “That Yamada gambling thing. I don’t think there’s anything there but if you want to develop it more you can.” Not exactly a sale.

But we went home and decided to develop it anyway. We wanted to show him that if nothing else we weren’t intimidated by him… although we sure as hell were.

We turned in an outline. He bought it. Had us in for notes and was very complimentary. We implemented his changes and turned in the revised outline.

He cut us off.

Well, we figured, so much for BARNEY MILLER. At least we got outline money.

Two weeks later I get a call from Danny’s assistant. Could we be in his office tomorrow at 8:30? Swell, I thought, he wants to chew us out again.

But we go and it’s the happy ingratiating Danny. “Boys! Come on in. You want a doughnut? How was your weekend?” He had read over our outline again and decided it was terrific. He had just a few tweaks. We were told to dash off a revised outline and then we’d go to work on the draft.

Two days later we delivered the new outline. And the following day…

He cut us off.

It just didn’t “jump off the page” for him. But he paid us for a second outline.

Elements of those outlines appeared in future shows but what the hell? He did pay us.

We never did a BARNEY MILLER assignment but a few years later when we were head writers of MASH he called and asked if we wanted to be his showrunners for the upcoming season. We chose to stay with MASH.

The guys who did take the job worked a million hours a week, learned a hell of a lot, got paid a fortune, and Danny gave them Rolls Royces… which they used to drive themselves to Cedar-Sinai hospital.

I wish some cable channel – any cable channel – would show BARNEY MILLER. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a treat.


John said...

One of the rare ABC sitcoms during the Fred Silverman era that didn't get dumbed down/sexed up (though over the years that seemed to be ABC's want when there wasn't a strong producer in charge - go back another decade before "Barney Miller" and look at the Danny Arnold/Jerry Davis "Bewitched" compared to what resulted after they left. ABC didn't need the Disney people to target their shows for the really young viewers).

Arnold also managed to keep the show at a high level despite changing up all but three of the show's original cast due to death -- Jack Soo -- and departures -- Gregory Sierra, Linda Lavin and Abe Vigoda, who joins the McLane Stevenson/Shelly Long pantheon for most ill-timed sitcom depatures (at least Wayne Rogers has that hit Saturday morning comedy business show on Fox News right now.).

D. McEwan said...

I think I saw every episode of BARNEY MILLER. It never occurred to me it was forgotten.

Jack Soo was a master of minimalism, and truly made it look effortless, but I could count on him to make me laugh, no matter what else happened in an episode.

A girl I used to know worked in the box office of an adult theater in Hollywood for a while in the early 70s. She said Jack Soo was a regular customer, and a complete delight. He'd come out and chat with her and make her laugh. And he was never a - ah - "problem".

Mushie, mushie.

Velocity DeWitt said...

I just noticed that Barney Miller has finally gotten its third season out on DVD. Season One was in 2004, and they've been trickling out one every two or threww years. Since my favorite character is Dietrich, I wish they'd pick up the pace a little. We're just now getting into the really great episodes!

Nat G said...

There may not be any channel airing it -- but has the first four seasons!

Bob Claster said...

I did an interview with Danny Arnold for KCRW, and it's available online at I think you'll find it fascinating.

bruce miller said... closest friend that I grew up with in Detroit, Perry Krauss, was Danny's post supervisor (AP) through "Barney" and continued through the QPT days. QPT was a post house Danny built on LaBrea. Perry probably has more Danny Arnold stories of anyone alive. They include the "why the fuck are we still 24 minutes long" two days before air.....etc, etc, etc. You guys could do your own show, probably titled simply "Danny's World", made up of Danny Arnold anecdotes (or maybe antidotes is more fitting). It could be in first run for decades!!!

Becca said...

Certainly not "forgotten" by its many fans. The show was a staple in the college dorm TV lounge.

By the way, I'm assuming you don't mean "tweak" in the modern sense of the word.

Tom Reeder said...

