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Archive for June 30th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

This police sitcom, set in the 12th precinct of Manhattan, ran for eight seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, telling the story of the detectives that worked there. While Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire may be the dramas that get the work of detective work the most accurate, some detective and uniform police still point to this series as the one police show that is the most realistic, because here, the tedium of bookings, arrests, paper work, transfers, boredom and bad coffee never ends. With the vast majority of the series taking place in the squad room-or Barney’s office-the series takes on the feel of a stage play, and it has both the scripts and cast to pull this off.

The series earliest episodes occasionally gave the audience glimpses of Barney’s home life, and that of the ever-tired and grumbling Fish-a memorable Abe Vigoda-but quickly realized these were not working, and that the series could only distinguish itself by becoming work oriented, and work centered in a way few programs have ever been. There were recurring players, often recurring characters, making the precinct seem like a real place. Prostitution, murder, robbery, assault, including domestic abuse, and even rape and drug use, as well as selling, were among the many crimes Barney’s detectives handled. The series tackled social issues with a sly grin, and a sigh, often through the deadpan reactions or musings of detective Deitrech, played by Steve Landesberg. Just as often they would be made through Ron Glass’s Detective Harris or Max Gail’s earnest, naïve-to a point-Detective Stan Wojciehowicz, a former marine who becomes one of the more humanitarian among the squad. Easy humor could just as often be found with Carl Levitt, brilliantly played by Ron Carey as a case study in denied rewards. Holding it all together was Barney himself, played by Hal Linden, who was father, brother, friend and boss, depending on which needed to be applied to a given situation. (more…)

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