Thursday, December 30, 2010
Barbara Billingsley (IMDB / Wikipedia), who of course played June Cleaver in the 1950s-1960s sitcom Leave it to Beaver, died October 16, 2010 after a long illness at her home in Santa Monica, California. When the show debuted in 1957 on CBS, Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, was 9, and Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally, was 12. Billingsley's character, the perfect stay-at-home mom, was always there to gently but firmly nurture both through the ups and downs of childhood. The show moved to ABC for its remaining seasons. Barbara's TV husband Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver, died in 1982.
After Leave it to Beaver left the air in 1963 on ABC, Billingsley largely disappeared from public view for several years. She resurfaced in 1980 in a hilarious cameo in the big screen movie Airplane! playing a demure elderly passenger not unlike June Cleaver. She returned as June Cleaver in a 1983 TV movie, Still the Beaver, that costarred Mathers and Dow and portrayed a much darker side of Beaver's life. In his mid-30s, Beaver was unemployed, unable to communicate with his own sons and going through a divorce. Wally, a successful lawyer, was handling the divorce, and June was at a loss to help her son through the transition. "Ward, what would you do?" she asked at the site of her husband's grave.
The movie revived interest in the Cleaver family, and the Disney Channel launched The New Leave It to Beaver as a series in 1985. That series took a more hopeful view of the Cleavers than the TV movie, with Beaver winning custody of his two sons and all three moving in with June. Years later in 1997, Universal made a Leave it to Beaver theatrical film with a new generation of actors. Billingsley returned for a cameo, however, as Aunt Martha.
She has guest starred on many series over the years as well. She has appeared on The Abbott & Costello Show, The Danny Thomas Show, Mork & Mindy, Silver Spoons, Murphy Brown, The Love Boat, Empty Nest, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Hi Honey I'm Home, Amazing Stories, Baby Boom and had a memorable comic turn opposite fellow TV moms June Lockhart of Lassie and Isabel Sanford of The Jeffersons on Roseanne in 1995. Her last role was on an episode of My Name is Earl in 2007.
Besides Leave it to Beaver and The New Leave it to Beaver, she was a regular on a few other series as well. Many remember her as the voice of the nanny on the '80s animated series The Muppet Babies, as we never saw the face of the nanny (or her name). Before she was June Cleaver, she had two short-lived sitcoms. The CBS sitcom in 1955 titled Professional Father and the 1956-57 CBS sitcom The Brothers. Ms. Billingsley was 94.
Barry Blitzer (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Veteran television writer Barry Blitzer, who wrote for classic TV shows such as Get Smart and The Flintstones, died on January 27, 2010 in Santa Monica, Calif from complications after abdominal surgery. Blitzer shared a Writers Guild nomination in 1968 for Get Smart, with co-writer and frequent collaborator Raymond Brenner. He wrote for comedies including The Phil Silvers Show, Gomer Pyle, Andy Griffith Show, The Love Boat, Hot L Baltimore, Too Close for Comfort, McHale's Navy, Filthy Rich, Small Wonder, and Good Times.
In addition to The Flinstones, Blitzer also wrote episodes for other Hanna Barbera cartoons like The Jetsons, The Flinstone Kids, The New Yogi Bear Show, and Top Cat, as well as children's programs including Land of the Lost. He was also the last surviving member of the group of writers who shared a 1956 Best Comedy Writing Emmy for The Phil Silvers Show (for the episode, "You'll Never Get Rich").
He was also a story editor for the animated versions of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Laverne & Shirley in the Army), along with writing episodes for The Partridge Family animated series Partridge Family 2200 AD. Mr. Blitzer was 80.
Tom Bosley (IMDB / Wikipedia) was a warm and comforting presence on American TV sets for decades. Bosley, best known as the often flustered but always fatherly Howard Cunningham on Happy Days, died on October 19, 2010 in Palm Springs, CA. Bosley died of heart failure at a hospital and also had lung cancer.
Bosley earned a place as one of the most memorable dads in TV history as the hardware store owner, father to Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and landlord to Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) on the long-running sitcom. He played well with his TV wife Marion Ross as well. The sitcom was set in the '50s/60s but aired on ABC from 1974-1984. The series became the #1 show on television by its third season.
Angela Lansbury played Bosley's unfaithful wife in the 1964 Peter Sellers film The World of Henry Orient. Then decades later, from 1984 to 1988, Bosley played a recurring role in Lansbury's long-running TV series, Murder, She Wrote, as folksy Sheriff Amos Tupper. Bosley also played the crime-solving priest in television's The Father Dowling Mysteries, which ran from 1989 to 1991 on ABC.
