Barney Miller

Season 1 Episode 11

Escape Artist

Aired Thursday 8:00 PM Apr 10, 1975 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

A self-avowed "bird-man" drops in; Barney holds a resourceful escaped prisoner for the FBI; Harris decides to write a novel.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • The First Perfect Barney Miller Episode

    Every series takes a little while to find its footing. Characters develop, ideas are tried and abandoned, an identity is sought for. In its 11th episode Barney Miller managed find all three in a terrific story that features all the things that will Barney Miller the classic it is today.

    It's a sign of great writing and acting that this early into its run, the show hits what seems to be an effortless grand slam home run. The characters are fully formed and have developed a casual camaraderie typical of people who work closely. The comedy is sharp while never feeling silly or farcical (although it is a hilarious episode). The pacing allows each character their moments to shine. And the humanity that is the hallmark of the show shines through.

    What's especially amazing is how (whether through accident or design) all the story lines running through the squad room share the same theme. This is a slice of life all about the costs of pursuing your dreams. We have Roscoe Lee Browne's charming and wise fugitive who no jail, prison or cell can hold unless he wishes it, but whose constant escapes have added years on to his prison sentence that he otherwise would not have served (Browne received an Emmy nomination for this role). We have Leonard Frey's crackpot engineer whose dreams of flying have put him on the ledge of a building with homemade wings and then into cell in the 12th Precinct. And we have Harris whose dreams of success have led him to attempt a career as a novelist. The ups and downs of Harris' writing career will run from this episode to the very end of the series.

    This is the first truly memorable episode of the series and one that is not only laugh out loud funny, but strangely thought provoking as well. It is one of those episodes that you will show friends to demonstrate why this series is still so fondly remembered after all these years.

    And I guarantee you will never hear "The Impossible Dream" the same way again.moreless
Hal Linden

Hal Linden

Capt. Barney Miller

Abe Vigoda

Abe Vigoda

Det. Sgt. Phil Fish

Ron Glass

Ron Glass

Det. Ron Harris

Jack Soo

Jack Soo

Det. Nick Yemana

Gregory Sierra

Gregory Sierra

Det Chano Amangual

Barbara Barrie

Barbara Barrie

Elizabeth Miller

Roscoe Lee Browne

Roscoe Lee Browne

Charlie 'The Happy Wanderer' Jeffers

Guest Star

Leonard Frey

Leonard Frey


Guest Star

Judson Pratt

Judson Pratt

Lt. Faraday

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Gusek insists that his wings are not "chazerai." This is a Yiddish word meaning junk or trash.

    • One unusual aspect of this episode: Usually the other detectives complained about the way Yemana made the coffee; here, Yemana was the one that first complained about it.

    • This would be the beginning of the 'Harris writing a novel' story arc that would last throughout the entirety of the series.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Barney: (entering and seeing Jeffers in the cage) I see Mr. Jeffers is still here.
      Yemana: Only beacuse he like it here.

    • Harris: Hey, Yemana. How do say "Get me a cup of coffee" in Japanese?
      Yemana: Why?
      Harris: Well, see I got this Japanese detective in my novel, see, and every morning when he comes in he says "get me a cup of coiffee" but it's in Japanese.
      Yemana: Are there any other Japanese detectives in the room?
      Harris: No.
      Yemana: Then who's going to understand?
      Harris: Hey, what's the difference? It just adds a little color to the book. Come on. Give it up.
      Yemana: Uh... 私ã"ã'³ãƒ¼ãƒ'ーã''å¾-なさã"
      Fish: (arriving) Get it yourself. What am I? Your maid?

    • Wojo: (referring to the informant) The guy'd sell his own brother for fifty bucks.
      Fish: Seventy five. He gets out next June.
      Wojo: You're kidding.
      Fish: Didn't you like it?
      Wojo: It wasn't bad.
      Fish: Then how about a little smile?

    • Barney: (reading a newspaper) "Detectives Amangual and Wojciehowicz arrest..." Oh, they spelled your name wrong again, Wojo.
      Wojo: I don't believe it. You spell it the way it sounds—Wojciehowicz.

    • Barney: Anything happening I should know about?
      Everyone: Harris is writing a book.
      Barney: A capella. Pretty good. I had in mind something more in the nature of a crime.
      Yemana: The coffee.
      Barney: I would hesitate to call our coffee a crime. A shame maybe... (takes a sip of the coffee) Oh, that's a crime.

    • (Barney is trying to organize a rescue team for Mr. Gusik, who has escaped to the roof)
      Yemana: Barney... He jumped.
      Barney: Oh, my God. Was he killed?
      Yemana: Nope. He just flew all the way to the ground, sailing in a big circle. Just as pretty as anything you've ever saw. Landed right in front of the ambulance.
      Chano: What'd they do with him?
      Yemana They took him to Bellevue.
      Barney: I don't know what for.

    • Jeffers: Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.
      Harris: This cat is dynamite. I'm going to write that down.
      Barney: It seems you found an admirer.
      Jeffers: Do me a favor—don't tell him it's from Aldous Huxley until after I leave.

    • Fish: (shaking Jeffers' hand),Oh, Charlie Jeffers. How are you?
      Jeffers: How do you do?
      Fish: I recognize you from your APB circulars.
      Jeffers: I'm sorry to hear that.

  • NOTES (3)

    • The very day he starts writing his novel Harris tells Chano that he can't put him in the book because "You can't use real people. You'd get sued." Ironically this is exactly happens to Harris in Season Seven after he includes in the book a character based on slime ball lawyer Arnold Ripner.

    • This is the first of Leonard Frey's two, unrelated appearances on Barney Miller. He can also be seen in season six's "Vanished."

    • Roscoe Lee Browne was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1976 for Outstanding Single Performance By A Supporting Actor for this episode.