Baretta was a 1970s crime drama TV series which aired from 1975 to 1978, originally on ABC, for a total of four seasons and 82 episodes. The title comes from the main character, a plainclothes New York City police officer named Anthony “Tony” Baretta, played by Robert Blake. The show was based on an earlier show called Toma, which in turn was based on the life of a real police officer named David Toma who was known for his many disguises (the use of disguises is a staple of both Toma and Baretta) and successful apprehension of many drug lords. Toma was once hailed as the “greatest cop alive” by the New York Daily News.
Tony Musante, who played David Toma in the show Toma, only agreed to film one season of the show and so left after the first season was finished filming. Robert Blake stepped in to fill in the role and was going to continue playing David Toma, but ABC figured it would be best to give Blake his own concept and a clean slate, and so the show Toma transformed into Baretta. Baretta was overall a milder version of Toma, which had been a more violent series.
The character of Tony Baretta is a maverick, “loose-canon” cop who doesn’t play by the rules (which often lead him into conflict with Inspector Shiller) He sometimes would use unorthodox tactics to catch the bad guys and was known for his catchphrases, including, “And that’s the name of the tune” or “You can take that to the bank!” Baretta was sometimes helped in his cases by the street pimp and informant Rooster.
The theme song of the show, sung by Sammy Davis Jr. (lyrics were added a couple of seasons in – originally it was just instrumental), was well-liked and popularized the phrase “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” (another one of Baretta’s catchphrases). A version of it, recorded by rock band El Chicano, became very popular overseas in countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, France, and Turkey. Overall, the show is remembered as being a staple of 1970s detective TV series, and many of the writers who worked on it would go on to work on another beloved crime show, The Rockford Files.
“Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow” – Baretta Theme Song:
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