But it was his fame from Happy Days that lead him to serve as a pitchman for GLAD trash bags along with other products on commercials. Among his many appearances on other TV series include Diagnosis: Unknown, The Law and Mr. Jones, Car 54 Where Are You, Route 66, Ben Casey, The Defenders, The F.B.I., Get Smart, The Virginian, The Mod Squad, Bonanza, Marcus Welby MD, The Bill Cosby Show, Night Gallery, Bewitched, Mission: Impossible, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The New Temperatures Rising Show, Medical Center, Maude, The Paul Lynde Show, Love American Style, McMillan & Wife, The Love Boat, Streets of San Francisco, Joanie Loves Chachi, Finders of Lost Love, Hotel, Out of this World, Burke's Law, The Drew Carey Show, Boy Meets World, Early Edition, Walker Texas Ranger, ER, Family Law, Touched by an Angel, It's All Relative, Still Standing, One Tree Hill, Family Guy, That '70s Show, and more. He was also a regular on the short lived 1969-70 CBS comedy The Debbie Reynolds Show and the 1972 CBS sitcom The Sandy Duncan Show. He then voiced the character of Harry Boyle on the animated comedy Wait Till Your Father Gets Home from 1972-74 and after that of course came Happy Days. There were a few Happy Days reunion retrospectives as well. Happy Days Reunion Special in 1992 and Happy Days: 30th Anniversary Reunion in 2005, which both aired on ABC. Mr. Bosley was 83.
Stephen J. Cannell (IMDB / Wikipedia) - The bestselling novelist and Emmy-winning TV producer of hits like The A-Team, The Rockford Files and 21 Jump Street, died at his Pasadena home of complications of melanoma on September 30, 2010. Earlier in his career, he wrote for iconic series including Adam-12, Mission: Impossible and It Takes a Thief before founding Stephen J. Cannell Productions in 1979, a company that churned out classic action adventure series The Rockford Files, Baretta, Black Sheep Squadron, The A-Team, Riptide, The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, Hardcastle and McCormick, Stingray, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, Renegade, The Commish, Profit and so many more.
Cannell most recently served as Producer and Creative Consultant for the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team and has appeared as himself in episodes of the current ABC television series, Castle, where he joined fellow authors James Patterson and Michael Connelly as one of Castle's (Nathan Fillion) poker buddies. He was also a producer for Castle and appeared on a season two DVD bonus feature. Mr. Cannell was 69.
Dixie Carter (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Television, film and stage actress Dixie Carter died on April 10 in Houston, TX from complications of endometrial cancer. She is probably best known for her role as interior decorator Julia Sugarbaker on the 1986-1993 CBS sitcom Designing Women. The series also starred Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, Meschach Taylor, Julia Duffy, Jan Hooks and Judith Ivey.
Carter made her professional stage debut in a Memphis production of Carousel in 1960. In 1963, she moved to New York City and got a part in a production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. After taking a break from acting, she had a role on One Life to Live in 1974. From 1974-1976, she appeared on the daytime soap opera The Edge of Night as Assistant District Attorney Olivia Brandeis Henderson. Her first sitcom role was in On Our Own from 1977-1978 on CBS. The series also starred Lynnie Greene, Bess Armstrong and Gretchen Wyler. Later she appeared on the short-lived ABC sitcom Out of the Blue which lasted for 8 episodes. In 1982-1983, she appeared as Carlotta Beck on the CBS sitcom Filthy Rich. One of her co-stars was Delta Burke. The series was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason who went on to create Designing Women and cast her in that. Her next major role was as Maggie McKinney, the girlfriend and later the wife of Philip Drummond, on Diff'rent Strokes for 28 episodes from 1984-1985. When the show moved to ABC for the final season in 1985-1986, she was replaced by Mary Ann Mobley. In 1986, the long-running Designing Women began and produced 163 episodes over 7 seasons. Her real-life husband, Hal Holbrook, had a recurring role as her boyfriend, Reese Watson, on the show. They were married on May 27, 1984.
She had several other television roles after the series ended. In 1999-2000, she appeared as Peaches in 9 episodes of Ladies Man with Alfred Molina, Sharon Lawrence and Betty White. From 1999-2002, she played Randy King on the legal drama Family Law. Her last major TV role was as Gloria Hodge, the surly mother-in-law to Marcia Cross's Bree and mother of Kyle MacLachlan's Orson on Desperate Housewives. She was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her seven-episode stint in 2007. Some of her other television credits included Cassie & Co., Bret Maverick, Best of the West, Quincy, M.E., The Greatest American Hero, Lou Grant, Crazy Like a Fox, Christy, Diagnosis: Murder, Fired Up and Hope & Faith. Ms. Carter was 70.
Martin Cohan (IMDB / Wikipedia), the co-creator of classic sitcoms Silver Spoons and Who's the Boss?, died May 19, 2010 in Pacific Palisades, CA, of complications from large cell lymphoma.
Mr. Cohan started his career as a stage manager/assistant director at ABC after graduating from Stanford University. He worked under Mike Nicholls on Catch-22. During the 1970's Cohan moved over to sitcoms and wrote for shows such as All in the Family, The Odd Couple, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Partridge Family, Flying High, Diff'rent Strokes, Hello Larry, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for which he won a Writers Guild Award. He also wrote, produced and directed episodes of The Bob Newhart Show.
