Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle. This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l
Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.
Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.
A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.
As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.
I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans. What What have you always want to know about the show? What are your favorite episodes? What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?
By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago. The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics. Enjoy.