Or as he is known in real life,Steve Landesberg – 65 years young today.
Barney Miller was one of my favorite shows, and in a solid ensemble cast of ethnic characters and odd personalities, Steve’s droll and deadpan Arthur Dietrich provided some of the show’s biggest laughs. Brought on in the second season, he wasn’t a regular until midway through the series’ run, and in fact played a guest role as a felon prior to being cast as a detective.
At first, his calm wit was played off the easily agitated Ron Glass character Detective Harris (the first metrosexual on television?) before his eventual teaming with the frustrated uniform cop Carl Levitt. As the diminutive and gullible Officer Levitt, Ron Carey was the perfect foil for Landesberg’s intellectual smart-ass persona. Many of the later episodes features scenes totally focused on the brilliant interaction between the pair.
Steve was nominated for an Emmy three years running but didn’t win. Bad timing and great competition; from 1980 through 1982 the award went to Harry Morgan on M*A*S*H and both Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd from Taxi. Not bad company.
After Barney Miller went off the air I didn’t see much of him anywhere. Part of it was my non-TV lifestyle, but looking at his resume I don’t think I would have watched anything he was in anyway. But I was thrilled to see him pop up in a small but hilarious role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that perfect comic timing and deadpan humor still in place. And when I saw that he was in the cast of the Showtime comedy Head Case (where he plays Dr. Myron Finkelstein) I picked up the complete series DVD without a second thought.
I still remember cracking up the Dietrich was in an apartment talking to Fish’s daughter who was being harassed by her boyfriend. She tells Dietrich that if he comes to the door to tell him, in a masculine voice, to go away. When someone knocks on the door, Dietrich calmly tells the guy to go away…by imitating the voice of Gregory Peck as his iconic character Atticus Finch.
Video: “Fish” episode (scroll to the 12 minute mark)
That’s about three levels of funny, and a lesser actor would have ruined it with mugging and gestures. Landesberg nailed it by underplaying it and letting the absurdity of the moment sell the scene. I’m still laughing about it thirty years later…well played, Dietrich!
Happy Birthday, Steve.
Visit the official Emmy website for a list of the winners.
- Jimmy Fallon, you did great. That opening number will go down as one of the funniest and best kickoffs in the history of the telecast. You were funny throughout the night without being overbearing and milked that child-like innocence for all it was worth. And the musical impressions were pure gold.
- Although I was pulling for Terry O’Quinn to be recognized for his incredible work on Lost, I can’t argue with the award to Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad. I felt he should have won before, and it’s great to see that his peers recognized his efforts; so many other actors would have made Jesse Pinkman a caricature.
- Now that Bryan Cranston’s incredibly dramatic chops aren’t catching anyone off guard, I wonder how many will look back and realize just how much he deserved the award for his work on Malcolm In The Middle?
- It looks like 30 Rock hit the wall across the board – the show and leads Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin were collecting statues like clockwork but all three got shut out last night. I wonder if people are taking that show for granted already?
- Ricky Gervais proved again that every awards show needs to have him on stage for at least five minutes. Again, the funniest man in the room.
- If you told me that two people would stand up in the audience and take bows, I never would have come up with Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian. Never.
- Jorge Garcia and Jon Hamm during the “Born To Run” clip – priceless. (Hurley and Hamm does have a ring to it…)
- Claire Danes is starting to resemble Lauren Bacall.
- The Tweets sucked the life out of the moment anytime they were read. Dump the idea.
- Mad Men is an unstoppable force. Ensembles do rule.
- Tom Selleck looked like Gregory Peck in The Boys From Brazil.
- Usually those songs played during the Memorium sequence can be pretty lame, but I thought Jewel did a nice job. Might actually be the best song I’ve heard from her in years (not that I’m actively listening…)
- Some of the “we asked them this question” film clips were beyond painful, but the one with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd mocking the Old Spice man on a horse commercial was genius.
- Bucky Gunts!!
- January Jones looked like a Christmas ornament. And I’ll bet any hetero man in the first three rows – assuming there were any – appreciated the view.
- Archie Panjabi as Best Supporting Actress over Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks?. Are you kidding me?
- But the absolute MVP of the night has to go to John Hodgman, who did the hilarious voice-overs again this year. They were hysterical in their own right and make you realize just how stodgy and lame and unimaginative most award shows are. Too bad he couldn’t have scripted everything the presenters were told to say.