In the '80s, Mr. Cohan created Tony Danza-Judith Light sitcom Who's the Boss with his partner Blake Hunter in 1984. The show would run for eight seasons on ABC and introduced us to Alyssa Milano. He also composed the theme song for the sitcom. Mr. Cohan was 77.
Gary Coleman (IMDB / Wikipedia) was admitted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah on May 26, 2010 in critical condition after falling down the stairs at his home in Santaquin and hitting his head, possibly after another seizure, and suffering an epidural hematoma. According to a hospital spokesman, Coleman was "conscious and lucid" the next morning, but his condition subsequently worsened. By mid-afternoon on May 27, Coleman was unconscious and on life support. He died at 12:05 pm MDT May 28, 2010.
Gary was of course best known for his role of Arnold Jackson-Drummond on the hit sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, that ran from 1978-86 on NBC/ABC. He made his mark on this sitcom and became one of the most well-known faces on all of television at the time. Coleman became the most popular fixture of the show, enhanced by his character's catchphrase "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" At the height of his fame on Diff'rent Strokes, he earned as much as $100,000 per episode. Before he was on Diff'rent Strokes, Gary guest starred with memorable appearances on The Jeffersons and Good Times. His other guest appearances include Medical Center, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Simon & Simon, Amazing Stories, 227, Married with Children, Martin, Unhappily Ever Ater, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Homeboys in Outer Space, The Jamie Foxx Show, Parent'hood, The Naked Truth, Wayans Bros., Shasta McNasty, The Simpsons, The Hughleys, The Drew Carey Show, The Rerun Show, Son of the Beach, My Wife & Kids, Baby Bob, The Parkers, and more.
Gary also starred on his own short-lived animated series The Gary Coleman Show in 1982. He starred in many TV movies in the early '80s including The Kid from Left Field, Scout's Honor, The Kid with the Broken Halo, Jimmy the Kid, The Kid with the 200 I.Q., and Playing with Fire.
Gary has had many troubles over the years. Besides his health problems, he has had marriage problems (he even appeared on Divorce Court), financial problems, and was in trouble with the law for multiple items including assault and domestic abuse. We won't go much into detail of his problems, but you can read that on RadarOnline. Gary also ran for governor of California in 2003's infamous recall election, coming in 8th place out of 135 candidates. Mr. Coleman was only 42.
Robert Culp (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Actor, screenwriter and director Robert Culp died on March 24, 2010. He was on a walk when he fell and struck his head outside his Los Angeles home. It was later determined that he collapsed and died due to a massive heart attack.
Culp is probably best known for his role as special agent Kelly Robinson on I Spy, the 1965-68 NBC espionage series that co-starred Bill Cosby. The groundbreaking series combined humor and adventure and was the first American television drama to feature an African-American actor (Cosby) in a lead role. In addition to acting, Culp wrote seven of the episodes, one which he directed. He earned an Emmy nomination for the writing of one of the episodes. All three years he was nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series, but lost each time to Cosby. "I was the proudest man around," he said in a 1977 interview. In 1987, he once again reunited with Cosby on an episode of The Cosby Show playing Dr. Cliff Huxtable's old friend Scott Kelly. His name was a combination of their I Spy characters' names. In 1994, they re-teamed for the two-hour CBS TV movie, I Spy Returns.
He began his television career with a role on Trackdown, a 1957-1959 western series in which he played Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman. His guest starring television roles included The Dupont Show with June Allyson, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Outer Limits, Target: The Corruptors!, Empire, Bonanza, Columbo and The Name of the Game. From 1981-1983, he co-starred with William Katt as tough FBI agent Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero. Several episodes were also written and directed by him. He would reprise the role in a voice-over on the stop-motion sketch comedy Robot Chicken. In addition to his television work, he also appeared in a number of theatrical films. His best known role was probably in the critically acclaimed Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Other film roles included The Castaway Cowboy, Golden Girl, Turk 182!, PT 109, The Raiders, Sunday in New York, Hannie Caulder, Hickey & Boggs (with Billl Cosby) and The Pelican Brief as a U.S. President.
His sitcom roles included guest appearances on Who's the Boss?, The Golden Girls, The Nanny, Wings and Cosby. Culp also had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as Warren Whelan – Debra Barone's father and Ray's father-in-law. Mr. Culp was 79.
Nancy Dolman (IMDB / Wikipedia) was a Canadian comic actress and singer. She was most notable for her recurring role as Annie Selig Tate on the ABC sitcom Soap. She also appeared in her husband Martin Short's 1985 cable television special Martin Short: Concert for the North Americas. She died of natural causes on August 21, 2010, in Pacific Palisades, California. Ms. Dolman was 58.
Allyn Ferguson (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American composer, best known for the themes for 1970s television programs Barney Miller and Charlie's Angels, which he co-wrote with Jack Elliott. Together with Eliott, he created scores for episodes of Banacek, Fish, Police Story, Starsky and Hutch, S.W.A.T. and The Rookies. He died of natural causes on June 23, 2010, at his home in Westlake Village, California. Mr. Ferguson was 85.
