In 1979, an episode was done with the actors out of character as a tribute to actor Jack Soo, who played Det. Nick Yemana. Soo had died of cancer of the esophagus in 1979. The episode consisted of unscripted reminiscences of Soo by the cast members, interspersed with clips of him from the show. At the end of this episode, the cast raised their coffee cups as a salute to him, a reference to the running joke throughout the series that Yemana always (but unintentionally) made very foul-tasting coffee for the other members of the squad.
The original pilot was titled 'The (1974) (TV) Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller', but it was rejected by ABC. It aired as a special on 22 August 1974. ABC was negotiating a deal with director John Rich at the time, due to his success with All in the Family (1971). Rich had seen the pilot and was interested in working on the show. He insisted that ABC give it another chance as part of his deal, so the show was immediately picked up for a 13-episode commitment. However, due to disagreements with producer/writer 'Danny Arnold (I)', Rich left the show after two episodes to work on other projects for ABC.
Thirteen episodes showed scenes outside of the police station: Ramon, Graft, The Stakeout, Hair, The Hero, Grand Hotel, Fish, Wojo's Girl part 2, Contempt parts 1 & 2, Chinatown parts 1 & 2, and Eviction part 2.
Several references to the Broadway play and film Flower Drum Song (1961) were used in connection with Jack Soo's character, Det. Nick Yemana. Soo played Samuel Adams "Sammy" Fong in the movie and MC Frankie Wing on the stage.
Hal Linden and Max Gail were the only actors to be featured in the opening credits every season. (Ron Glass was only a featured actor in the first season, appearing in only handful of segments with his name listed in the closing credits.)
Two of the props used on the police station set were the chalkboard used to show whether the policemen were on-duty or off-duty and the scarred cell door. When the show ended, the chalkboard and cell door were donated to the Smithsonian Television Museum. In addition to the names of the characters on the show, the board listed other names which were those of technicians who worked on the show's crew. The Smithsonian also has the police badges used by the actors (signed by producer Danny Arnold) and Jack Soo's coffee mug.
Ron Carey (Levitt) wanted something as his trademark. Every time Levitt leaves the squad room he opens the door with his left hand and, with his back to the edge of the door, rotates around the edge of the door, keeping his back against it, then closes the door.
When Harris is asked to produce a porn film for an undercover sting, he uses the name "Starry Night Productions" as his cover. Years later, show writer Reinhold Weege uses the name for his own production company, which produced "Night Court." This 'connection' may account for many of the surreal (and humorous) elements found on both shows.
Like many other episodic shows of the period the show "recycled" actors in various roles. For example: Florence Halop appeared as Ms. Mable Kleiner, Mrs. Pierce, Evelyn Holly, Karen Golden, Wanda LaMear and Wilma Kestner. Don Calfa appeared as Mr. DiLucca, Angelo Dodi, Leon Bidell, Calvin J. Kendall, Gilbert Lesco, Arthur Thompson and Eddie.