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Pat Harrington Jr.
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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>
Barney Miller is considered to be one of the first multiethnic work place comedies. The show is a well-written funny, thoughtful and excellent TV Show without a doubt. This was the precursor to Night Court and many others. The show started out about the personal and professional life of New York's 12th precinct captain Barney Miller. At home he had a wife and children who were changing much faster than he was ready for.
But the focus of the show eventually became solely the precinct and the people that worked for him. At first there were Wojiehowicz who was Polish and relatively conservative, not to mention a former marine. Then there was Yemana, a man of Japanese descent who was very quiet. Then there was Harris, a stylish African-American who could be considered arrogant, but in reality was a nice guy. Chano was Hispanic but departed from the show quickly, but the star of the show was the over the Hill and very tired Detective Phil Fish.
Earlier on the show had a hard time finding its identity. It did not know what kind of show it wanted to be. Sometimes the shows were character driven sometimes they were slapstick. Also in the early episode there was a real audience instead of the soundtrack they had for the majority of the episodes.
What I liked about the show is that it was down to earth. In my very humble estimation this seemed to be a relatively accurate depiction of cops in New York City dealing with a bunch of wierdos on a daily basis. And there were all kinds of people from a professor angry at a subway advertisement to a man that was possessed by a demon.
The show lost some of its best characters but gained some of it's best as well. Abe Vigoda, who left the show in 1977, left the show without Fish. Perhaps the shows biggest tragedy came with the death of Jack Soo who played Yemana. Soo was actually interred in a Japanese detainment camp during World War Two. Yemana was the last scene-stealer on the show and it became a different show without the sarcasm of Yemana.
Later editions to the cast included the Staff Sergeant Leavitt, who was constantly trying to impress Captain Miller, and the philosophical Dietrich, who was very sarcastic. Dietrich was a great addition to the show and saved it from being cancelled in my estimation. The downside of the show was there was never a replacement for Jack Soo. This left a void in the show that never was filled.
As the show went on the show went from President Ford to Reagan. In the early days the show seemed to just make fun of society but as society seemed to get worse under Reagan the show took on a less sardonic tone. But at this point the show was actually very good and was quite different from the show it was seven years earlier.
In it's last season Barney Miller finally won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy series. This was a great show that rarely had a bad episode. Other than the infamous brownie episode all of the shows really are the same. They are similar but great. The show is on TV Land at obscure times, but if you can find it, Barney Miller is well worth watching.
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