Barney Miller

Barney Miller ran for 8 seasons from 1975-1982. The show never was high in the Nielson Ratings. Maybe part of the reason is that it was on ABC who stayed in 3rd place in the major three network race at the time. Maybe it didn’t have enough obvious humor.

One of the best-written sitcoms of any decade.  It centers around the 12th precinct police station. I started to watch this in 1979 and I have been a fan ever since. The show had a core cast that did have changes through the years but the writing was always top notch.

One very interesting part of Barney Miller is they had a bunch of very good character actors pass through the show. They had a very good excuse because usually the guests were either witnesses or they committed some sort of small crime so it was a natural parade of people passing through.

The show was not all about humor. They had stories dealing with domestic abuse, social, and racial tensions and interaction close to real life.

The set really looked like an old run down police station.

The characters were explored so deep and you got to know them…their past, their quirks and inside jokes. They were consistent with their character and the continuity stayed to the end.

The characters were
Barney Miller (Hal Linden) The man that leads with common sense and wisdom over his squad of quirky detectives and officers.

Det. Stan Wojciehowicz..”Wojo”(Max Gail) – An ex-Marine who fought in Vietnam who is sometimes naive and childlike but really looks to Barney as a mentor.Wojo is not always tolerant of people with different views than him but is a good detective but highly emotional.

Det. Ron Harris (Ron Glass) – A well-dressed man who lives beyond his means at times. He wants the finer things in life and can be a little snobbish at times but he is a good guy. As the show continued he was trying to establish a writing career and he wrote the best selling book called “Blood on the Badge” that sometimes disrupted the station but he would stay loyal to Barney even through their differences.

Sgt. Nick Yemana (Jack Soo) – A Japanese Detective that always had an answer, loved gambling and he would call his bookie often… and he made the coffee for the office…and supposedly the worse coffee ever…To me, he was one of the funniest characters on the show. Actor Jack Soo passed away while the show was in its 5th season in January of 1979. During that season the cast did a tribute show speaking as themselves and showed clips of Jack.

Sgt. Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) – One of a kind character. Dietrich was a know it all…not in the usual way. The guy knew about every statistic on any subject that came up. He was an intellectual but also could have fun with it. One of the funniest and deadpan characters I’ve ever seen on television. He never lost his cool in any situation.

Sgt Philip Fish (Abe Vigoda) – The senior member of the crew who was played by Abe Vigoda always looked older than what he actually was at the time. It was a running joke about him having hemorrhoids, needing to go to the bathroom, being old and delivering many marriage jokes. He would leave the show for a spinoff “Fish” officially in the 4th season. He would come back and make guest star appearances.

Sgt. Chano Amenguale (Gregory Sierra) – He was Puerto Rican and would be very talkative and emotional. Whenever he was really upset he would start speaking Spanish loudly. I really liked Sierra’s character but he left after the second season.

Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey) – Levitt was a short overachiever and kept hounding Barney for a promotion. He would not be too subtle to Barney about his hard working habits. The rest of the station would pick on him but all of them respected his hard work. He would fill in when a Detective was out. He finally got promoted at the end of the show’s run.

Deputy Inspector Frank Luger (James Gregory) – A totally old school superior who would drop by “the old one two” to talk with Barney. Luger never even tried to keep up with the times. He would tell Barney of the good old days…sometimes to Barney’s annoyance. Overall Luger was a great character who was brilliantly played by James Gregory.

Elizabeth Miller (Barbara Barrie) She was Barney’s wife who always wanted him to quit the force because she worried about his safety. She was on regularly at first but the show started to concentrate on the station rather than their home. She was involved in a story later on in the series when Elizabeth and Barney separated for a while…they eventually got back together.

LT. Ben Scanlon (George Murdock) – Scanlon worked in Internal Affairs and was the one bad guy in the show. He would try to find trouble when he visited…always wanted to find some wrongdoing to bring down the 12th Precinct because they had a perfect record.

If you haven’t tried watching this show and you want a smart sitcom…watch this. This is not just another sitcom.

This is a great article on the legacy of Barney Miller








Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

31 thoughts on “Barney Miller”

  1. I never watched the show when it was on ABC. I started watching the show in reruns. The brownie episode has to be the funniest I have ever seen. it’s on youtube if anyone has never seen it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And they rarely are outside of the police station–but I never really noticed that. Maybe it was just too smart- as far as the ratings go. 8 seasons and it was one of those shows that didn’t seem at least to me to over stay their welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The semi-regular characters were great also- always liked James Gregory- and they used him well as Luger and of course Scanlon..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gregory was great…I didn’t realize when I started to watch it he was in so many other things. Scanlon you loved to hate…
        I liked the guy…cannot think of his name that thought he was the werewolf…he was on there more than once.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thats right… I love Barney’s reaction to him.

        Dietrich was probably my favorite character…Never have seen a character like that.

        Linda Lavin was one I didn’t mention…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes- Dietrich was probably my favorite also- a lot of great characters though with their own unique personalities. The Ron Glass character- is me- my name btw which i always thought was cool. I didn’t write Blood on the Badge though…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That is cool… No Blood on the Badge though…that is disappointing lol…
        The only character to have a big part of my name was Mr. Gower…from…guess what? It’s a Wonderful Life…and he was a drunk lol…well in the world without George.

        I liked how they had some tense moments between him and Barney but he was always loyal in the end because Barney treated him and all of them like men.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Ah now I see the Bailey connection. Cool… It didn’t last long- only a couple weeks but did you ever see The Steve Landesberg show? I don’t think it lasted but a couple weeks- it was funny- I don’t know why no one was watching..

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      7. No I didn’t see it. I’ve seen some of his stand up and it was good. I’ll do some searching to see if I can see any of them. I hate when they don’t give a show a chance…

        I have to ask…There was a show in the late 80s I’ll see if you remember… Tim Daly was in it…called “Almost Grown” great show about looking back at going to college in the 60s…they of course cancelled it.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. If you blinked you missed his show- I can’t even find it listed on his bio…maybe a week or two tops…. I remember there being an Almost Grown but I can’t recall watching it- one season?

        Liked by 1 person

      9. One season or a half…It was a more mature Wonder Years… “Time has come Today” was featured a lot in it…
        Sometimes things are not given a chance. Anything with Landesberg has to be good.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. That is what always got- me- you get a good show- you get involved in it and they pull the plug because of less than stellar ratings. If a show is actually good give it a chance..

        Liked by 1 person

      11. wow a show nominated for awards- deserves a chance. The Dick Van Dyke Show is an example of one which took a couple years to get the ratings..

        Liked by 1 person

      12. A friend of mine back in the 80’s was working in a department store in downtown Pittsburgh and has told me he sold Morey Amsterdam the ugliest pair of pants he’s ever seen.. . Yes that was like Barney Miller- great -smart- writing… the show may have called it quits too early- but it still quit on top.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. I guess it’s better to go out on top…I agree though…it was still great in the last season. My wife and I will binge watch that on occasion…still love the Walnut episode.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Barney Miller” was good. I used to watch it in the day, haven’t seen an episode in years but if I come across some now on some oldies-station, I think I’ll tune in again. Funny, I still remember about half of the characters’ names even after all this time

    Liked by 1 person

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