John Forsythe (IMDB / Wikipedia), the handsome, smooth-voiced actor who made his fortune as the scheming oil tycoon in ABC's primetime soap Dynasty and the voice of Charlie on ABC's Charlie's Angels died in Santa Ynez, CA on April 1, 2010 from complications of pneumonia
Despite his distinguished work in theater and films, Forsythe's greatest fame came from his role as Blake Carrington in the 1981-89 primetime ABC soap opera Dynasty. Forsythe lent dignity to the tale of murder, deceit, adultery and high finance, which often brought Carrington into conflict with his flashy, vengeful former wife, Alexis Colby, played to the hilt by Joan Collins. Dynasty returned in 1991 with a two-hour reunion movie on ABC. In 2006, CBS produced a retrospective special. Forsythe appeared with Dynasty co-stars Linda Evans, Joan Collins, Pamela Sue Martin, Al Corley, Gordon Thomson and Catherine Oxenberg in Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar.
Forsythe was an important part of another hit series without being seen. From 1976 to 1981 he played the voice of Charlie, the boss who delivered assignments to his beautiful detectives via telephone in Charlie's Angels. Forsythe reprised his role as Charlie for the film version of Charlie's Angels in 2000 and its sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle in 2003, but then retired from acting.
Earlier in his TV career, he had a sitcom titled Bachelor Father. In the sitcom he played a Hollywood lawyer who cared for his teenage niece, which lasted from 1957 to 1962, appearing successively on CBS, NBC and ABC. He also starred on the comedy To Rome with Love for CBS from 1969-71 and The John Forsythe Show for NBC from 1965-66.
In 1992, three years after Dynasty, Forsythe returned to series television starring in Norman Lear's sitcom, The Powers That Be for NBC, co-starring Holland Taylor, Peter MacNicol, Valerie Mahaffey and David Hyde-Pierce. The show was canceled after only one season.
Among his other TV work he played Blake Carrington for a few episodes in the Dynasty spin-off series The Colbys, and also guest starred on series such as The Love Boat, Medical Story, Police Story, and Studio One. Mr. Forsythe was 92.
Mickey Freeman (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American character actor who appeared as a regular on The Phil Silvers Show (Sgt Bilko) as Pvt. Fielding Zimmerman. Born as Irving Freeman, he was the last surviving male regular cast member from the series. He also appeared on episodes of Naked City and The Lloyd Bridges Show. He died on September 28, 2010. Mr. Freeman was 93.
Carl Gordon (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American actor who entered the acting profession later in life and was best known for his role in the Fox TV series Roc, in addition to a wide range of roles in film, on stage and television as a character actor. Starring Charles S. Dutton as Roc Emerson, the show included Gordon in the role of the title character's father Andrew, an "irascible, sharp-tongued retired train porter". His other sitcom appearances included Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Malcolm & Eddie and Whoopi. He died on July 20, 2010, at his home in Jetersville, Virginia due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mr. Gordon was 78.
Phil Gordon (Gulley) (IMDB / Wikipedia) passed away on June 15, 2010 in Mobile, Alabama. He was an American character actor and dialect coach, most known for his work in television. Gordon's work included roles on The Beverly Hillbillies (as Jasper 'Jazzbo' Depew and other characters), Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. He worked closely on the Dragnet series with Jack Webb. He also hosted a children's variety shows in New Orleans and Mobile in the 60's. Mr. Gordon was 94.
Harold Gould (IMDB / Wikipedia), a veteran character actor who played Martin, Valerie Harper's father on Rhoda and Miles, Betty White's boyfriend on The Golden Girls died September 11, 2010 of prostate cancer. Over five decades, he made scores of appearances on shows such as The Donna Reed, Dennis the Menace, Route 66, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Twilight Zone, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mister Ed, Perry Mason, Jack Benny, Hazel, That Girl, Get Smart, The Fugitive, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, Here Come the Brides, Hogan's Heroes, Columbo, Mannix, The Partridge Family, New Dick Van Dyke Show, Lotsa Luck, Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-0, SOAP, The Love Boat, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files, Webster, Night Court, Empty Nest, Dallas, Dinosaurs, Lois & Clark, Felicity, The King of Queens, Touched by an Angel, Judging Amy, Cold Case, and most recently Nip/Tuck.
He played the father, Howard Cunningham, in a 1972 segment of Love, American Style, titled "Love and Happy Days," which led to the series Happy Days. But before the series went into production, Gould went abroad to do a play, and Tom Bosley was cast for the series role and the rest is history. Mr. Gould was 86.
William Harris passed away suddenly on October 15, 2010, at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. He worked in the entertainment industry on numerous television and film productions such as Moonlighting and Mad About You. He was married to Mary Cadorette, best known for playing John Ritter's live-in girlfriend, flight attendant Vicky Bradford on the short-lived 1984 Three's Company spinoff, Three's a Crowd. Mr. Harris was 62.
