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Barney Miller - The First Season



DVD Release Date: January 20th, 2004 (Columbia Tri-Star Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $29.95
Number of discs: 2
Number of episodes: 13
Running Time: Approx. 314 minutes
Languages and subtitles: English Only, No Subtitles
Special Features: Columbia-Tristar Trailers, Mini TV-Ographies


Folks, welcome to the first of what I hope will be many reviews for me on the site. Admittedly, before watching this set, I was hardly a fan of the series. I had watched all of two episodes of the series, ever. This DVD set is, in essence, my first prolonged exposure to the series.

A small piece of history: Barney Miller started out in 1974, as The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller, a failed comedy pilot in aseries called Just for Laughs. In 1975, the series earned a place as a replacement series on the January schedule, where it would continue until 1982. The show revolved around Capt. Barney Miller and a motley crew of characters at the 12th Precint stationhouse in New York City. Also residing at the station were aging cop Fish (Abe Vigoda), Wojo (Max Gail), Det. Yemana (Jack Soo). The show would last, with minor cast changes, until 1982, when it finally ended it's 8 season run.

Sony, the company that owns the rights to Barney Miller, among many other shows, launched an internet poll in late 2003, asking respondees what shows they'd prefer to see on DVD. One of the higher ranked shows was Barney Miller, so, in late January 2004, Sony released the series.


The packaging is a standard 2-disc Keep Case setup. The first disc is held on a plastic flipping insert that can be, well, flipped to the other side to access the 2nd disc. This is generally a decent setup, and the plastic cases tend to hold up a lot better than other setups. There's a small flaw with 2-disc keep cases, however, in that the plastic flipping insert can and WILL come out, and you'll have to reattach it. Other than that, it's a fairly sturdy setup.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The first thing I noticed about the DVD set was a distinct lack of effects in the main menu. There are just the basic options, including a Play All button thankfully, but there is no background music playing during the menus, and the only animation or effects upon selecting an option is that the green handcuffs will turn a poorly-illustrated orange (There are still green pixels around the egde of the handcuffs). A nice little graphical tweak they've thrown in is that the episode selection menu consists of a folder with a still picture of one of the primary moments of the episode, giving the impression that your looking at a police file folder for each episode.

Video and Audio Quality:

The first disc is somewhat crammed, as there are NINE episodes on the first disc. This results in noticeable video compression problems. Disc 2 doesn't suffer from said issue. Also, the film that the show used, at least in these early episodes well, appear to have deteriorated some over the years. Some episodes (Ramon in particular) seem to have deteriorated more than others. The audio is mono, but, for a TV series from 1975, 5.1 Surround Sound isn't expected. For monaural audio, the quality is decent, but if you're looking for earth-shattering sound, you won't find them here.

The episodes themselves are genuine treats. Each and every episode in the entire series has a multitude of funny moments, as well as more than one dramatic, and is sure to please fans of the series, and non-fans of multiple genres who may be renting the series or picking up the set on a lark alike. Supposedly, one or two episodes are edited. Having had VERY limited exposure to the series, I honestly can't tell for sure, but, most likely, it won't affect your viewing experience even if they are.

Special Features:

The TV-ographies aren't the best special feature in the universe, but for a Columbia-Tristar DVD set, any special features at ALL are appreciated. This feature is very much like it sounds, a miniature still biography about some of the principle actors from the season. That's essentially it, aside from trailers for other Sony TV DVD's, a "feature" you'll find on most all Sony discs.

Final Comments:

There's only two improvements I'd love to see on future releases, and one's a constant request for Columbia-Tristar DVD's, so you shouldn't be surprised to see it here. The special features are, like all Sony discs, next to non-existant. The Tv-Ographies are a step up from previous C-T releases, but are still light-years away from what other companies are putting out in terms of features. Deleted scenes, interviews with the cast, commentary tracks, anything. Also, nine shows is just too much for one of these discs to handle without running into video compression issues. The compression is enough on Disc 1 that even the average viewer will notice.

Other than said video issue, I love this set. It's a great season for a great show at a reasonable price. The episodes are good enough to turn even myself into a fan of the series. I highly recommend you pick the set up, or at the very least, PLEASE rent the set. It'll be worth the money, the series is of that high a quality.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 3 (First Disc), 4 (Second Disc)
Audio Quality: 4
Special Features: 4
Menu Design/Navigation: 4
Overall: 4

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 07/17/04

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