The death of Jack Soo in 1979 marked the passing of both a fine comedy actor and one of TV's most memorable characters: Nick Yemana, the deadpan detective known for his dry wit and wretched coffee. ...
A greasy-spoon diner in Phoenix, Arizona is the setting for this long-running series. The title character, Alice Hyatt, is an aspiring singer who arrives in Phoenix with her teenaged son, ... See full summary »
Barney Miller is the kind of cop we'd all like to run into. He is always sensible. He maintains order over a squad room of detectives who gamble for a hobby, get hit on by anything in skirts, go to renaissance philosophy conventions for fun, and would really prefer to be writing. Nearly all of the action takes place in the squad room where the citizens and criminals are brought in to complicate the mix. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
As the Philosopher once said, "All the World's a Stage.", So a Police Station is a what? A Vaudeville House, A Burlesque Show??
Every once in a while, we find a "Marriage" that is truly "Made in Heaven!" More often than not the 'Marriage' is figurative, rather than a real one. This is the best way that we know to describe our "victim" in this vivisection, "BARNEY MILLER" (1975-82) To the world at large, "BARNEY MILLER" was a neatly conceived, well written, well cast and neatly presented half-hour sitcom. And this is true; certainly no one could argue that. And it surely was a unique, one of a kind production, no other series being anything quite like it.
But it is something else, also. Just ask any of your friends or neighbors who are Cops. If they are close as friends, neighbors or fellow-parishioners, he'll probably level with you. He or She will tell you that "BARNEY MILLER" is quite possibly the closest thing to the comings and goings-on in a real Police Station. All truly serious matters excluded, most incidents that require involvement or intervention by the Police are not of a major incident class, but rather ones originating out of domestic, neighbor relations and petty offenses, usually calling for court summonses (tickets).
That's not to say that the matters are not important, especially to those who may find themselves in the middle of such a situation. And it is here that we find the headwaters of the humor that grow from a trickle to a great, mighty raging river of laughter.
Like every story, the dynamics owe their origin to one of two sources. Hence, we have them to be either Character Driven or Situation (story) Driven. It would appear that "BARNEY MILLER" owes its vitality to tapping the sap from both sides of the equation.
To start with, just look at the line-up of characters that reported for duty at one time or another to the 12th Precinct of the NYC Police Department. They were: Det. Sgt Nick Yemana (Jack Soo), Det. Phil Fish (Abe Vigoda), Det. Stan Wojciechowicz "Wojo"(Max Gail), Det. Ron Harris (Ron Glass), Det. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg), Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey), Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale (Gregory Sierra).
Like most of the series with large ensemble casts of regulars, they did not all appear at the same times, but rather there was an orderly procession of replacement characters brought on to take the place of those who have moved on.
Additionally, we had some recurring roles which were of importance to the series longevity. We had Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, Barney's wife (Barbara Barrie), Lt. Scanlon of Internal Affairs (George Murdock), Mrs. Fish (Florence Stanley) and the lovable, always enjoyable Inspector Luger (James Gregory).
Oh yeah, we almost forgot Captain Barney Miller of the 12th Precinct's Detective Squad. As the Skipper of 'the Ship' we had former Clarinet Player and Veteran of the Musical Theatre, Hal Linden. As the lead and the guy in charge, Hal was perhaps the perfect choice. He did whatever was required of him and did it well. So, we saw him taking on various roles; funny man, straight man, stern leader, understanding co-worker or just a Husband.
"BARNEY MILLER" did a fine job of mixing many New York specific elements and yet having a wide, wide appeal. The Production Crew took a generous helping of ethnically based humor, especially in the characterizations. So we saw a generous mixture of Jewish, Italian, Black, Irish, Polish and Puerto Rican humor and characters, And as for the set being the Detective Squad Room & Holding Pen of the 12th Precinct for 90+% of the time, it was nearly perfect. The Police Station's being one, central easily recognizable location. The characters, be they regulars or guest starring actors, would move naturally into and out of this "center stage" As a final analysis, we view this series as a virtual masterpiece of a series. And the Creative Team of Danny Arnold, Theodore J. Flicker, Chris Hayward and their associated Writers, we think that they have given us a true New York Story; not the New York of people like Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel or Diane Sawyer; but rather the real New York of real, every day New Yorkers.
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