Kip King (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American film, television and voice actor. He was the father of American television sketch comedian Chris Kattan. King was probably best known for voicing Tailor Smurf in the 1980s television cartoon series The Smurfs. Long associated with Hanna-Barbera, King provided the voice of Shecky in The Biskitts (1983). He was also in the voice casts of The Little Rascals and Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (both 1982), Tom & Jerry Kids (1990), and Droopy, Master Detective and the Flintstones TV special I Yabba-Dabba Do! (both 1993).
His many sitcom appearances included Bachelor Father, Barney Miller, Bosom Buddies, Diff'rent Strokes, Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian, One Day at a Time, Out of This World, Small Wonder, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Facts of Life and The Munsters Today. He died on July 15, 2010, after a long illness. Mr. King was 72.
Andrew Koenig (IMDB / Wikipedia), an actor best known for his role as Richard "Boner" Stabone in the 1980's television series Growing Pains, was found dead in Vancouver on February 25, 2010. His death was announced by the Vancouver police at a news conference in the downtown park where his body was found. Andrew's father, the actor Walter Koenig, said his son "took his own life."
From 1985 to 1989 Andrew had a recurring role as a friend of Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains. He also guest starred on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, My Two Dads, 21 Jump Street, My Sister Sam, & Adam-12 . He also worked as a film editor and wrote and directed short films. His father played the part of Pavel Chekov on the original Star Trek.
Growing Pains star Alan Thicke (Dr. Jason Seaver) had this to say about Andrew: "Andrew's light shone brightly on the Growing Pains set. His skill and humor and friendship were important elements in our extended family. May his own family now find comfort in their memories of the good times with this very special young man." Mr. Koenig was only 41.
Steve Landesberg (IMDB / Wikipedia) passed away on December 20, 2010 from colon cancer. He may have been best known for his role as the intellectual and sometimes annoying Detective Sgt. Arthur Dietrich on the long-running 1970s ABC cop comedy Barney Miller (1975-82), but younger audiences knew him too -- for a slew of recent parts such as the doctor on the 2008 hit movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Landesberg appeared in dozens of TV shows as a guest star, his curly haired, bespectacled face easily recognizable. He also played Det. Arthur Dietrich on an episode of the Barney Miller spin-off Fish in 1977. Among the older series he appeared on were The Rockford Files, 9 to 5, Mr. President, Pearl, Harry and the Hendersons, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Cosby, Dave's World, Conrad Bloom, Twice in a Lifetime, Law and Order and The Golden Girls. Recent credits included The Cleaner, Everybody Hates Chris, Ghost Whisperer, Just Jordan, That '70s Show and American Dad!
His last regular role was on the Starz short-lived drama Head Case from 2007-09. He also lent his voice to animated fare such as Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, Capitol Critters and an episode of ABC's Dinosaurs. As mentioned his film work included Forgetting Sarah Marshall and also Wild Hogs and Leader of the Band. Mr. Landesberg was 74.
Janet MacLachlan (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American character actress who had roles in such television series as The Rockford Files, Alias and The Golden Girls. Her many other sitcom appearances included Mary Tyler Moore, Love Thy Neighbor, Barney Miller, What's Happening!!, Good Times, All in the Family, Archie Bunker's Place, Punky Brewster, Amen and Murphy Brown. She died on October 11, 2010 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles. Ms. MacLachlan was 77.
Allan Manings (IMDB / Wikipedia) was a television producer and comedy writer.
He was best known for his work in co-creating with his wife actress Whitney Blake the Norman Lear-developed show, One Day at a Time, as well as serving as producer (and later executive producer) of the Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin/Tandem show Good Times. Prior to this, he worked as a writer and script supervisor on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in the 1960s, for which he received an Emmy. Sitcom writing credits included Leave it to Beaver, Petticoat Junction, McHale's Navy Please Don't Eat the Daisies and The Mothers-in-Law. He died on May 12, 2010, in Beverly Hills, California of a heart attack in addition to a case of esophageal cancer for which he was receiving medical treatment. Mr. Manings was 86.
Rue McClanahan (IMDB / Wikipedia) passed away on June 3, 2010 after a massive stroke. Earlier this year, she suffered a minor stroke while recovering from bypass surgery. She also had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997.
One of her first memorable appearances on television was appearing on an episode of Norman Lear's All in the Family. She was in the classic episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers" playing a swinger. That guest appearance made Lear cast her on Maude, one of the spin-offs of All in the Family. On Maude she played Vivian Cavender Harmon for 6 years, from 1972-1978. Following her run on the CBS hit, she had a short-lived sitcom for ABC in 1978 called Apple Pie, based on the play Nourish the Beast. Then in 1983, she recurred on the popular sitcom Mama's Family, playing Aunt Fran Crowley. After her stint on that series, she was one the four stars on the popular NBC comedy The Golden Girls that ran from 1985-1992. This is the sitcom that probably made her a name and has given her a cult status. That character of Blanche Devereaux is among the most famous sitcom characters of all-time. She won an Emmy in the category Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1987 for this role. She was also nominated three other times. She was even nominated three times for a Golden Globe. After the run of that series, a follow-up series titled The Golden Palace, aired for one season in 1992-93. Everyone returned to that series but Bea Arthur, though she did guest star once. Her other TV starring credits include The WB drama Safe Harbor, which only lasted 10 episodes in 1999.
