Barney Miller

Just yesterday (from Amazon) purchased Shout!'s complete release of this classic 1975-82 ABC police comedy starring Hal Linden. I was wondering what you all have thought of that show. I’ve heard so many glowing reviews about not only how good the show was, but also the release of it, for that matter.

I always enjoyed the show, but recently I saw the first couple of episodes, and found them cringe-worthy. I’m pretty sure it’s because the cast hadn’t found the chemistry that was apparent in later years, so knowing it gets better, I put up with the bad start.

I do get a kick out of the clothes, and Yemana always cracked me up, as did Dietrich when he came along. It’s dated, but I still enjoy it when I catch an episode.

Have you never seen the show? It is one of my all time favorites and holds up very well after all these years.

While critically praised far and wide, I think it’s criminally underrated in the sense that it seems to be largely forgotten and, due to minimal syndication (at least in my area), an entire generation is missing out.

That one’s a classic. A really good one.

I saw it in passing when it was on FOX 21 (now FOX Carolina). I think I saw several a time back from TV Land as well.

It was a staple when I was a kid in the 70s. Has a very dry wit, and deals with some serious issues well, though attitudes might be a little dated now. It starts to get delightfully absurd once Dietrich joins the cast.

mooshie, mooshie.

One of a very small handful of shows I watched regularly during its initial network run. I always thought it was very well-done, and proof that characterization, rather than plot or any other element, is what really sells a TV show.

raises coffee mug

I love the show and I think it holds up surprisingly well.

First season was rocky - they tried to shoehorn in stuff from Barney’s home life that didn’t work well. The show really hit its stride, in my opinion, when they focused solely on the ensemble cast in the squad room.

It has a slower pace than today’s shows, but it’s definitely one of the best sit-coms in TV history. Underrated and undersyndicated for whatever reason, but definitely worth watching.

I started to type out some of the best lines, and realized they mean absolutely nothing without the context … and in some cases, the context was provided over the course of 15 or 20 minutes of an episode. To me, that speaks of stellar writing. It’s not all a series of one-liners or one-off jokes. Heck, the “mooshie mooshie” and the raised coffee cup from E-DUB and running coach are references to scenes that are both hilarious and incredibly poignant, but it takes some backstory to understand why.

I agree the first season is clunky as regards to Barney’s personal life. I liked Barbara Barrie’s portrayal of Liz Miller, but her presence distracted from the show’s centers - the squad room and Barney’s office.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode in syndication, come to think of it. It was great in its day.

Two of my relatively-quick favourites, in that the setup requires only brief explanation:

During a heavy rainstorm, the squad room suffers many ceiling leaks and there are numerous pots, jars, etc. scattered around the room to collect drips. Yemana decides to make coffee and casually picks up a rain-filled jar and takes it to the machine:

Barney: You’re not gonna use that water, are you?
Yemena: It’s rainwater. The freshest kind there is.
Barney: But it’s been run through that rotting, filthy, cockroach-infested ceiling!
Yemana: That filters out the impurities.

An arrested suspect turns out to be an undercover from Internal Affairs, offering bribes to the detectives:

Dietrich: Yeah, he offered me $250 to let him go.
Harris: Really? He only offered me $200.
Dietrich: Well, I’d’ve been happy to split the difference with you.
Harris: That’s decent of you, Art.
The bits are very dry and low-key, but that’s the kind of show it was.

One of my favorite Barney Miller moments: Fish is being transported to the hospital in an ambulance. He releases himself on his own recognizance. Barney expresses amazement.

Fish explains, “The gun helped.”

A running bit featuring Yemana (I THINK all this is from the same episode, but I could be wrong):

He’s cooking on a soup plate in the corner. One of the other detectives comes over and says “What’s that SMELL?”

Yemana: It’s my lunch.

Detective: Smells like garbage.

Yemana: It’s a Japanese delicacy! Fish heads, cabbage leaves, carrot sprouts, melon rinds … come to think of it, it IS garbage.

Later, Yemana is at his desk with a chopstick in his hand and takes a phone call.

Yemana (listening to phone): Uh-huh … three guys with guns … robbing a store … running down 48th Street … hang on, I gotta get a pencil. (Rummages in his desk, grabs a pencil, pairs it with his chopstick and takes a bite of food.) Okay, go ahead …

Finally, something is happening elsewhere in the squadroom, and the camera suddenly cuts to Yemana sitting at his desk, staring at his pencil.

Yemana: Oh my God, I ate the eraser.

Eats a brownie.

IMO one of the best shows to ever air; you won’t regret your purchase.

Frankly, most of the great shows take a while to figure out what they’re about, so that starting with the first season might be disappointing — stick with it.

In the first season Chano - Gregory Sierra - was supposed to become the breakout star. It didn’t work. Depending on whose rumor you believe he was either kicked out or took the opportunity to star in another sitcom.

Dietrich clicked as a substitute in Season 2 but they kept on trying to add another cast member, especially after Jack Soo died. None of them had the chemistry and they all tend to drag down the episodes they’re featured in.

Barney Miller is one of those spotty shows where you remember all the wonderful bits that worked and filter out the stuff that didn’t.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the modern equivalent of Barney Miller and it’s spotty in exactly the same ways.