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A Wonderful Tribute to ‘Barney Miller’

posted by Nell Minow

What a delight to see the New York Times pay tribute to one of my all-time favorite television series, “Barney Miller.”  I’ve talked to a couple of cops who told me that it was not just funny — it was the most authentic to their own experience of any television series about law enforcement.

The action on “Barney Miller” was as underplayed as its jokes. As the series was originally conceived, half of each episode would take place on the job, and half at Miller’s home. But the producers soon dropped that idea. Instead, detectives came and went, rushing out to make arrests and dragging in perps. Rarely did we see anything that was actually happening outside the squad room.

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“It was a radio drama,” said Frank Dungan, who with his writing partner, Jeff Stein, contributed many episodes. “Wojo curling that paper into the typewriter was what police related to — the lack of action.”

It was funny, smart, heartfelt, and often surprisingly touching.  Characters like Luger and Dietrich and Harris were as complex and fully human as any ever shown on television.  It’s wonderful to be able to re-watch episodes of “Barney Miller” on Hulu.

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