Goofball Precinct: Behind The Scenes With Barney Miller

“Barney Miller” was a television series that ran for almost ten years. It was a police procedural, but fans liked it because of its realistic depictions and mix of drama in the humorous show. All of the characters were unique and likable, and it was a beloved show with millions of loyal fans.

Throughout its long run and numerous episodes, it had plenty of hidden secrets and fun facts that even the most loyal of fans might not have known!

Here are some truly amazing facts you might not know about Barney Miller!

The Show Was Known For Its Realistic Depictions


At the time of the show, there were a plentiful amounts of police procedurals running, much like how we have plenty on TV today. However, the show was best known as being the most realistic portrayal of police life, according to real-life police officers who were fans of the TV series.

Steve Landesberg And Ron Carey Were Felons


Actors Steve Landesberg and Ron Carey had a long run as part of the regular series cast. But before they landed their permanent spots on the popular TV show, they had each played a felon at some point in the series! That was a pretty big transition for the actors.

There Was An Unscripted Episode


In 1979, one of the regular cast members, Detective Nick Yemana, played by Jack Soo, died in real life due to esophagus cancer. The cast members spent an entire episode just reminiscing about Soo’s time on the show, with unscripted material which gave it a very touching and real feel.

They Saluted Soo With Their Coffee


Throughout the series, it was a running joke that Soo made terrible coffee for the cast throughout the series. They paid a tribute to him by all raising their glasses of coffee up to him at the end of the episode, another precious and unscripted moment.

There Was Almost A Movie Made


During the run of the show, the franchise was so popular that the producers were approached about possibly making a movie from the series. However, the movie never ended up being made. Who knows though, with all the remakes happening today, there might still be a chance — although it would likely feature an entirely new cast.

The Title Was Almost Different


The original title of the series was “The Life And Times Of Captain Barney Miller.” It only aired on ABC as a special for the first time in 1974, and the pilot ended up being rejected. The special didn’t do well and had little chance of getting picked up for a season. Apparently brevity is the key to TV success.

John Rich Saved The Show


John Rich saw the series and convinced executives to give it a chance. He had done well with “All In The Family,” so producers trusted his opinion. John began working on the first season of the show, but left after only two episodes, choosing instead to work on other projects for ABC.

Few Episodes Were Outside The Station


Though the show had a rather long run, only a few of the episodes took place outside of the famous police station. The episodes were “Ramon,” “Graft,” “The Stakeout,” “Hair,” “The Hero,” “Grand Hotel,” “Fish,” “Wojo’s Girl part 2,” “Contempt parts 1 & 2,” “Chinatown parts 1 & 2,” and “Eviction part 2.”

Barney Miller Had A Different Wife In The Pilot


In the original series pilot, which was actually just a TV special, Barney Miller’s wife was played by Abby Dalton. Once the show got picked up for a full season however, the role was replaced by actress Barbara Barrie.

There Was A Funny Sign By The Holding Cell


Though it might have been hard to see throughout watching the long run of the series, there was a rather humorous sign hanging on the wall by the holding cell. The sign said “Please Do Not Spit On The Floor” though the sign was never really referenced in the series.

Nick Yemana Had Personal Connections To Jack Soo


Throughout the show, there would often be references to the movie Flower Drum Song in connection with Detective Yemena. It turns out that Jack Soo played a role in the film and it was all an inside joke created for a bit of added cast humor.

Hal Linden And Max Gail Were The Only Ones In The Credits


Though there were a ton of actors in the show and plenty of regular cast members, throughout the entire series, Hal Linden and Max Gail were the only two who were ever actually featured in the opening credits of the series. Perhaps it was just easier to film a quick opening sequence with only a few actors.

The Smithsonian Television Museum Has Some Props


After the show ended, a few of the props from the set were donated to The Smithsonian Television Museum. Among the donated items were the chalkboard used to show which officers were on duty, the scarred cell door, some police badges, and Jack Soo’s coffee mug.

The Original Episodes Were Taped In Front Of A Live Audience


Laugh track? There was no need for one when this popular series was on the air. Barney Miller actually started off by taping live in front of a studio audience. However, they lost this aspect of the show in later episodes of the series and they fell into the age old practice of using taped audience applause.

Reinhold Weege Adopted A Porn Name From The Show For His Production Company


In one episode of the show, Harris needs to produce a pornographic film for an undercover bust. He chooses the name “Starry Night Productions”. One of the show’s writers, Reinhold Weege, ended up using this name for his actual production company several years later.

Ron Carey Had A Strange Trademark


Ron Carey was looking for a signature trademark move for a while. He decided that when he left the squad room, he’d grab the door with his left hand, rotate around the edge of the door, and close it behind him, a move that can be seen in episodes throughout the series.

The Series Recycled Actors


Throughout the numerous episodes of the show, the series would often ‘recycle’ actors. This meant that one actor would play a small role for only one episode and come back several seasons later to play a completely different character. This practice was very popular in many comedy series’ of the day.

The Show Was Shot In LA


The series was set in New York City, something very obviously seen throughout the show’s locations as well as just the actors using New York style accents. Despite the New York City location, the entire run of the TV show was actually shot in Los Angeles.