On one occasion I was pitching a story to Danny and Chris Hayward. Danny was uncharacteristically quiet, so I thought it was going well. Nope -- he had fallen asleep. Chris motioned that he and I should leave the office to let Danny catch up on his rest. We had almost reached the door when Danny jerked awake and snarled: "You *!&#!s were going to leave me asleep with a lit cigar in my mouth!?"

Another time in his office, I had to pitch to Danny while a barber was cutting his hair. That was a little distracting, but at least the barber didn't offer any improvements to my story.

Randall said...

I've never understood this assumption that taped shows look like "crap". Now I'm not a sophisticated viewer -- still have not nor will I in the near future buy an HD, plasma, or any other fancy TV until they figure out what format(s) they are going to stick with -- but I always thought that taped shows had a life to them that filmed shows could never obtain.

Taped shows always had kind of a 3D depth to me. Most taped shows, especially from the 70s and early 80s, always seemed cloudy and flat. Much the same way that I am drawn into the beauty of black and white, so am I drawn into the movement and life of taped three camera programs.

But then if the complaints I hear are any indication I must be in a very small minority on this.

Mandy O. said...

I was young when Barney Miller was originally on, but I remember my parents cracking up and how I LOVED the snazzy theme song. I also had a soft spot for Jack Soo. Like Redd Foxx, he always seemed to get a lot of extra laughs and had a funny sounding voice (expecially to a little kid). I wasn't even five when he died, but I remember someone mentioning it and me being confused. Yemana died?? Believe it or not, learning about the death of a sitcom star helped prepare me for the deaths of my grandparents the next year.

OK, I am hopped up on sinus meds right now, so I'm goiing to regret writing this maudlin/odd comment in the morning, but I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your blog and the insights it shares.

A 35-year-old Barney Miller fan

Wayne said...

I had a similar hot then cold experience in the 1970's with both Doug Kenney at the National Lampoon and Rodney Dangerfield.

I felt like I was Charlie Chaplin in City Lights when he was befriended by the drunk millionaire who would forget him completely when sober.

Mark said...

Thanks for this post. This is one of my favorite shows and I had been wondering how to ask you to write about it (since I didn't know you'd actually worked on it). I still watch it every chance I get and it shines like any kind of inspirational artwork you want to name. They would get more show in before the credits than some shows do in two weeks.

Kind of sorry to hear the creator was such a nut.

Ref said...

Dittos to Randal's comment on the taped shows. I always loved the "look" of Barney Miller. It may have been a madhouse, but they got great performances from their cast, even after the losses.

"METSLYIN": Most press releases from NY's national league team.

Ref said...

Couldn't resist. "BOXIVABE": slightly slurred spoonerism for an attractive young woman.

Gregory T. said...

I've been watching the old Barney Millers, which I enjoyed as a child, on Hulu during my lunch hours. (Can we please get the later seasons -- on DVD, Hulu, YouTube, wherever?) Silly clothing styles aside, the show is virtually timeless, each episode (especially in later seasons) a masterful 1-act play taking place on one set. Truly marvelous.

I love the fact that they kept using the same actors over and over again in various perp/victim roles. It was like there was this tight Barney Miller repertory company charged with mounting a new production every week.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Farina (a former Chicago police officer) was once on a talk show (IIRC, it was Jon Favreau's Dinner For Five. He was asked, "as a former cop, what cop movie or show is the most realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a cop?" He answered, without hesitation, "Barney Miller."

Jaime J. Weinman said...

If anyone wants to see and hear Danny Arnold (though the clip is squished), here he is making an uncredited cameo on an episode of That Girl (which he ran for three seasons).

Hermite said...

I loved Barney Miller. Every episode. I can still picture it in my mind, and that's saying something because I'm an old fart who's starting to unremember many things. Still remember MASH, too, and that's why I love this blog so much. It's such a joy to read about things I used to love.

Speaking of which, I've recently ended a relationship with someone who is bipolar, and I tell ya, that's a crazy-making way to live. Never knowing what to expect. Yikes. Glad you stayed where you were.

Brian Phillips said...

Two thoughts: Thank you for further validation of the habits of Danny Arnold. TV Guide did an article about "Barney Miller" and they referred to what the cast called, "Danny's Demons".

