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  • Fair for Its Day: Among the recurring characters were a local gay couple, Marty and Darryl. While Marty (introduced first) was portrayed with the usual Camp Gay stereotypes of the era, when Darryl was later added the Camp was barely present. Barney always treated them with dignity and occasionally made a point of calling Wojo out on his homophobia. Uniformed officer Zatelli wasn't camp at all, and was only revealed to be a closeted homosexual after he'd already been a recurring character for some time; later episodes dealt with his fear of the effect being outed would have on his career, and his later coming out himself in support of other gays on the force.
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  • Genius Bonus: One episode featured a tall, balding curly headed, eccentric man who wore a long striped scarf and claimed to be a time traveller. Typical American viewers would probably not have noticed at the time, but those in the know would have saw a resemblance to the fourth (then current) incarnation of Doctor Who.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The second season's opening features a view of the New York skyline with the World Trade Center prominently featured. The first episode of that season is entitled "Doomsday" and centers around a suicide bomber attempting to destroy the 12th Pencinct. Not harsh enough? The aforementioned episode aired on September 11, 1975.
    • The second storyline in "The Doll" (1981) concerns an optician who wants to be one of the first space shuttle passengers. A NASA official tells him that his occupation qualifies him to be considered as a mission specialist. In a buoyant mood, he prepares to leave, only to have Dietrich tell him not to worry about the heat shielding tiles falling off and causing a possible re-entry disaster. (The optician's name is Eugene Corbett, a possible Shout-Out to Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.)
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    • The fourth-season episode "Appendicitis," where Nick has to get an emergency appendectomy, became this after Jack Soo was diagnosed with esophageal cancer during the next season.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In one episode, a crime victim tells Fish that he looks like Boris Karloff. (Fish: That's because we're both dead.) In 1986, Abe Vigoda would star in a Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace as Jonathan Brewster, a part originally played by Karloff. The line "He said I looked like Boris Karloff" had been kept in The Movie when Raymond Massey played Jonathan.
    • In the second episode, a bomber is on the loose and Barney is looking through records. One suspect is Sheldon Hoffsteder.
    • An overweight burglar tells Harris that he's going to end up fat one day too, because "I can always tell who's going to end up like this." When Ron Glass was cast as the preacher Shepherd Book in Firefly, the costume designer restarted all the "flowing robe" designs she'd done for the character when she saw how buff Ron Harris still was thirty years later.
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  • Moment of Awesome: When Wentworth saves a union leader from assassination, Scanlon (then a lieutenant at Manhattan South) steals her collar and then files a complaint against her when she protests. Barney is unable to convince him to give her proper credit, but Harris makes Wentworth's actions the focus of his column in his department newsletter... which, as it directly contradicts the official version, would cause quite a few questions downtown. Scanlon is forced to back down after Harris reads it out for the squad and Barney refuses to censor it.
  • More Popular Replacement: The series had as one of the detectives for the first two years Chano Amenguale, an excitable Puerto Rican who didn't really make as much of an impression as other characters like Yemana or Harris or Fish. When actor Gregory Sierra left the cast after two seasons, he was replaced by Steve Landesberg as detective Arthur Dietrich, The Comically Serious Deadpan Snarker who became a fan favorite and stuck around for the rest of the show's run.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Frank Dungan and Jeff Stein wrote 39 episodes as well as served as producers and story editors. Both are best known as developers and executive producers of Mr. Belvedere.
    • Reinhold Weege wrote 34 episodes as well as served as producer and story editor. Weege is best known as creator and executive producer of Night Court.
    • Howard Leeds wrote an episode. Leeds is best known as creator and executive producer of Small Wonder as well as for co-creating Silver Spoons and co-developing The Facts of Life.
    • Sam Simon also wrote an episode. Simon is best known as co-developer and co-executive producer of The Simpsons.
  • The Scrappy: Levitt. Ron Carey was a good comedy actor, but Levitt's sycophantic comments and shamelessly passive-aggressive behavior towards Barney, and acting like It's All About Me while there was an obvious situation (even crisis) that Barney had to interrupt him for, made him very grating on some viewers. It made it hard to understand why Barney would bend over backwards dissuading him from a request to transfer rather than instantly accepting it.
  • Tear Jerker: The out-of-character "Jack Soo: A Retrospective" made in tribute after Soo passed away from cancer. The show never did an episode to give an in-universe death to Nick, but the somber way in which all the characters spoke when his name was mentioned afterwards makes it clear that they were mourning him.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The rape episode. Although the female DA treats the case seriously and laments that there will be other opportunities to test it in court, it's presented as a comedy storyline and the man is treated not so much as abusive (although he willingly admits that he forced his wife) but as someone who needs to learn how to have a candlelit dinner, and his wife as someone who should probably put out more.
    • Additionally, instances of battered wives were Played for Laughs in a few episodes.
    • The second season episode "Heat Wave" combined the two for extra helpings of dissonance. The A-plot involves Wojo almost being raped while disguised as a woman to catch muggers, and Detective Wentworth being offended that the would-be rapist didn't pick her. The B-plot involves a battered wife with a huge, ghastly bruise over most of her face deciding whether to press charges against her husband. Lots of laughs (from a live audience, not a laugh track) all around, and the applause she got for deciding not to sign the complaint ("He once made love to me in a field of daisies!") was much bigger and more enthusiastic than the applause she got for coming back a couple of minutes later and signing it.
    • In "Dog Days", Wojo and Yemana break up a dog-fighting ring and bring in a suspect. Barney gives him a ration for pitting helpless animals against each other, but his treatment of dog-fighting as an ordinary sport and talking as if he were a boxing trainer seems kind of Played for Laughs. Or maybe he's just Affably Evil.
  • Values Resonance: "The Harris Incident." Black detective Harris is shot at by white cops while he's trying to make an arrest. This still happens today, often with tragic results.
  • The Woobie: Levitt can be one. Even if he's sometimes obnoxious, he longs for respect (and a promotion) and is constantly denied it. Also, Wojo, despite his intimidating appearance, has a child-like need for reassurance that turns him into a Woobie quite often.
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