Abe Vigoda was confident Fish had the right blend of comedy and reality
Image credit: The Everett Collection
You may or may not remember the short-lived series, Fish. The series only lasted for two seasons before being canceled on ABC. The series premiered in 1977, around one of television's hottest times.
At the time, Fish had to compete with shows such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three's Company, and many more iconic series that have stood the test of time.
Fish was a spin-off from the popular sitcom, Barney Miller, where Abe Vigoda played Detective Phil Fish. However, the spin-off of Barney Miller didn't quite have the same legacy as the original - not even with Fish's familiar face leading the new series.
When Vigoda took the role on the spin-off, he did so knowing that spin-offs tend to be hits or misses. Some can be Laverne & Shirley, while others are The Tortellis.
Fans of Barney Miller expected Fish to be similar to the original iconic series, but there were some differences between the two comedies, and they were all Vigoda could see.
"There is no similarity," Vigoda said in a 1977 interview with The Peninsula Times-Tribune. "None whatsoever! Fish is based on total reality, and the humor will come out of that reality. The deeper the reality, the funnier the show will be."
Of course, Vigoda wanted Fish to be successful, but he was happy with making occasional appearances in Barney Miller while working to get his new show established. Even if Fish was a flop, he always had a home in Barney's squad room.
Vigoda said the chemistry between the cast was a major factor for why he felt the show would be a hit. He credited the casting directors on the series and said: "Getting the right cast is 80% of the battle."
"Because of its humanity and casting, I believe Fish will be one of the top shows on television," Vigoda said.
Vigoda started acting professionally in 1947 but credited the 1972 film The Godfather as the turning point in his career. It led him to a string of villain roles, various cop shows, and then Barney Miller.
"It's a very nice feeling that people recognize you, particularly when it happens in middle age and you've been in your field for so many years and nobody knew you," Vigoda said. "It's almost a million-to-one shot. It does prove to me something: That if you don't make it in your youth, you can make it in your middle age or even old."
Despite only having two seasons, Fish became a favorite for many who enjoyed their time with the short-lived series. Fish may have somewhat flopped, but at least Vigoda was never a fish out of water.