Who can forget that classic bass line intro! Barney Miller is finally on DVD in a two DVD set featuring the first 13 episodes of season 1 totally uncut and commercial free for the first time! Barney Miller ran from Jan. 1975 to May 1982 (8 seasons, 170 episodes). The sitcom was a new concept, concerning a group of Police Detectives and their Captain and the goings-on in a NY precinct squadroom. The cast, which would make slight changes over the years, had to be one of the most diverse in TV history. In season one, the cast includes Barney (Hal Linden), Wojciehowicz (Max Gail), Harris (Ron Glass), Fish (Abe Vigoda), Yemana (Jack Soo) and Chano (Gregory Sierra). Season 1 is also the only time Barney’s whole family were shown. In Season 2, only his wife Elizabeth (Barbara Barrie) had appearances and by Season 3, even she was written out of the show. Barney Miller is a rare sitcom from the 70s that is essential and makes a welcome addition to other classics like All in the family, Sanford & Son, and the Jeffersons. Season one includes these episodes:
Disc One:01. Ramon02. The experience03. Snow job04. Graft05. Courtesans06. Stakeout07. The Bureaucrat08. Ms. Cop09. The vigilanteDisc Two:10. The guest11. Escape artist12. Hair13. Hero
*The characters of Barney, Wojo, & Harris would be the only detectives to remain throughout the entire series as regular cast members. Fish left after 3 seasons, Chano after 2, and Yemana after 4 (Jack Soo passed away in January 1979). In season 3, Detrich (Steve Landesberg) & Levitt (Ron Carey) would join the cast as regulars until the series ended.
*Look for Linda Lavin (TV’s Alice) in episode 8 debuting as Det. Janice Wentworth. She would make appearances in the second season as well.
*Before Barney Miller, Gregory Sierra (Chano) was popular for his role as Fred and Lamont’s neighbor, Julio, who had a pet goat named Chico, on Sanford & Son. He made appearances on everything from All in the Family (where he had no accent) to Miami Vice. After Barney Miller, Sierra joined the cast of Soap.
*One of the main series writers, Reinhold Weege, previously wrote on M*A*S*H* and went on to create one of the funniest sitcoms ever, Night Court! (by the way, where’s season one?!!)
Jack Soo (1916-1979)James Gregory (Insp. Frank Luger) (1911-2002)Florence Stanley (Bernice Fish) (1924-2003)
Also Highly recommended on DVD:All in the familySanford & SonThe JeffersonsGood TimesWhat’s HappeningThree’s Company
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Okay, I know there was a lot of dreck back then too, (Remember “The Nancy Walker Show”? Count yourself lucky if you don’t.) but it does seem that the 70s were the golden age of the TV sitcom, with such ground-breakers as “All In The Family,” “M*A*S*H” and “Mary Tyler Moore” leading the way. Those fine shows always got their due in terms of critical applause, but nestled among them was a quiet little gem of wit and insight that to my mind was never fully appreciated, then or now.
That show is “Barney Miller,” and finally, at long last, it comes to DVD. That alone is reason to rejoice. The show has been pretty much gone from syndication for years, for some odd reason. The Internet Movie Data Base has almost nothing on it. Virtually the only evidence it ever existed is Barney’s badge, which is on display in the Smithsonian Institution.
The first season is a bit different than the rest of the series, however. The writers and producers were still finding their voices, or rather the show’s voice. Things are a bit more “hysterical,” and the droll wit that later became the show’s signature is present here only in small amounts. (Tellingly, those jokes get the biggest laughs.) The first season sought to balance Barney’s home life with his work, but gradually the home, including the wife and kids, were phased out. (“Just Shoot Me” followed the same trajectory, albeit much more quickly. With “JSM,” however, I liked it the original way.) Even in the pilot episode, the home sequences are stagy, slow and a one-joke affair. (Wife wants hubby to quit the force; hubby loves his job too much.) The show only displays its true potential when we’re in the stationhouse. And Ron Glass, not a permanent member in the first year, is not present in all the episodes. In the second show there is another black detective, named Wilson, who is frankly not very good or funny. They were right to go with Glass permanently, though his Harris is not yet quite the flashy, irreverent wiseguy he later became.
Much as I’d like to give this set five stars, the truth is the packaging is somewhat shoddy. Picture and sound are decent (image is a little flat), but they could have given us some extras (real extras). A brief interview with the cast members today, most of whom are still alive, would have been nice, or maybe some commentaries from cast members about their favorite episodes. Even commentary in a booklet would have been welcome. As it is, I get the impression Sony just slammed this together as quickly as possible.
I hope it makes money for them, however, so that they release the rest of the seasons. This was a brilliant series, and the best episodes are yet to come.
Wow! Barney Miller had a lot of talented actors. Abe Vigoda as “Fish” is one of our favorites. We thought that Gregory Sierra was great as Julio on “Sanford & Son”, and we enjoyed him just as much on “Barney Miller”. The multicultural crew was a tremendous mix of people and personalities. We thought “Barney Miller” was one of the funniest shows on TV. This wasn’t one of the seasons that won an Emmy, but a good season anyway. As others have noted, the video quality is not the best. The audio is acceptable with the dialogue being understandable in most places. I don’t mind the lack of extras. I’d rather have no extras than something thrown together at the last minute. It would have been great to have the pilot, “The Life and Times of Barney Miller”. The price seems a bit high for only 13 episodes. (“Gilligan’s Island” has 36 episodes and the pilot episode for only a few dollars more!) We loved the comedy on this show.
Here is an episode guide, with a tiny description:1. Ramon: A junkie holds the precinct hostage.2. Experience: Detective Fish thinks about retiring. A bomb is left at the precinct.3. Snow Job: Wojo has been entrusted with cash from a department store during a blizzard.4. Graft: An inspector arrives to investigate possible corruption at the precinct.5. The Courtesans: When Wojo tries to reform a hooker, she threatens to file harrassment charges.6. Stakeout: A stakeout operation is threatened by some nosy neighbors.7. Bureaucrat: A drunken bureaucrat is jailed.8. Ms. Cop: Linda Lavin’s first episode as a “by-the-book” cop.9. Vigilante: An elderly man defends his neighborhood. An inspector insists that the 12th precinct should be hated by the citizenry.10. The Guest: Wojo eats a poisoned sandwiched intended for a mob prisoner. Chano sets up a drug buy with his coworkers’ money.11. Escape Artist : The 12th precinct holds an escaped prisoner. Harris starts writing a police novel.12. Hair: A long-haired scruffy type from Narcotics is transferred to the precinct. Fish’s afternoon at a massage parlor upsets his wife, Bernice.13. The Hero: Chano shoots a robber.