Rue has appeared on so many other TV series over the years in guest roles such as the aforementioned All in the Family, Grandpa Goes to Washington, Mannix, Supertrain, Lou Grant, Here's Boomer, Trapper John, M.D., Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Small & Frye, Alice, Newhart, Gimme a Break!, Charles in Charge, Crazy Like a Fox, Cover Up, Murder She Wrote, Nurses, Boy Meets World, Burke's Law, Promised Land, Murphy Brown, Columbo, Ladies Man, Touched by an Angel, Wonderfalls, Whoopie, Hope & Faith, King of the Hill, Law & Order, and most recently on Meets the Browns.
Ms. McClanahan was 76.
Caroline McWilliams (IMDB / Wikipedia), accomplished actress and director best known for her role on the ABC '80s sitcom Benson, passed away peacefully at her home in Los Angeles on February 11, 2010 from multiple myeloma.
Her career included numerous feature television roles, starting with her breakthrough role as Janet Mason on Guiding Light and followed by regular roles on Benson, Nearly Departed, and Beverly Hills 90210. On Benson she played Marcy Hill, the Governor's sectary, during the series' first few seasons (1979-81). She also recurred on Benson's parent show SOAP but as a different character - as Sally - the secretary for Richard Mulligan's character Burt. Her other TV credits include guest stints on Another World, Barney Miller, Kojak, Quincy ME, The Incredible Hulk, Hill Street Blues, Night Court, St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, The Cavanaughs, Sisters, Home Improvement, Suddenly Susan, Lois & Clark, Murphy Brown, and Judging Amy (her last role). During her time on Benson, she appeared on the primetime version of Family Feud with the cast of Benson going up against the cast of One Day at a Time and she also appeared on The Battle of the Network Stars in 1980 on the ABC Team. Ms. McWilliams was 64.
Leslie Nielsen (IMDB / Wikipedia), who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in the 1980 movie Airplane! and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun trilogy (1988, 1991, 1994), died on November 28, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in his sleep in a hospital after complications from pneumonia.
While Nielsen was know for movies and TV dramas, he appeared on sitcoms as well. He played Detective Frank Drebin first in the 1982 TV comedy series, Police Squad, which trashed the cliches of Dragnet and other cop shows. Despite good reviews, ABC canceled it after only four episodes to low ratings. The series aired Thursdays at 8pm and was paired with Bosom Buddies. The remaining two episodes were aired in the summer of 1982. Years later, CBS aired reruns of the short-lived comedy in the summer of 1991 when the film The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear came out in theatres. Nielsen was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1982 for the role. Of course 6 years later the series turned into The Naked Gun film trilogy. Police Squad has been available on DVD since 2006. After Police Squad, he had another sitcom on ABC titled Shaping Up in mid-season 1984 lasting only 5 episodes despite being paired with Three's Company on Tuesdays at 9:30pm.
Earlier in his career he was a regular on dramas. The Swamp Fox on ABC in 1959, The New Breed on ABC in 1961, Peyton Place on ABC in 1964, Bracken's World on NBC in 1969, The Protectors on NBC in 1969, and the mini-series Backstairs at the White House on NBC in 1979.
He has also guest starred on many sitcoms such as The Farmer's Daughter, M*A*S*H, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, 227, Who's the Boss?, The Golden Girls, Evening Shade, Herman's Head, Day by Day, and Flesh 'n' Blood. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Day by Day. He also guest starred on many dramas like Lights Out, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Route 66, The Fugitive, Daniel Boone, Wagon Train, The Defenders, The Virginian, Ben Casey, The Wild Wild West, Dr. Kildare, Bonanza, It Takes a Thief, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, Night Gallery, Medical Center, The Mod Squad, The FBI, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Hawaii Five-0, Ironside, Kojak, The Rookies, Lucas Tanner, Kung Fu, Cannon, Columbo, SWAT, Vega$, Hotel, Finders of Lost Love, Murder She Wrote, Highway to Heaven, Father Dowling Mysteries, Due South, and many more.
He has appeared in many TV movies as well such as Chance of a Lifetime in 1981 on NBC opposite Betty White, Cave-In! on NBC in 1983, The Wonderful World of Disney: Safety Patrol in 1998 for ABC and The Wonderful World of Disney: Santa Who? in 2000 for ABC. Mr. Nielsen was 84.
Merlin Olsen (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Professional football star, broadcaster and actor Merlin Olsen was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and had battled cancer before passing away at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California on March 11, 2010.
