Monday, June 26, 2017

Temporary Layoffs Summer Showcase: The Life & Times of Barney Miller

U.S. Television Networks commission hundreds of television scripts each year. They pick several of these shows to actually produce a filmed sample- a pilot. The pilots are used to determine which shows to actually place on the Fall schedule. The vast majority of pilots nowadays slip into obscurity, never to be seen again.

It wasn't always this way; pilots have always been expensive to produce. Therefore, up until the late 1980's, the networks would try to recoup some of their investment by burning off the episodes in the summer. Thus ABC had Just For Laughs, a summer anthology series that featured unpurchased pilots. One of which was The Life & Times of Barney Miller.

Despite being originally rejected, the pilot became a sensation. ABC quickly tried to retool and get the show back into production. The only two actors who made it into the New and improved Barney Miller were Hal Linden and Abe Vigoda.