Second thought: I was listening to "This American Life" and one of the contributors' father was an ex-cop and he cited "Barney Miller" as the most realistic police show on TV. Not flashy or violent; it showed a bunch of young-ish to older guys going about their job in a workaday manner.

Bonus thought: my Mother, in her last years, was bedridden. I found the episode that I knew she liked and I can still see the smile on her face when Det. Wentworth (Linda Lavin) got so angry she yelled into her handbag.

WMV: tales - I'm sorry, but I was genuinely stumped by this one. Ideas?

Rich said...

Isn't it on TV Land? At least it used to be. I think the local Me TV shows it here. I remember watching re-runs as a kid. It's one of my favorite sitcoms. I loved the old one-two.

SharoneRosen said...

Barney Miller is one of my all time favorite shows. In the '70s, UCLA did a couple of all day seminars about popular shows. I went to two of them: A day in the Life of MASH and A day in the Life of Barney Miller. Loved them both!!!

the the Barney seminar, someone asked Danny if Barney was supposed to be Jewish. He jumped out of seat, waving his hands, "of course he's Jewish. They're all Jewish! Yemana is Jewish, Wojo is Jewish, Harris is Jewish! they're all Jews!

Tod Hunter said...

After Danny Arnold had his massive heart attack at the end of season one of "Barney Miller," he hired four guys to take some of the burden off. One of them had the same name as a guy I had gone to high school with. I figured it was my friend's father.

Nope. It was my friend.

The weird thing -- to me at least -- was that a new character joined the cast in season two who bore a sizable resemblance to me. It was Dietrich.

Occasionally people will tell me that I remind them of Dietrich, even now, decades after the show went off the air.

INETRIE: Where's the cat?

thomas tucker said...

FYI- as a physician, I can tell you that Scrubs cmes closest to what you think and feel as a doctor in training, not ER or Grey's Anatomy or any of the others.

Michael Green said...

I've heard that from cops--that Barney Miller was the most realistic show and Fish the most realistic cop. I also read that when Danny Arnold had had enough of Abe Vigoda's ego, he spun him off and then ignored the show, which took care of Vigoda. So it is said.

The one funniest moment on the show that didn't involve Jack Soo was when they arrested a guy for playing music with his hands and Harris said the 1812 Overture was a little too much. At the end, the guy is leaving, saying when he dies, his art form dies. He leaves, most of them agree that's a good thing, and Wojo starts playing music with his hands!

Beyond "mushi mushi" and the werewolf, Soo's other perfect moment involved Dietrich. He asks Yemana whether he ever has the urge to go back to the homeland, see the Kabuki and the terraces. Yemana says, "I was born in Omaha." That was funny enough, but then Dietrich said, "That's funny. We have a town in Nebraska with the same name." As Steve Landesberg was walking away, he was totally convulsed, but I think it was the best take they could get. What a great show!

My grandfather was in the NYPD, 1927-47. Every time Luger walked in, I'd smile.

The Curmudgeon said...

It's on late, late night in Chicago on Channel 47 (soon to be ch. 26.2).

I taped an episode recently and watched it with my 16-year old son. I've heard of a lot of Chicago cops over the years (not just Dennis Farina) who've said that "Barney Miller" was their favorite cop show.

Anyway... the kid liked it. He had one question, though: "Did this start off as a play?"

olucy said...

In Chicago, our ME-TV station runs it every Sunday night and I record it faithfully.

These stations (ME-TV and WE-TV, I think) run classics from the 50s, 60s and 70s and I've had several experiences of watching an old favorite only to discover I really can't take in more than 3 or 4 eps because I've moved on and they just don't work for me anymore after that first burst of sentimental delight.

But two shows I've stuck with weekly: Barney Miller and The Courtship of Eddie's father (and sometimes I bail on an occasional ep of the latter). But Barney Miller is still extremely watchable. It's timeless.

Rock Golf said...

