Tag Archives: Steve Landesberg

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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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #9

Normally when a band gives itself four stars, it’s unwarranted. Not this time.

Craig Fox, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler might have been on hiatus from The Greenhornes, but they’ve been actively peppering your album collection as members of The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or backing up Loretta Lynn with Jack White on Van Lear Rose. You can have the Animal Collective; I’ll take Brendan Benson, Jack White and the collaborative Venn diagram between Cincinnati and Detroit that’s released some of the most vibrant music of the decade.

Their marriage of 60s blues rock and garage pop is revered in the same circles that bow to The Lyres, The Chesterfield Kings and a serious chunk of the Underground Garage playlist. Basically anyone with a solid rock’n’roll pulse.

Video: “I’ve Been Down”

Eight years after their last album release, the boys are (finally) back in town, and Four Stars kicks ass from jump street. While “Saying Goodbye” blends the early Who (right down to the Keith Moon drum fills) and The Kinks, the standout is the organ-drenched “Better Off Without It”. My immediate first impression, oddly, was Wilco circa Being There; a pure garage-pop-psychedelia-blues hybrid that makes me turn up the volume and hit the replay button again and again and again. And my god…Craig Fox’s voice?

Easily one of the best songs of the year – listen for yourself!

Yet another example of the great music sailing under most people’s radar. If you’re not already hooked into these guys, catch up now and stay focused.

The Greenhornes website

The Greenhornes on MySpace

Jack White’s Third Man Records

Lost a few people over the past week; Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Captain Beefheart and Blake Edwards. And yesterday, sadly, Steve Landesberg lost his battle with cancer. I recently paid tribute to the man on his birthday, but like just about everyone, I had no idea that he fudged his age until today.

So a belated 76th birthday, Steve, not a 65th. RIP regardless.

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In Praise of Arthur Dietrich

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.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten for Adrian Monk

Bye, Monk...and thanks.

After eight seasons, we bid farewell to Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective created by Andy Breckman and brilliantly portrayed by Tony Shaloub. Clever plots, great writing, humor and pathos and a strong ensemble cast (especially the great Ted Levine as his captain). The San Francisco locales and wonderful Randy Newman theme were a plus to a show that always entertained and managed the rare feat of going out on top.

I’m sure all those reruns will be welcome channel-surfing accidents many times in the future, though a quality show like this certainly merits a buy. It made me recall a few other television sleuths and cops that I enjoyed for so long that now only live on in reruns and DVDs as well.

TV will always churn out a good cop show, and I’m enjoying a few of them this year. Many of them feature strong ensemble casts with many good characters, as do some of the old favorites below. (Really, was there anyone on Homicide or The Shield that wasn’t great?) But today’s ten-spot pays tribute to Monk and these nine other favorites that I used to set the recorder for, great characters no longer on active duty…

Fox Mulder, The X-Files…unfortunately the series choked on its own logic loopholes, but that was must-watch TV for years and I will still stay up to watch a random rerun.

Frank Pembleton, HomicideAndre Braugher‘s cerebral cop suffered a crisis or conscience as well as a physical disability. No slight to several of the other detectives in that room on one of the best shows television ever aired.

Lenny Briscoe, Law and Order…the quintessential NYC cop on the original version of the franchise. The late great Jerry Orbach was a giant.

Andy Sipowicz, NYPD Blue…originally a second banana to David Caruso‘s John Kelly (and Caruso was good on this show), he became the heart and soul of the program. Dennis Franz was every real life cop’s favorite fictional one.

Mike Torello, Crime StoryDennis Farina was a cop in real life, and although this glossy show only lasted two seasons it boasted an amazing cast and an exciting storyline. Tons of guest stars and ensemble players including a very credible turn from Andrew Dice Clay.

John LaRue, Hill Street BluesKiel Martin’s character always had some get-rich-quick scheme going and often fell prey to his weaknesses, but redemption is always a good theme in a police drama and he nailed it… twice.

Arthur Dietrich, Barney Miller…sure, the show was primarily a comedy and Steve Landesberg did more riffing of one liners than actual detective work. But anyone whose dry wit and droll delivery is that perfect is OK by me.

Vinnie Terranova, Wiseguy…Undercover cop, mobster, record label mogul, gun runner; didn’t matter. Ken Wahl brought a strong series to life and was blessed by breakout performances by guest villains Ray Sharkey and Kevin Spacey, among others.

Holland Wagenbach, The Shield…in a precinct full of corrupt cops (most of whom you rooted for), The Dutchman was often the butt of the joke and the target of abuse. But he was the moral center of the unit and a brilliant detective, and once he started to assert himself the character arc got that much more fascinating. Great work by Jay Karnes.

Two reasons I watch The Closer.

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