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Barney Miller is a comedy television series set in a New York City police station in Greenwich Villagemarker that ran from January 23, 1975 to May 20, 1982 on ABC. It was created by Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker. Noam Pitlik directed the majority of the episodes.


Captain Barney Miller (Hal Linden) tries to remain sane while leading the NYPD's 12th Precinct's detectives: crochety, nearing-retirement Jewish-American Philip K. Fish (Abe Vigoda); naive, gung-ho but goodhearted Polish-American Det. Stanley "Wojo" Wojciehowicz (Max Gail); ambitious, intellectual, arrogant African-American Det. Ronald "Ron" Nathan Harris (Ron Glass); philosophical, wisecracking gambler Japanese-American Nick Yemana (Jack Soo); and dauntless beleaguered Puerto Rican Chano Amanguale (Gregory Sierra). Miller also has to deal with his unapologetically old-school superior, Deputy Inspector Frank Luger (James Gregory), and diminutive and obsequious uniformed Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey), who passive-aggressively badgers Miller constantly about being promoted to detective. Amanguale was replaced by intellectual Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) from the third season on.

The show's focus was split between the detectives' interactions with each other and with the suspects and witnesses they detained, processed, and interviewed. Some typical conflicts and long running plotlines included Miller's frustration with red tape and paperwork, his constant efforts to maintain peace, order, and discipline, and his numerous failed attempts to get a promotion; Harris's preoccupation with outside interests, such as his living arrangements but mainly his novel ("Blood on the Badge"), and his inability to remain focused on his police work; Fish's age-related health issues (incontinence), marital problems, and reluctance to retire; Wojciehowicz's impulsive behavior and love life; Luger's nostalgia for the old days with partners Foster, Kleiner and Brown; Levitt's (eventually successful) quest to become a detective; the rivalry between the precinct's resident intellectuals, Harris and Dietrich and continually - but reliably - bad coffee (usually made by Yemana).

Decades after its cancellation, Barney Miller retains a devoted following among real-life police officers, who appreciate the show's emphasis on dialogue and believably quirky characters, and its low-key portrayal of cops going about their jobs. During his appearance on Jon Favreau's Independent Film Channel talk show Dinner for Five Dennis Farina, who worked as a Chicago policeman before turning to acting, called Barney Miller the most realistic cop show ever seen on television. Hal Linden has told interviewers that he is still occasionally called "Captain" by working police officers.


Seen in the opening credits

Actor Character Seasons Notes
Hal Linden Captain Barney Miller 1 - 8
Abe Vigoda Detective Philip K. Fish 1 - 4, 7 Vigoda was a regular for the first three seasons. Though still in the opening credits, he appeared in only about half of the episodes in the last half of season 3. (The character was simultaneously seen on the spin-off show Fish at this same time.) Fish "retired" as of season 4, episode 2, though he returned for two guest appearances, one later in season 4 and one in season 7.
Max Gail Detective Stan "Wojo" Wojciehowicz 1 - 8
Ron Glass Detective Ron Harris 1 - 8
Jack Soo Detective Sergeant Nick Yemana. 1 - 5 A regular in seasons 1 to 5. After Soo died on January 11, 1979 (midway through season 5), a special memorial episode was aired, with the actors breaking character and recalling their favorite Yemana scenes. The episode ended with entire cast raising their coffee cups in tribute.
Barbara Barrie Elizabeth "Liz" Miller (Barney's wife) 1 - 2, 5 Though appearing in only a handful of episodes after the pilot, Barrie received billing in the opening credits of every episode in seasons 1 and 2. Often mentioned, her character returned for a two-part guest appearance in season 5.
Gregory Sierra Detective Sergeant Chano Amenguale 1 - 2
James Gregory Deputy Inspector Franklin D. Luger 1 - 8 A regular character throughout the series, usually seen in about a third to a half of any given season's episodes. Gregory was only listed in the opening credits during season 4; in other seasons, he was listed as a "Special Guest" in the closing credits.
Steve Landesberg Detective Sergeant Arthur Dietrich 2 - 8 First seen as a one-shot character in season 2. He became a semi-regular in season 3 and a full-time cast member from season 4 onwards.
Ron Carey Officer Carl Levitt 3 - 8 Began as a recurring character in season 3, becoming a full-time cast member by season 4.