"Barney Miller" is one of the rare classic TV series to be generally acknowledged as never having "jumped the shark". There were episodes that had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. The marijuana brownies. The atomic bomb. The English-language stickler who goes through a dozen examples of incorrect grammar and Dietrich stonefaced reply "Irregardless."

alan said...

I was just screaming to a co-worker yesterday about how much I love Barney Miller, and how disappointing the "Fish" spin off was. Poor Abe Vagoda.

LouOCNY said...

Wow - I am like some of the others, was wanting u to write about Barney for the longest time.....

I love the fact that they kept using the same actors over and over again in various perp/victim roles. It was like there was this tight Barney Miller repertory company charged with mounting a new production every week.I have always wondered, if at some point of time, they actually started writing parts for some of the 'rep company' - especially a guy like Phil Leeds, who seemed to show up once a year as various pervs.

As neurotic as Arnold was, you have to give him credit for being incredibly loyal - he hired Jack Soo because he knew his talent from them being stand ups together in the dark days of the 50s. And of course, the amazing tribute episode.

know a soon to be retired NYPD officer, who has said about Barney, "I have worked with every single one of those guys at one time or another!'

wv- fedendse - FedEx's failed early business model

Joe said...

I was fortunate to have come of age JUST in time to catch Barney Miller.What a brilliant, brilliant show.

I especially loved the fact it ended on its own terms. "Good bye from the ol' 1-2."

I was about to type "I loved the one with..." until I realized I'd give myself carpal tunnel syndrome by the time I finished such a list.

Steve Landesberg/Dietrich really resonated with me, because I'm predisposed to that sort of highbrowish deadpan.

Although Harris' way of describing the ambulance to Bellevue's psychiatric ward ("the banana boat," "the disoriented express" or "the cookie truck") come in a close, close second

So I'll just close with this favorite moment. The episode with the time traveler. He catches the name "Dietrich" in conversation.

(I paraphrase...sue me.)

"Arthur Dietrich?"
"Arthur J. Dietrich?"
"Yes." (He shakes Dietrich's hands effusively.)
"'s an honor."
And all eyes staring at Dietrich as he walks away with a smile.

Velocity DeWitt said...

Note that two of the Dietrich anecdotes involve Dietrich walking away with a smile. I think one of the key elements of that character was that his desk was so far downstage. Over and over, he'd have a conversation up at Yemana's desk, say something brilliant and non sequitur, and then stroll back to his desk deadpan while the audience laughed. It was sort of like a victory lap.

Bob Claster said...

Yes, the characters on Barney Miller were, in fact, all Jews. That's because they were all Danny. He told me (in my aforementioned and aforeplugged interview) that each of the characters represented a different side of his personality as revealed to him in his psychoanalysis.

Scooter said...

My favourite Barney Miller moment was an early one, when an internal affairs guy is snooping around the squadroom for anything incriminating, sits at Fish's desk and picks up a bottle of pills from his desk. He introduces himself (I think it may have been the Scanlan character) as, "Scanlan, internal affairs." Fish reaches over, grabs the pill bottle out of the guy's hand and replies, "Fish, diuretic."


growingupartists said...

Maybe Barney Miller should be reenacted in a modern sense. You writers are so old, most of us in the youth market would just consider it retro. Did I say you were old?

Well, delete this if it makes you unhappy. I'm badmouthing you over at Earl's blog too, so it really makes no difference.

Dana Gabbard said...

Great show. Just brilliant.

I always considered Night Court sort of son of Barney Miller. It was created by Reinhold Weege, who wrote a lot for BM. It was similar in setting and tone.

I have over the years gotten the idea Arnold was a pretty edgy type. Nice to read a front line description of what he was like.

Eddie Templeton said...

How about the two-parter where the 12th Precinct specializes in homicide? Harris pursues "The Man From Glad", a maniac who's chopping people up and sticking their bodies in plastic lunch bags. Harris eventually captures him, and brags to Wojo about all the intricate detective work involved.

"What are you talking about?" Wojo asks. "The killer left his wallet in one of the bags!"

"That's true," Harris replies. "But I'm the one that had to reach in and pull it out!"

Miles said...

Great story. Totally loved Barney Miller growing up.

