Barney Miller is a comedy television series set in a New York City police station in Greenwich Village that ran 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.
Captain Miller tries to remain sane while leading the 12th Precinct's detectives: crochety, nearing-retirement Jewish-American
Philip K. Fish, naive but goodhearted Polish-American
Stanley "Wojo" Wojciehowicz, ambitious, arrogant African-American
Ronald Nathan Harris, philosophical, wisecracking Japanese-American
Nick Yemana, and Puerto Rican Chano Amanguale. He also has to deal with his unapologetically old-school superior, Chief Inspector Frank Luger, and diminutive (and obsequious) Officer Carl Levitt, who passive-aggressively badgers Miller constantly about being promoted to detective. Amanguale was replaced by intellectual
Arthur P. Dietrich from the third season on.
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, mainly his novel, and his inability to remain focused on his police work; Fish's incontinence and reluctance to retire; Wojciehowicz's impulsive behavior and love life; Luger's nostalgia for the old days with partners Foster, Kleiner and Brown; Levitt's (eventually successful) quest to become a detective; and the rivalry between the precinct's resident intellectuals, Harris and Dietrich.
In addition to Barney's wife Liz (played by Barbara Barrie
), recurring characters
included Barney's son David (Michael Tessier) and daughter Rachel (Anne Wyndham
). After two seasons, Barney's family was largely written out of the show, although Ms. Barrie would continue to make very occasional guest appearances for the remainder of the series run. Ms. Wyndham also reprised her role in one later episode.
Other officers and staff
Seen in occasional recurring roles at the 12th Precinct were other officers and staff, including:
- Officer Kogan, the desk sergeant (Milt Kogan) (seasons 1-2)
- Detective Eric Dorsey (Paul Lieber)
- Detective Maria Battista (June Gable)
- Officer Roslyn Licori (Mari Gorman)
- Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali).
- Building superintendent Beckman (Paul Lichtman) (seasons 1-2)
- Stopping by from time to time from headquarters was aggressive Internal Affairs investigator Lt. Ben Scanlon (George Murdock).
12th Precinct regulars
Regular complainants, habitués of the 12th Precinct's holding cell, or other people who regularly dropped by, included:
won the DGA Award
from the Directors Guild of America
The series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1982, after it was concluded. It also won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 1980 and Outstanding Directing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety or Music Series in 1979, and was nominated for numerous others.
It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Comedy or Musical Series in 1976 and 1977, and was nominated for various other Golden Globe Awards.
The show won the Peabody Award in 1979.
The series sprang from an unsold television pilot
, The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller
, that aired on August 22 1974
as part of an ABC
, 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. The pilot script was later largely re-used in the debut episode "Ramon".
The distinctive opening notes of the theme song's bass line
, performed by studio musician
Jim Hughart, are played over a shot of the New York skyline
(with a garbage barge being towed in the foreground, from season-two on) followed by shots of the characters. Several slightly different versions of the theme song featuring minor variations in the song's composition and performance were used during different seasons. The closing credits featured a different shot of the skyline.
As the show progressed (and especially by the final seasons), the program became unusual for its increasing resemblance to a stage play, in that its scenes almost never strayed from the single set of the precinct station's squadroom (with its prominent open-barred holding cell
) and Miller's adjoining office. Almost all of the action and dialog took place on this single set. Characters came and went, but they were virtually never shown outside or in other buildings. Moreover, each episode in the later seasons usually took place within the course of a single workday. Thus, 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.
The show became notorious among television studios for its marathon taping sessions. In the beginning, it was taped in front of a studio audience. After the audience left, creator and executive producer Danny Arnold would begin to (sometimes heavily) rewrite and restage scenes; a taping session that began in the afternoon or early evening would then continue on into the early morning hours. Max Gail referred to this in the Jack Soo retrospective episode; he remarked that one of the clips shown was a scene that "we finished around 2:30 in the morning." The series stopped using a studio audience after the first three seasons.
The debut of the series made an impact on another series, The Six Million Dollar Man. In November 1974, two months before Barney Miller became a weekly series, the science fiction show had aired an episode entitled "The Seven Million Dollar Man" that introduced a villain named Barney Miller. When this character made a return appearance in the fall of 1975 in an episode entitled "The Bionic Criminal", the character's name was changed to Barney Hiller.
- 1974-1975: #70
- 1975-1976: #38
- 1976-1977: #17
- 1977-1978: #18
- 1978-1979: #16
- 1979-1980: #21
- 1980-1981: #33
- 1981-1982: #54
On January 20 2004
, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
released the first season on DVD in Region 1. The second season was released January 22 2008
, four years after the first season's release.