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Barney Miller: The Complete Series

Gift Guide: Concrete-jungle dicks of Barney Miller

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Dec. 2, 2011

Santa, Baby

Barney Miller: The Complete Series

Shout! Factory, $159.99

If you fondly recall that television sitcom from the end of the 1970s, the one about a diverse group of detectives working for the 12th Precinct in big, bad New York City, don't be alarmed by the pilot (and opening episodes) included to make this box set of Barney Miller complete. You've simply forgotten, as a perp might confuse his or her long-held alibi, that the series started out as half domestic comedy and half cop-shop antics before quickly evolving into the exclusively-at-the-precinct-house classic most of us recall.

There, I went and said "classic," didn't I? Guilty as charged, and I stand by the word. The show, featuring Hal Linden as the beleaguered but chill police captain and showcasing a wonderful ensemble of actors as the concrete-jungle dicks, is a fine TV snapshot of the culture of its time and often genuinely funny – thanks mostly to the character relationships, the vicissitudes of law enforcement serving the same galvanizing effect that surrealism affords the similarly character-driven Web comic Achewood.

By the time you get to the end of the series, all eight seasons' worth, you'll likely be wanting to check the "extras" of this box set. The interviews with the actors and the writers will be just what those things usually are, except that it's nothing but a pure delight to see more of Abe Vigoda – in character or out – which is why the inclusion of the brief spin-off series Fish's first season is a real bonus.

More workplace shenanigans: Law & Order: The Complete Series (Universal Studios, $699.99); The Office: 10th Anniversary Edition (BBC Warner, $39.98); Mission: Impossible – Extreme DVD Trilogy (Paramount, $26.99)

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