Matthew Frederick said...

I agree that Night Court is sort of the son of Barney Miller. A kind of "average joe and jane" tone (yet with diverse characters) I wish that there was more of in sit-coms. Love both of those shows.

Dhppy said...

I was too young to know what "gay" was, but I remember liking Detective Harris, because he was so different than every other black man I had seen on TV. Little did I know, he'd remain different from every other black man I'd see on TV.

Dhppy said...


John mentioned ill timed sitcom departures. A) I think Wayne Rogers is doing quite well for himself with his Kleinfeld's money and B) though it's not a popular sentiment, I maintain Shelley Long was right to leave Cheers when she did.

It may be my favorite sitcom ever, but Long's character was kind of floundering in the fifth season, and her departure gave the show a chance to change it's structure from a high toned romantic comedy to a broad comedy with an even larger ensemble. Ironically, her decision gave the show it's longevity.

What does it say about me that I think working a million hours a week and flirting with early death in exchange for writing on a great show is perfectly reasonable?

Rob said...

This is another fine show that got the shaft in reruns. My uncle was a Baltimore County cop and also said it was the most realistic cop depiction on TV.

I remember watching it with my parents, but it never caught my attention like MASH.

Now you have me wanting to watch it.

Rob said...

Couldn't have gotten away with this one today:

Craig McNamara said...

It's a perfect example of a character-based comedy. Much of dialogue must have seemed somewhat flat on the page, at least to those accustomeed to the usual sitcom-type setups and punchlines. But when spoken by the characters, with an added nuance of gesture or inflection, every line sparkled.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Have to mention the episode where Chano (Gregory Sierra) kills two bank robbers. Everybody treats him like a hero. At the end, sitting alone at home, he breaks down and cries. I can see why real police would identify with this show.

bevo said...

I loved Barney Miller. My favorite sitcom this side of Seinfeld.

As I have gotten older, the jokes and stories get better. I am amazed how we never saw the cops go on a call. Instead, they described the call. Brilliant writing.

Talbot Fox said...

Many actors, especially on sitcoms, went on to be very successful directors.
I tried to think of a successful triple threat (actor, writer and director) but could only come up with Orson Welles. How about you?
There are actor/directors and writer/directors--do they have any advantage over a director/director?

Cap'n Bob said...

I was a Dietrich fan, too. A scene that stands out in my mind is when he mentioned The Three Stooges and the little cop pipes up, "I like Shemp." Dierich looks down his nose at the guy and says, "We have nothing to discuss."

WV: Vises. Dang me, I can't get a grip on this one.

Steve Marshall said...

Barney was the best of the best. Heard a few other Danny Arnold stories from Reinhold Weege, too. He painted a similar picture. But the show was brilliant. I remember how it started with a very different tone, showing Barney with his wife, played by the wonderful Barbara Barrie. Showed the cast on stake-out. Then the decision was made never to leave the squad room. Oh the money they saved on swing sets!

Dana King said...

I write crime fiction in my spare time, so I read a lot of cop books and talk to cops whenever I get a chance. When asked what show best captures police work, cops old enough to remember the show just about universally say it BARNEY MILLER, even more than THE WIRE, which always comes in second.

Tom Quigley said...

Danny Arnold goes back to the '50's, having penned the screenplay "The Caddie" starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis... From what I've heard, he'd keep the BARNEY MILLER cast and crew working on taping nights sometimes until sunup the next morning (what a job for an audience coordinator ot have, trying to corral an audience into staying all that time -- although FRIENDS occasionally did the same thing)... But the end result was some of the best comedy ever seen on TV. I once ran into Kenneth Tyger, who guested on the show a couple of times, and whom I will forever remember (no matter what other roles he plays) as Mr. Kopechne, the man who thought he was turning into a werewolf, which to me epitomized the essence of the show: a bunch of likeable but quirky cops who spent their lives dealing with all the zanies in this world, and yet still doing what they could to try and maintain their own sense of balance...

Roger Owen Green said...