Note that Landesberg and Carey both made one-shot guest appearances in other roles before being cast in their regular series roles.

Recurring characters

Other officers and staff

Seen in occasional recurring roles at the 12th Precinct were other officers and staff, including:

Actor Character Seasons Notes
Milt Kogan Officer Kogan 1 - 2 Though not seen after season 2, Kogan (the downstairs desk sergeant) was frequently referred to throughout the series run.
Paul Lichtman Mr. Beckman, the building repairman 1 - 3
George Murdock Lt. Ben Scanlon, Internal Affairs 2, 4 - 8 The eternally suspicious Scanlon was not actually attached to the 12th Precinct, but (like Inspector Luger) visited from headquarters.
Linda Lavin Detective Janice Wentworth 1, 2 After a short run as a regular guest on Barney Miller (beginning with Episode 8 of the first season, "Ms. Cop"), Lavin left the series to star in Alice. Wentworth's name can still be seen on the staff duty roster through most of season 3.
June Gable Detective Maria Battista 3 Short-lived addition to the 12th precinct's detective room, lasting only 2 episodes
Mari Gorman Officer Roslyn Licori 4 After a 3-episode run as Licori, Gorman played another recurring role on the show during season 8, that of Mrs. Binder, wife of frequent precinct visitor Bruno Binder.
Dino Natali Officer Zatelli 4 - 6
Paul Lieber Detective Eric Dorsey 6 Another short-run detective (3 episodes).

Note that Murdock, Gorman and Leiber all made guest appearances in other roles in addition to their regularly recurring series roles.

12th Precinct regulars

The 12th Precinct had a number of regular complainants, habitués of the holding cell, or other people who often dropped by. Characters seen on three or more episodes included:

Actor Character # of appearances Seasons Notes
Jack DeLeon Marty Morrison
1 - 8
Marty, a purse snatcher, was sometimes brought in as a suspect, but was also sometimes a complainant.
Alex Henteloff Arnold Ripner
1 - 8
An ambulance-chasing attorney, Ripner visited the precinct whenever he had a client to defend. (He also sometimes visited just to drum up business amongst those in the holding cell.) Ripner later sued Harris for Harris' depiction of him in his novel Blood On The Badge.
‡ Stanley Brock Bruno Bender
4 - 8
A vigilante frequently in trouble for his overzealous ways.
Ray Stewart Darryl Driscoll
2 - 8
Marty's somewhat more sensible and grounded lover, who lent Marty moral support during his visits to the precinct.
Jack Somack Mr. Cotterman
1 - 5
Owner of the frequently-robbed Cotterman's Liquor Store.
John Dullaghan Ray Brewer
5 - 8
A lonely transient, Ray stopped by the precinct during open houses to talk and sample the coffee.
‡ J.J. Barry Arthur Duncan
7 - 8
A small-time crook and frequent arrestee.
Doris Roberts Harriet Brauer
4 - 7
Along with her husband Phillip (below), a frequent complainant.
Peter Hobbs Phillip Brauer
4 - 7
‡ Ralph Manza Leon Roth
3 - 7
A blind shoplifter who was caught on several occasions.

The symbol '‡' denotes that the actor also was cast in at least one other role at some point during the series run.

Note that Buddy Lester played a bookie in three episodes, but twice the bookie was called Harry and once Sidney. It is not clear whether this was meant to be the same character.

Seen in two episodes apiece were delusional "werewolf" Mr. Stefan Kopeckne; Yacov Berger (Nehemiah Persoff); and Flasher Lyle W. Farber (Ron Feinberg).

