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Finally, Barney Miller.

Finally, the entire classic series is available.

Barney Miller ranks right up there with Soap, Cheers, Taxi and the other great sitcoms of the 70s and 8os, although up until now it has gotten sold short in the home video market. Thanks to Shout Factory, yet another great blast from the past gets the proper treatment with a box set complete with extras.

I must admit I’m a little PO’d that they didn’t release the other seasons individually, but the reason is that Sony didn’t sell enough of the first three seasons to warrant releasing the remainder. But at the price – certain to dip a bit over time – I can buy the whole shebang cheaper than if I picked up the remainder of the shows year by year. Eight seasons and one hundred sixty-eight episodes plus commentaries, booklets and even the first series of Vigoda’s spin-off, Fish. That’s a great deal, even at list price.

Video: some early highlights

I won’t go overboard trying to sell you on the show; like most long-running programs there is enough video and commentary to let you make up your own mind. But it does give me a chance to tip my cap to a great ensemble who provided me with years of laughter over eight seasons: Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, Abe Vigoda, Jack Soo, Ron Glass, Max Gail, Greg Sierra, James Gregory, Ron Carey, and my favorite, the late great Steve Landesberg. The parade of oddball guest stars in the precinct house also featured a bevy of now-recognizable actors.

So I guess my Dad (who loved the show) will be the beneficiary of my three seasonal box sets. Come October, I’m all in on Barney Miller.

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Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

R.I.P. Peter Yates

Peter Yates helmed three of the most iconic films of my life.

The first, Bullitt, simultaneously instilled Steve McQueen as the epitome of cool and provided what remains one of the best car chases ever filmed. Of course, the film boasted an incredible plot, a first-rate cast (Robert Vaughn, Simon Oakland, Don Gordon, Normal Fell) and even featured a young Robert Duvall as a cabbie. Yates used McQueen’s quiet and internal performance as a guide, and the silences in the film are as critical as the action; it continues to reveal nuances in later viewings. I can still watch the film beginning to end and thoroughly enjoy it even though I’ve seen it more than a dozen times.

The second, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, was a brilliant crime film set in Boston starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle and featuring an excellent ensemble cast including Alex Rocco, Richard Jordan and Steven Keats. (Keats’ character was a gun runner named Jackie Brown; Quentin Tarantino would later pay tribute to this film by using that name.) Mitchum was excellent as the aging and desperate small timer trying to survive, it’s easily one of the best performances of his career. I still believe this underrated film is still one of the best crime thrillers ever made.

Years later, a small coming-of-age film set in Indiana would catch me off-guard. Breaking Away captured struggles that many have transitioning from adolescence to adulthood – the social caste system, the depth of infatuation and romance, the testing of friendships, the loss of innocence and acceptance of responsibility and consequence. Centered on four townies living in Bloomington whose lives are overwhelmed by the presence of Indiana University, the film uses the “Little 500” bike race as the catalyst to mirror the transition in everyone’s lives. Yates was blessed with a supporting a cast of pros (Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley as Dennis Christopher’s parents) and soon-to-be-more-famous actors (Daniel Stern, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley). An absolute feel-good movie.

Yates made other films I enjoyed – Suspect, Eyewitness, The Dresser among them – but these three are all time classics.

Yates, a four-time Oscar nominee, was 82.

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