My favorite BM involved a guy who had stolen a lady's car decades earlier and finally gets caught. The love the guy had for this car, using a "shammy" - 1st time I'd heard the word - to take care of the vehicle. The lady sees the car (off screen) and complains (I think) "It's so PINK!" and ultimately declines to press charges.
Sounds pedestrian, yet the guest stars and their relationship with the cops I found quite moving.

Bob Claster said...

Tom Q-

After the first batch, "Barney" was not shot in front of an audience. The audience you hear is canned. I don't remember the exact figure, but their average taping ran something like 21 hours.

gjs said...

When you asked for a list of people's all-time favorite sitcoms, this one didn't show up much.

I always thought it was a rare example of a show that got better every year it was on. The core characters were honed and the humor became dry in a way that wasn't typical of many comedies of the time.

As someone else mentioned, early seasons are available at Hulu. Now if Hulu would only add "The Tony Randall Show."

gwangung said...

For those who are interested, there's a documentary coming out on Jack Soo: "You Don't Know Jack:The Jack Soo Story"

Russ Woody said...


Loved the post.

Reminded me of a similar story. My second spec script was a Barney Miller. I was a PA at Bosom Buddies. Snuck on the lot and dropped it off outside Roland Kibbee's office... who stopped me, wanted to know what in the hell I was doing there. When I innocently (for in those days, I was innocent) explained, he said to get the hell outta the offices.

Two weeks later, my agent calls, says Roland Kibbee read my spec script, wanted to meet me. And that for me, like you, was one of those meetings that, as a kid in the business, was a dream come true. He loved the script, wanted to do it, had to run it past Danny Arnold.

Danny, of course, didn't respond. So Kibbee called me, said, doesn't matter, come in and pitch. I'll make sure you get a script. Man, I worked on pitches til my little heart ached.

Went in, starting pitching to Kibbee, idea one, idea two... as I started into pitch number three, I realized he'd fallen asleep.

He ended up seeing that I was paid for a story, though I never got past that stage. I think he died a few months later, I learned, from cancer. It was bittersweet, the news, as I was sad to hear it, but somewhat relieved to hear that he'd been going through chemo... and therefore fell asleep regularly at, say, story pitches.

DuMont Burger said...

Hey, Barney Miller was a videotape show, but was special in that each camera's output went to a separate tape machine. That's a lot of tape, probably. And innovative for the mid-1970's, as 1 inch videotape was starting to crowd out the 2 inch tape used since the late 1950's.
George Dibie was in charge of the shooting for Barney Miller, here's an interview ...
PS I saw Barney Miller as a teen ... and LOL when I saw Flower Drum Song, didn't know Jack Soo did song and dance ...
And of course the incomparable Abe Vigoda ... who always slept with the Fishes.

Robbie in Tokyo said...

But Joe, you forgot the best part:

Dietrich's closing: as the men all stare at him and wonder what possible accomplishment could be responsible for in the future, he replies to their stares:

"I couldn't have done it without ya!"

Classic! One of my favorite episodes.

Joe said...

How right you are.

It's a REALLY rare thing to be able to deadpan a line into a rolling laugh.

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Riesbeck said...

What I remember (inaccurately, I"m sure after this many decades) from the episode where Chano shot the robbers, was how Barney responded when Chano asked "why?"

"You know why the whale, the largest creature in the world, has a throat this big?" asks Barney, making a small circle with his hands.

"No, why?"

"That's just the way it is."

jbryant said...

Steve Landesberg was so great on that show. Funny, a year or so ago I remember wondering whatever happened to him, and almost immediately thereafter I saw him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and in promos for Head Case (for which he is also a writer). Great to see him working more regularly.

David K. M. Klaus said...

Rob said:

> Couldn't have gotten away with
> this one today:

I'm not sure what you mean by "gotten away", but it wouldn't be written today in that form if for no other reason than because it was a product of its time, and reflected a change in male-female relations which was then just beginning to happen. We're well past that point now, and a woman whose male partner neglected her needs today would solve the problem quite differently.

