Not much posting time today (which saw the death of Sherwood Schwartz, sadly), but I did want to call attention to this good and, to me, unexpected news: Shout! Factory has acquired the rights to Barney Miller and will release the entire series in a boxed set.
The TV on home video business is not what it was, and never will be: as streaming and other ways of watching TV episodes become more common, and as Netflix nudges its U.S. customers toward committing exclusively to streaming, the need to own a TV series in any physical format will sharply decrease. (Also, classic movies are not doing well on Blu-Ray, so there’s not much likelihood of catalogue TV shows finding a home in that format. For now, most TV shows will not be released in any other home video format but DVD.) Still, it’s fun to own a good show, and it’s particularly fun to own one of those boxes that contains the whole series plus extras. Shout! managed to do this with The Larry Sanders Show and – though without a lot of newly-produced extras – Leave It To Beaver. I hope this one sells well enough that they can do a couple of other deserving series.
I’m particularly happy that they got Barney Miller, because there was very little likelihood that the later seasons would ever be released individually (Sony only got up to season 3). Abe Vigoda is probably the best-known member of the cast now, and so the market for the seasons after he left probably is not huge. Yet the show probably got better after he left. I don’t know if Fish was the problem (the writers often couldn’t write for him that well beyond bathroom and wife jokes), or if it’s just that the show improved the more it found its own rhythms. It also helped that season 4 was when they finally gave up trying to shoot with a studio audience, and used a laugh track instead. But losing Fish and adding Dietrich as a regular was probably a net gain too.
The set will also include the original pilot, The Life And Times of Captain Barney Miller, a single-camera comedy shot on film, which ABC turned down but later retooled into the show we know. I’ve never seen it, so I’m looking forward to that.