Fish's family

Fish's wife Bernice made an appearance from time to time in seasons 1 to 3. In seasons 1 and 3 she was played by Florence Stanley (in a total of 6 appreances); in Bernice's only season 2 appearance she was portrayed by Doris Belack. Also seen as recurring characters in season 3 were group home children Jilly (Denise Miller) and Victor (John Cassisi), who would eventually become Fish's foster children. In 1977, the Fishes were spun off into their own show, Fish.

Barney's family

In addition to Barney's wife Liz, Barney's son David (Michael Tessier) and daughter Rachel (Anne Wyndham) appeared in the pilot. Barney's children were written out of the show after the first episode (though they were still often mentioned), while his wife made appearances through the second season. Wyndham also reprised her role in one later episode.


Barney Miller won the DGA Award from the Directors Guild of Americamarker in 1981.

The series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1982, after it was concluded. It also won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 1980 and Outstanding Directing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety or Music Series in 1979, and was nominated for numerous others.

It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Comedy or Musical Series in 1976 and 1977, and was nominated for various other Golden Globe Awards.

The show won the Peabody Award in 1979.


The series sprang from an unsold television pilot, The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller, that aired on August 22, 1974 as part of an ABC summer anthology, Just for Laughs. Linden and Vigoda were cast in their series roles; no other eventual cast members were present. Abby Dalton played Barney Miller's wife, Liz. The pilot script was later largely re-used in the debut episode "Ramon".

Opening theme

The distinctive opening notes of the theme song’s bass line, performed by studio musician Jim Hughart, are played over a shot of the New York skyline (with a garbage barge being towed in the foreground, from Season Two on) followed by shots of the characters. Several slightly different versions of the theme song featuring minor variations in the song’s composition and performance were used during different seasons. The closing credits featured a different shot of the skyline.

The opening theme music was composed by Jack Elliot and Allyn Ferguson.


As the show progressed (and especially by the final seasons), the program became unusual for its increasing resemblance to a stage play, in that its scenes almost never strayed from the single set of the precinct station's squadroom (with its prominent open-barred holding cell) and Miller's adjoining office. Almost all of the action and dialog took place on this single set. Characters came and went, but they were virtually never shown outside or in other buildings. Moreover, each episode in the later seasons usually took place within the course of a single workday. Thus, Barney Miller tended to obey two of the three classical unities of drama, unity of place and unity of time. The third unity, unity of action, was not followed, since each episode had multiple subplots.

The show became notorious among television studios for its marathon taping sessions. In the beginning, it was taped in front of a studio audience. After the audience left, creator and executive producer Danny Arnold would begin to (sometimes heavily) rewrite and restage scenes; a taping session that began in the afternoon or early evening would then continue on into the early morning hours. Max Gail referred to this in the Jack Soo retrospective episode; he remarked that one of the clips shown was a scene that "we finished around 2:30 in the morning." In a 1977 blooper, a crew member (presumably a stage manager or director) mentions it being 3:15 a.m. The series stopped using a studio audience after the first three seasons, and utilized a laugh track.

The debut of the series made an impact on another series, The Six Million Dollar Man. In November 1974, two months before Barney Miller became a weekly series, the science fiction show had aired an episode entitled "The Seven Million Dollar Man" that introduced a villain named Barney Miller. When this character made a return appearance in the fall of 1975 in an episode entitled "The Bionic Criminal", the character's name was changed to Barney Hiller.


  • 1974-1975: #70
  • 1975-1976: #38
  • 1976-1977: #17
  • 1977-1978: #18
  • 1978-1979: #16
  • 1979-1980: #21
  • 1980-1981: #33
  • 1981-1982: #54

DVD releases

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first 3 seasons of Barney Miller on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 was released on January 20, 2004, to slow sales, and Sony decided not to release any more seasons. However, the decision was later reversed and season 2 was released in 2008 (four years after the release of season 1), followed by season 3 the following year.

DVD Name Eps. Release Date
The First Season 13 January 20, 2004
The Complete Second Season 22 January 22, 2008
The Complete Third Season 22 March 17, 2009


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