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First broadcast Aug 22 1974 on the ABC anthology series JUST FOR LAUGHS, "The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller" was the original pilot for BARNEY MILLER, shot on film with an almost entirely different cast (the series was videotaped). At least it begins in the squad room, where only Abe Vigoda's Fish would be retained, complaining about the same headache. His partner here is Detective Wilson (Rod Perry, S.W.A.T.), a sadly underused character always seen in drag doing vice (only in the final scene does Barney learn what he looks like; too bad he only returns in one episode, "Experience," dropped from the revamped pilot). Val Bisoglio's Sgt. Grimaldi gets the lion's share of Yemana's business, funny but no Jack Soo, while Charles Haid's Sgt. Kazinski is clearly the prototype for the equally Polish Wojo, leaving little impression. Ron Glass (as Harris) would get one conversation from Grimaldi, while Gregory Sierra (as Chano) takes Wilson's place for the interrogation of the junkie Ramon Santos, played in both versions by Chu Chu Malave (dialogue almost exactly the same). After Barney foils Ramon's attempted takeover of the 12th Precinct, we then see what his home life looks like, with Abby Dalton cast as wife Liz, replaced in the series by Barbara Barrie, and Henry Beckman's Uncle Charlie, completely written out of the revamped pilot (the actor does appear as a different character in the first season episode "Hair"). We also meet Anne Wyndham as Barney's daughter Rachel, returning in "The Courtesans" (first season) and "Rachel" (seventh season), while neither Michael Tessier, as Barney's son David, nor Mike Moore, as Rachel's boyfriend, aspiring attorney Stanley Mankowitz, would be retained beyond both pilots. One character from both versions did return for two more episodes- Buddy Lester as Harry the Bookie, for Grimaldi here, Yemana in the second pilot (back in the first season's "Graft" and the third season's "Abduction"). The exact same storyline begins the series proper Jan 23 1975, retitled "Ramon."
'Barney Miller' was one of the great "60's" generation shows (I call it
a "60's" generation show since it was all "touchy-feelie" with
emotional and social issues and stuff like that) that disappeared all
too soon. It had more heart than actual fall down laugh out loud
comedy, but the laughs were still present.
But the greatness of "Barney Miller" was not in it's comedy - it was in its characters. I remember them like they were my friends. Who can forget "Woj" (short for "Wojciehowicz") or "Fish"?? These are the kind of characters that stay with you because they are cut from fine cloth or chiseled stone.
My favorite was Steve Landsberg's "Arthur Dietrich" who I personally feel wasn't given enough lines or attention. He was definitely the funniest of the whole gang. (I miss seeing him around. I guess he's retired from show business... may God richly bless him, in Jesus' name, amen.)
But as for the rest of the cast it was a hit with all of them. From Barney (Hal Linden) to "Nick" (NICK! oh yeah Nick! he was great with his one liners...) wow - what a show! They should bring it back, or at least have a re-union! :)
HOLY MACERAL!!! I just realized this - they did the ENTIRE show on ONE SET!!! ONE SET?!? that's insane! wow... what a show ...what a show.
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