“Barney Miller” co-star Max Gail will launch community-oriented TV pilot

Former “Barney Miller” co-star Max Gail will launch an online video series here with an eye toward getting picked up by a TV network.

The two-time Emmy nominee has begun splitting his time between Malibu, where he has lived for years, and Chicago, where his wife and children reside.

Gail runs LAP, an online venture dedicated to facilitating community access to information technology. He plans to combine LAP’s decentralized community focus with the collaborative environment of “Barney Miller” to launch the new online/TV series “LAP-In,” drawing elements from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and open source computer software.

“What I saw on ?Barney Miller’ was an ensemble not just of the cast but of the writers and camera people, growing out of the personality of the guy who created the show, Danny Arnold,” Gail said. “LAP evolved out of my saying, ?What might I do that I would be a caretaker like Danny was for ?Barney Miller?'”

Gail credits the collaborative environment of the police station comedy, which ran from 1975 to 1982, with stimulating some of the series’ innovations: it was one of the first contemporary comedies to shoot with the director on the floor rather than in the control room, to eliminate the studio audience and to edit rather than relying on live switching.

He envisions “LAP-In” as a series of community-based performances that would initially stream live online. A celebrity host “maybe friends of mine like Eddie Olmos or Martin Sheen or Ed Begley in the role of lifeguards in the talent pool,” could help attract network interest, Gail mused.

He intends the program to be a self-replicating phenomenon that will reproduce itself in other cities, modeled after the Chicago pilot. “Chicago is a wonderful place to start it up, with the proximity of theater and music and improv emerging out of the city.”

Gail launched his acting career playing Chief Broom in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” onstage in San Francisco and New York. The role drew Gail into a lifelong connection with Native American artists and activists.

He founded the production company Full Circle Productions in 1980. Full Circle has produced documentaries on Native American, environmental and nuclear issues, including “Secret Agent,” “Gentle Angry People,” “Wrong Side of the Fence,” and “For All My Relations.”

In addition to “Barney Miller” and dozens of guest appearances, Gail was a cast member and director on the 1983 series “Whiz Kids.” His film credits include “Judgment Day” and “Dirty Harry.”

Email max@lap.org.

– by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com