Olsen began his football career at Utah State University where he was a three-year leterman as defensive tackle. He was a three-time Academic All-American and won the Outland Trophy after his senior season. Following his time at Utah State, he went on to play his entire 15-year career (1962-1976) with the Los Angeles Rams. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1962, was First-team All-Pro in 1964 and 1966-70, and was elected to the Pro Bowl 14 times - missing it only his final season. In 1982, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Following his playing career, he teamed with Dick Enberg on NBC's NFL broadcasts throughout the 1980's. They also did the Rose Bowl together from 1980-1988. In 1989, he worked with Charlie Jones. For the 1990-1991 seasons, he moved to CBS and teamed with Dick Stockton.
His acting career began in 1977 when he played Michael Landon's sidekick and farmer Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. In 1981, Olsen moved on to star in the series Father Murphy, playing a kind-hearted frontiersman in that show, which lasted until 1983. He also had the lead role in the short-lived Aaron's Way that ran in 1988 on NBC. His sitcom roles included appearances on Petticoat Junction in 1970 and The Brian Keith Show in 1972.
He also starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom Fathers and Sons that ran for 4 episodes in 1986. In addition to his television acting work, he was the commercial spokesman for FTD Florists for many years.
Mr. Olsen was 69.
Michael Pataki (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American character actor. Pataki had appeared in numerous television productions, from the black and white days of Playhouse 90, The Twilight Zone, and My Favorite Martian, to early color shows like The Flying Nun, Bonanza and The Green Hornet. Pataki was also a regular on The Amazing Spider-Man, and had a re-occurring role on McCloud as well. One of his most famous roles was as "Korax", the loudmouthed Klingon who started the bar fight in "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of Star Trek.
He also played Governor Karnas on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Too Short a Season" and George Liquor in the episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show entitled "Dog Show" and "Man's Best Friend." He was also the voice of "The Cow" in Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (along with many other secondary characters). Michael Pataki played a guest spot on Happy Days Season 4 as Count Malachi, one half of the Malachi Brothers. He was made famous on Happy Days for his line "Let the Pigeons Loose". His many other sitcom appearances included Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, All in the Family, Barney Miller, Alice, Phyl & Mikhy, WKRP in Cincinnati, and Laverne & Shirley. He died from cancer on April 15, 2010 in North Hollywood, California. Mr. Pataki was 72.
Ann Prentiss (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American actress and the younger sister of actress Paula Prentiss. Her best known part was in the TV series Captain Nice, where she played Carter Nash's girlfriend, Sgt. Candy Kane. Her other sitcom guest appearances included Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and Love, American Style. In 1988 she provided the voice of Bag in My Stepmother Is An Alien. Prentiss was convicted in a Santa Monica, California court, in 1997, of making terrorist threats, assault with a firearm, battery and solicitation to commit murder of her brother-in-law Richard Benjamin and her father. She was sentenced to 19 years in jail for the crimes. She passed away on January 12, 2010. Ms. Prentiss was 70.
Aaron Ruben (IMDB / Wikipedia), a comedy writer, producer and director whose five-decade career included producing The Andy Griffith Show for the first five seasons and creating the spin-off series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., died on January 30, 2010 of complications from pneumonia at his home in Beverly Hills. He devoted much of his later life to being a court-appointed advocate for abused and abandoned children
In the early 1950s, he was a writer on specials starring Danny Thomas, Ed Wynn and Eddie Cantor. He wrote for The Milton Berle Show, Caesar's Hour and The Phil Silvers Show, where he also began directing.
Ruben then moved on and produced The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1965 and also wrote and directed some of the episodes of the popular CBS series. He also did Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. as executive producer. Gomer aired on CBS from 1964 to 1970 and was the No. 2 top-rated program in the Nielsen ratings for the 1965-66 season. He then teamed up with Carl Reiner and co-wrote and co-produced The Comic, a 1969 movie directed by Reiner about the rise and fall of a silent film comedian starring Dick Van Dyke.
In the 1970s, Ruben was the initial producer of Sanford and Son, the hit 1972-77 series starring Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson for which Ruben wrote many early episodes. Among his other credits as a producer, executive producer or write is The Headmaster, C.P.O. Sharkey, Teachers Only, Too Close for Comfort, The Stockard Channing Show, and The New Andy Griffith Show. Mr. Ruben was 95.
Patricia (Pat) Stevens (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an American actress and voice actor. She is perhaps best known for her recurring role as Nurse Baker on M*A*S*H and her role as the second voice of the popular character Velma Dinkley during the same period (1976 to 1979), leaving the show mid-way through Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo. Her other sitcom appearances included The Girl with Something Extra, Karen and The Bob Newhart Show. She was born in Linden, New Jersey and became a teacher in her later years. She died May 26, 2010, after a long battle with breast cancer in Rutland, Massachusetts. Ms. Stevens was 64.
Eleanor Taffner helped bring Three's Company and The Benny Hill Show to the American public through her company DLT Entertainment. Taffner launched TV distributor D.L. Taffner in the early '70s with her husband, Donald. The couple later changed the company's name to Taffner Enterprises as they began focusing on TV and stage production. DLT distributed ABC sitcom Three's Company, and its spinoff Three's a Crowd, and Too Close for Comfort. She passed away from natural causes on September 15, 2010 in New York. Ms. Taffner was 79.