The story as it stands is still usable as a period piece, though. If Life on Mars had continued, this same situation could just as easily have occurred in the squad room of the 125th as it did in the 12th, with Harvel Keitel reciting much of Hal Linden's dialog and Gretchen Mol's policewoman Annie Norris doing the same for Linda Dano's ADA Dornan, with Jason O'Mara's Sam Tyler getting bent out of shape at how the current version of Linda Dano's Mrs. Lindsay would be treated -- and it would have been a nice story payment at the much higher rates of today for original teleplay writer Dennis Koenig, too.

David K. M. Klaus said...

Whoops! I meant Joyce Jameson's Mrs. Lindsay. My apologies to her shade and to Ms. Dano.

VW: cophi. What the squad said to Captain Miller every morning, of course.

David K. M. Klaus said...

D. McEwan said...

> Jack Soo was a master of
> minimalism, and truly made it
> look effortless, but I could
> count on him to make me laugh,
> no matter what else happened in
> an episode.

Indeed. Compared to Tony Bennett's unfortunate histrionics at the death of Jill St. John's character in The Oscar, Mr. Soo's silent look of contempt at Stephen Boyd's Frankie Fane speaks volumes more, and more effectively on top of that.

VW: wightei. As in tightei? Or Isle of?

Martin_B said...

"You know why the whale, the largest creature in the world, has a throat this big?" asks Barney, making a small circle with his hands.

"No, why?"
Because that's how big its asshole is?

WV: testin. 1, 2, 3, testin...

Unknown said...

I have a question. I live in Vermont and my vocal coach - a former opera singer from California - talked about doing occasional bits on Barney Miller where she played an opera singer who got arrested in Central park for singing - and she was jailed and drove the precinct crazy by singing. Does anyone know what episodes this might have appeared on? Thank you. Tracey W

osogrande said...

One of the funniest bits on BM was between Wojo and Yemana. Wojo smells Yemana's pot of shabu- shabu cooking on the hot plate. Wojo is disgusted by the odor and says "What is this? It smells like garbage."
Yemana, aghast with ethnic pride, counters, "Garbage!? This is shabu-shabu, a Japanese delicacy! It's fish heads, cabbage leaves, celery tops, cucumber rinds..." Yemana looks up, takes a beat "Come to think of that is garbage."
Another classic BM bit was between Dietrich and Wojo. A perp is brought in for begging. Dietrich says "Begging, the oldest profession." Wojo says "I thought prostitution was the oldest profession." Dietrich shrugs his shoulders "Someone had to ask for it first."

Anonymous said...

Abe Vigoda was a talented actor. Wish he was still around. May he rest in piece.

Unknown said...

Thank goodness Shout! Factory acquired the licensing for Barney Miller from Sony and completed the remaining eight seasons on DVD and released a marvelous box set of the entire series. It's been a long wait, but all of us fans of the show are truly grateful. I turn a couple episodes on when there's nothing else on cable that appeals to me, and it's ALWAYS better than anything I had previously been watching. My favorite purchase in the past year.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said
"Abe Vigoda was a talented actor. Wish he was still around. May he rest in piece."

You're thinking of Steve Landsberg who did leave us recently. Abe alive.

billmac said...

Fascinating thread.

I recall reading years ago--maybe in TV Guide--that an east-coast Barney Miller fan, upon learning its run was ending, sent a thank-you letter to the show's producers, explaining how much she had loved the show thru the years.

The producers then invited her to LA, all expenses paid, to visit the set to watch the taping of the final show.

This struck me as a total-quality move from one of the two best sitcoms in TV history.

Do any of you insiders know if this story is correct? My web searching found nothing.

My vote for the other best show: The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Jonathan said...


I am doing some research on "Barney Miller" and would love to hear from anyone who has stories about Danny Arnold and the show.


Jonathan Berr
freelance writer

The Ritty said...

The reason you don't see it it because it's the most post run relevant show EVER. Every single item of discussion from war, the government, social issue, family matters, every type of criminal etc etc... Our world hasn't changed ONE BIT, we all just have ipods now. Barney Miller is a scary show to watch nowadays - it's surreal. This is the tech the best sitcom ever (tied if you will with Seinfeld). An amazing show that SHOWED US what we were doing wrong - and what we ignored AND gives you so much to think about about in today's world. Brilliant can't even describe this show.