Barney Miller Never Got A Promotion


Though “Barney Miller” was the title of the show instead of Captain Barney Miller, producers still never felt it was necessary to promote him beyond captain. He did, however, finally earn a promotion in the very last episode of the series.

Detective Yemena Gave Up Making Coffee


The joke throughout the series was that Yemen was terrible at making coffee. At one point, he claims that he’s going to give up making the coffee altogether for an entire year as his New Year’s Resolution in 1974. Here’s to us tipping our cup to his valiant effort — we think.

It Wasn’t Meant To Be

Detective Sergeant Ron Nathan Harris was not supposed to be a detective. He had too much grace. He really wanted to be writing his novel “Blood on the Badge.” Ron Glass dressed fresh and was more built for a world of finer things.

Personality Change

Characters change all of the time. Whether it be a completely new person playing someone or the type of personality they have in the show. In Barney Miller’s case, his personality changed. He was supposed to be a comic instead of a straight man.

Past His Time

Many thought that Kobe Bryant played too many years past his prime. They even thought that he made his team worse by playing at his old age. Abe Vigoda played Philip K. Fish and was the oldest member of the cast. He should have been retired but he came to work just for his understated comedy.

Rain Water?!

Jack Soo had a dry sense of humor but it added to the overall show. He was also known for his terrible coffee. Did you know that he used rain water for his coffee? He got it from the ceiling and he used it to make fresh pots. That’s why his coffee was so bad.

His Wife’s Name Was?

It isn’t rare that some shows don’t reveal the name of some characters or rather if they do, its subtly and not often. In this shows case, what was the name of Barnie’s wife? Her name was Elizabeth or Liz for short played by Barbara Barrie.

Was His Rank Ever In Question?

Like we mentioned earlier, the show title could have included the word “captain” in it but they didn’t end up going down that path. So how many times was Miller rejected the promotion? He was turned down three different times at becoming Deputy Inspector. The final episode he got the promotion.

Avoiding Paternity Suits Isn’t Easy Unless…

How do you think people get out of paternity suits these days? Go on a TV show and be told “you are not the father’? Well, yes but in this show, Wojo got out of a paternity test because he found out he was sterile. Kind of bittersweet if you think about it.

What Was The Precinct Called?

Many offices and places of work like to their buildings a nickname or just a name that only the employees would know. The precinct these detectives worked out of had a name of their own. It was called “the old one-two” on occasion and fondly.

It Was An Accident

Have you ever consumed a dessert or treat of some sort that was laced with something a bit extra? Well, in one episode the boys ate a batch of brownies that were laced with that special green herb, but who did it? Supposedly Wojo’s girlfriend at the time did it on accident.

He Ended Up With Jail Time

Wouldn’t be ironic if an officer of the law ended up serving time in jail? Well, that is what happened in this show but who was it and why? Barney Miller was a witness to a cocaine bust but wouldn’t give up his sources so the judge ruled “an uncooperative witness”.

Who Was The First Female Detective In The Series?

These days, you see women detectives everywhere on the TV screen. Back when this show was out that statement would not have been made because it was scarce to see them in those roles. The first woman detective on this show was Linda Lavin and she played Janice Wentworth.

In What War?

Wojo had a ton of memorable comments and moments throughout the series. And often times, war veterans turn to police work once they are out of a war or leave the military. Wojo mentions he delivered a baby in the war but which war? He was talking about the Vietnam War.

A Reluctant Harris

We can all relate to being unable to find a place to live when searching for a new place. When you are going through this phase, often times, friends and family offer to allow you to stay with them. When Dietrich offered Harris a place to stay, he reluctantly accepted. This must have been hard for him.

Only Two Were Married

This show featured a lot of groundbreaking dialogue and conversations in general. They also had some things that other shows at the time lacked and in this case, they had two characters that were married. Who were they? Barney and Fish were the married characters.

He Was A Different Character

Like we said earlier, characters often are changed whether it be for someone new or they just take on a new personality. Well, this character first appeared as something else before he was a detective. What he appeared as was a priest in the episode “Doomsday”.

What Were Their Names?

They appeared in very few episodes so if you missed any you could have missed them completely. We’re talking about Barney Miller’s kids. He had two of them but do you remember their names? They were Rachel and David and in one episode someone asks Barney if she’s a hooker.

When Times Are Hard

Hopefully, none of you have had to experience this but it happens to the best of us. At one point Barney and Liz were going through marital problems. And with that comes the sleeping arrangements. At which hotel did Barney stay at during this time? He stayed at the Greenwich hotel.

Who Was Most Proud?

We brought it up earlier and you might have thought we were kidding. But was it noticeable to the viewers or not? We’re talking about Harris’ sense of fashion. He was the proudest character and the most obsessed with how he looked. He was always a subject of discussion.

He Was Stopped

In one episode, various characters were given mugging detail and had to dress up as women to attract the muggers. Out of all of them, (Fish, Harris, Levitt and Dietrich) who was stopped from doing so? The answer is Dietrich because he was the least attractive.

Begging For An Upgrade

Not only was Barney seeking a promotion but so was someone else. Who was it? He constantly asked Barney to be promoted to a plainclothes detective. The answer is Officer Levitt. He gets to fill in on occasion but he desperately wanted to a permanent role.