Baretta was one of those early Stephen J. Cannell productions that debuted on ABC in 1975. The show had 82 episodes over four seasons.
Many may have forgotten that the show took over where Toma left off. Toma was a short-lived series that ran on ABC starring Tony Musante. Musante’s character was a master at disguise. The show was modeled after a real-life New Jersey police officer named David Toma. Musante left the show after one season, the network renamed the show BARETTA and recast the show starring The Little Rascals’ “MICKEY” (Robert Blake) who was given a tremendous amount of control over the character and the show.
Let’s go back to 1975 for this show’s pilot episode.
With great costumes, a bird named Fred and a cast of characters that ran the gamut of 70’s cop shows, the theme song was outstanding. “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow,” was sung by Sammy Davis Jr. Originally, the song was instrumental. The lyrics were added in later seasons. Every episode of Baretta began with the song, which contained the motto, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” According to Blake, studio executives did not want Davis’s vocals for the theme song for fear that audiences would confuse Baretta for being a black series. Blake threatened to leave production if Davis’s recording was rejected. His bosses relented.