Gina said...

I'm actually here because I was watching part of a Barney Miller episode and did a search for the plot because I didn't have time to finish it. Ken, Antenna TV runs Barney Miller every night at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Pacific time. I'm glad elements of your script made it in, even if you never got an actual script on the air. And Yamada was always one of my favorite characters, so that makes me happy, too. I sure don't blame you for sticking with MASH for a number of reasons, but sorry we missed out on your version of "Miller." I also recall reading, probably in a different blog of yours, that they did a lot of lighting on the so that it looked as much like film as video could. The effort shows. It's the only '70s show on Antenna that doesn't look awful.

Officer Wentworth said...

Rob said...
Couldn't have gotten away with this one today:

This was one of the very few episodes where I think the writers came within a hair of undermining an otherwise incredibly progressive show for its age. "Rape" wasn't the first offender, nor the worst (as the actual issue in the marriage in "Rape" wasn't lack of consent but lack of adequate foreplay) For me, the "iffiest" episode was season 2's "Heat Wave" wherein a woman beaten by her husband - with some very realistic face injury makeup and comments that he'd kicked her in the kidney - almost fails to sign a complaint because he could end up in jail and they had some great times before. She does sign the warrant in the end, though. Bur that doesn't make up for Fish earlier in the episode (and on occasion in other episodes) seemed to think domestic abuse understandable - and that the segment was largely played for laughs. This is one occasion where a live audience would have been a better choice. The laughs in these two episodes seemed inappropriate to the point of being almost shocking.

HOWEVER, in spite of that, overall I really think this might be the best sitcom ever televised, right up there with Seinfeld. MASH was great but so war-focused that as a kid I felt no real sense of connection with the show. All in the Family was also great, but again, so focused on issues that at times it ceased to comedy. Barney Miller walked that line brilliantly.

But what made the show was the characters. Most episodes were set in the squad room (it actually got BETTER when the characters' home lives were left out completely.) Yet the show was always hilarious; I was never bored and actually resented when they had to leave the squad room.

My favorite was Dietrich; Fish was definitely the most over-rated character, left fairly early in the run, yet for some odd reason is the one casual viewers recall. But the best interactions were between Harris and Dietrich - when they'd air on TV, I actually wanted the first couple of seasons to be over fast so the Dietrich episodes would come on. Steve Landesberg and Ron Glass were absolutely brilliant, and the writing was TRULY witty (a word that can be applied to few TV shows, and for the proud-to-be-young writer/troll above - unless you're working for one of the big three networks today, maybe keep your trolling for when you've actually worked on something of quality, 'cos none of the big 3 have produced a consistently funny show in years. All the effects, sets, and stars in the world can't make a silk purse out of the sow's ears that represent the networks' current offerings.)
Aside from Soo, Glass, Landesberg and Linden, there were many great character actors in guest roles. Some of them played the same or different roles over the show's run. I will always remember the actor who played the werewolf, the possessed man (same character) as well as a few other mentally unbalanced characters (Kenneth Tigar) and the one playing a criminal until a heartbreaking episode where he's discovered to have been lobotomized (Don Calfa, who died just a few days ago, along with the incomparable Ron Glass/Harris).

This show is the closest thing I can think of to Seinfeld-style humor before that era. Possibly the best sitcom in history (my 30-something friend generally watches nothing pre-1990s but loves Barney Miller now); definitely in the top 5. It's on Antenna TV as well as DVD and episodes can be found online. I never get tired of watching it.

Anonymous said...

Watched this show as a kid in reruns in the early 80s. Still love watching it. So cool to read all these comments from other fans and the anecdotes from those involved with the show. Sadly all of the interview links I've clicked are dead ends. Would have loved to seen those.

One of the above comments implies Harris was gay. I don't believe this is the case. He was stylish, articulate and unique character but I don't think he was written as a gay character. I seem to recall an episode where he is infatuated with a woman who comes in for help.