Bernie West (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer who worked on the classic sitcoms All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Three's Company. He was part of the famous trio of producers known as "NRW" (Nicholl-Ross-West). Mr. West won his Emmy in 1973 for writing, with Mickey Ross, the "Bunkers and the Swingers" episode on All in the Family. He received two other nominations as a producer for his work on All in the Family and Three's Company. In 1971, he and Ross submitted a script for All in the Family to Norman Lear and began what Bernie referred to as his first steady job. They worked on the CBS sitcom from 1971-74, where they were writers, script consultants, story editors and eventually, with Don Nicholl, producers. West and Ross created the character of Maude, played by Bea Arthur, on a 1972 episode of All in the Family that spun into another long-running CBS series. And he and his partners worked on the 1974 pilot script of NBC's Chico and the Man.
Nicholl, Ross and West (NRW) later wrote and produced for The Jeffersons, which ran for 10 years (1975-1985), and then Three's Company for eight seasons (1977-1984). Other series included The Dumplings (1976) and two spin-offs of Three's Company: The Ropers (1979-80) and Three's a Crowd (1984-85). Don Nicholl passed away in 1980, while Mickey Ross passed away last May (2009), so now all three members of NRW are no longer with us.
Before Mr. West was producing, he was acting. Among his early acting credits were appearances on The Garry Moore Show, Dixon of Dock Green, The Arthur Murray Show, The Jack Paar Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Phil Silvers Show, Car 54, Where Are You? and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. He also was on an episode each of All in the Family and What's Happening Now!! years later. He died on July 29, 2010 at his Beverly Hills home of complications from Alzheimer's disease. Mr. West was 92.
Myles Wilder (IMDB / Wikipedia) was a television comedy writer and producer. He wrote for many sitcoms, including Bachelor Father, The Patty Duke Show, McHale's Navy (receiving 2 Emmy nominations), The Lucy Show, The Doris Day Show, Gomer Pyle, My Three Sons, The Brady Bunch, Get Smart and Diff'rent Strokes. In the animation field, he oversaw the writing and production of Inch High Private Eye and Hong Kong Phooey. He died April 20, 2010 of complications from diverticulitis in Temecula, California. Mr. Wilder was 77.
Gloria Winters (IMDB / Wikipedia) was an actress most noted for playing the niece, Penny King, in the 1950s-1960s American television series Sky King. She broke into television playing daughter Babs Riley in the first season of the sitcom The Life of Riley (1949 to 1950), starring Jackie Gleason and Rosemary DeCamp. The show then switched networks and was recast. She died of complications from pneumonia at her home on August 14, 2010. Ms. Winters was 78.
New on DVD/Blu-ray (January)
01/06 - The Cosby Show - Season 5 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - The Cosby Show - Season 6 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - The Cosby Show - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Girls - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
01/06 - Married with Children - Season Seven (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Married with Children - Season Eight (Mill Creek)
01/06 - Married with Children - Seasons Seven and Eight (Mill Creek)
01/13 - The Big House - The Complete Series
01/13 - Episodes - The Third Season
01/13 - The Facts of Life - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory
01/20 - Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete Second Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Thursday, January 29
The Big Bang Theory - "The Anxiety Optimization" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
In the hopes of achieving a scientific breakthrough, Sheldon invites his friends to challenge him. Also, Wolowitz invents an embarrassing game about Raj.
Mom - "Kitty Litter and a Class Felony" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Christy does damage control when Bonnie acts out after the death of a loved one. Beverly D’Angelo Returns as Lorraine.
Two and a Half Men - "A Beer-Battered Rip-Off" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Alan breaks up with their social worker to get back together with Lyndsey, Walden worries it will affect Louis’ adoption.
The McCarthys - "The Ref" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Ronny dates Doug, a handsome ref who has a history of infuriating Arthur, Ronny invites him over for dinner to convince them he is a nice guy. Meanwhile, Katrina is worried Gerard is cheating on her when he begins acting suspicious.
Thursday, January 29
- Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Catch Mayim on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Alison Brie (Community) - Watch Alison on The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
- Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Whitney guest co-hosts The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
- Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) - Simon appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS. He also discusses his new film We'll Never Have Paris on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
- Andrew Rannells (Girls/The New Normal) - Andrew is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
- Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) - Cedric is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
- Megan Park (The Neighbors) - Megan discusses her starring role in the upcoming Hallmark Channel original movie A Wish Come True on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- Robert Carradine (Lizzie McGuire) and Curtis Armstrong (Dan Vs.) - Robert and Curtis talk about what to expect in the new season of King of the Nerds on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell/Saved by the Bell: The New Class) - Mario and his wife Courtney are guests on The Better Show, so check your local listings.
- Josh Molina (Sports Night) - Josh is a guest on SI Now.