A former band clarinettist and vocalist, Hal Linden studied drama at the American Theatre Wing. His big Broadway break came in 1958, when he was engaged to understudy Sydney Chaplin in the musical comedy Bells are Ringing; Linden played Chaplin's character, Jeffrey Moss, a handful of times on Broadway and on a full-time basis in the touring company (reportedly, he also showed up in the 1960 film version of Bells are Ringing, though the "official" starting point of his film career was 1979's When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?) During the 1960s, Linden's time was occupied by his stage work in musicals like Wildcat, The Apple Tree and Illya Darling; from time to time, he'd pop up on a Manhattan-filmed TV series like Car 54 Where Are You? or The Defenders and was a regular on the CBS daytime drama Search for Tomorrow.
In 1974, Linden won a Tony award for his work in the Broadway musical The Rothschilds. The next year, Barney Miller, a sitcom for which Linden had lensed a pilot in 1972, was picked up as a mid-season replacement by ABC. Linden would play harried Greenwich village police captain Barney Miller from 1975 through 1980, collecting five Emmy nominations, but-astonishingly -- no actual awards. Hal Linden's subsequent TV series work has included hosting stints on the ABC informational weeklies Animals, Animals, Animals and FYI, and top-billed starring roles on Blacke's Magic (1988), Jack's Place (1992) and One of the Boys (1994); he co-starred in the latter with another perennial Emmy Awards bridesmaid, Suzanne Pleshette.
His less than extensive big-screen resume includes A New Life, Killers in the House, and Time Changer.