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Why Barney Miller Came To An End

Why Barney Miller Came To An End

Broadcast from January 23, 1975, to May 20, 1982, on ABC, Barney Miller is considered one of the best sitcoms of the 1970s. The show grew out of an unsold television pilot, The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller, airing in the summer of 1974, as part of an ABC summer anthology series, Just for Laughs, where the network would dump pilots they didn’t intent to pick up. The networks would take the best of the rejected batch and give them an airing in primetime during the summer when viewership was down, a way to get back some of the cost of that pilot.

Basically, star Hal Linden insists, the end of Barney Miller came down not to ratings, but to keeping good writers who were constantly getting lured to other projects. “It was never canceled,” Linden told the Television Academy. “The next to last season [producer Danny Arnold] was going to close it. Sitcoms are by definition self destructive. That is, they feed on themselves… We had, what, let’s say five writing sources. A team, a writer, another team. Five, maybe six writing sources, something like that. You know, numbered [descending] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The minute you have a show that’s a hit, the number 2 team, their agent is at every network… So you’re always losing your number 2 team every year. And maybe number 3 team!”

That being said, Barney Miller finished it’s last season at #54, at the bottom of the ratings. Producer Danny Arnold’s failing health also contributed, every script went through him for revisions until he suffered a heart attack. Barney Miller was one of the few sitcoms of the period that occasionally mentioned the then-current year.

Sitcom writer Tom Reeder described the stress of working on the show, “In the early years, Danny benefited from the heroic writing efforts of Chris Hayward, who was a veteran writer, and rookies Tony Sheehan and Reinhold Weege who, like me, didn't know any better. They were the Barney Miller writing staff. My agent wisely turned down Danny's annual offers of staff jobs, negotiating freelance assignments (so-called "multiple deals") for me instead. Even so, the pace was frantic—on one assignment I was given 3 hours to write the story outline. On another occasion, a friend came into my office at ABC-Vine Street and said, ‘Hey, Reeder, want to go get some lunch?’ I pointed to the paper in my typewriter and said, ‘This script is on the stage—thanks anyway.’”


The entire series is available on DVD.


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WIKI: Barney Miller won a DGA Award from the Directors Guild of America in 1981, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1982 (after it ended) and received six other nominations in that category, from 1976 to 1981. The series won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 1980 (in addition to nominations in 1976, 1977 and 1982), Outstanding Directing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety or Music Series in 1979, and was nominated for a number of others. The show won a Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Comedy or Musical Series in 1976 and 1977 (from a total of seven nominations), and a Peabody Award in 1978. TV Guide ranks Barney Miller at #46 on its list of the 60 best series of all time.

 


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