Thursday, December 29, 2011

In Memoriam: Sitcom Actor and Other Notable TV Deaths in 2011

Today we pay tribute to the sitcom actors, directors, writers, producers and creators who died in 2011. We've lost stars from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, All in the Family, It's a Living, Laverne & Shirley, M*A*S*H, Taxi, and many more who are greatly missed. Other notable TV deaths that we covered on the blog this year have also been listed. They are listed in alphabetical order. Visit the IMDB and Wikipedia links for a full listing of their credits and other biographical information.

Frances Bay

Frances Bay (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Character actress Frances Bay, best-known for playing quirky, elderly women on film and television, died at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on September 15, 2011, after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

Bay made appearances in more than 150 films and television shows in a career that she began in her mid-50s. Her first film appearance was a small part in the 1978 comedy Foul Play. One of her first major television roles was as Grandma Nussbaum, the grandmother of Fonzie, on Happy Days. Another memorable role for her was as Mabel Choate on Seinfeld. In the famous episode titled The Rye, she is mugged by Jerry for her loaf of marbled rye bread. She would return in The Cadillac and the series finale. Her many other sitcom appearances included The Jeffersons, Family Ties, Cheers, The Golden Girls, Newhart, ALF, Who's the Boss?, Empty Nest, The Hughleys and Hannah Montana. She was still active as of last season with appearances on The Middle as the silent Aunt Ginny. Some of her drama television appearances included Hart to Hart, The Dukes of Hazzard, Flamingo Road, Cagney & Lacey, T.J. Hooker, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Hunter, Matlock, Twin Peaks, Charmed and Grey's Anatomy. Her film roles included The Karate Kid, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Big Top Pee-wee, In the Mouth of Madness and Happy Gilmore. Ms. Bay was 92.

Doris Belack

Doris Belack (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Doris Belack was an American character actress of stage, film and television. She died on October 4, 2011, in New York City. Belack appeared in soap operas, such as One Life to Live, Another World, The Edge of Night and The Doctors. Belack played the lead role in the short-lived television sitcom called Baker's Dozen as "Florence Baker", the no-nonsense captain of an undercover anti-crime unit of the NYPD. Other television credits for her included Barney Miller (as a replacement for Florence Stanley for one episode as Mrs. Fish), Family Ties, The Golden Girls (as Dorothy's sister Gloria), Sisters, Cosby, Law & Order and Sex and the City. Ms. Belack was 85.


Jon Cedar

Jon Cedar (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Veteran character actor Jon Cedar died on April 14, 2011, at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles after a brief battle with leukemia. His career began as a youngster on the stage. He would travel across the country with his family and appear off-Broadway and in national tours in shows including The Deputy and South Pacific. Cedar is probably best known for his regular role as the lovable Corporal Langenscheidt on the 1965-71 sitcom Hogan's Heroes. He played one of Sergeant Schultz's guards.

Some of his many television guest appearances included Ben Casey, Mission: Impossible, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files, The Incredible Hulk, The Greatest American Hero, Dynasty, Hardcastle and McCormick, Diff'rent Strokes, Moonlighting, Murder, She Wrote, and Matlock. He wrote, produced and appeared in the 1978 Tony Curtis film The Manitou. Some of his other feature film roles included Foxy Brown, Death Hunt, Capricorn One and Murder in Mind. Mr. Cedar was 80.

Jeff Conaway

Jeff Conaway (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Actor Jeff Conaway, best known for his roles in the movie Grease and the TV sitcom Taxi, died on May, 27, 2011, at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Encino, CA. He died of various causes, including pneumonia and encephalopathy attributable to drug overdoses.

Conaway appeared in the Broadway musical Grease for several years in different roles, including the lead male character, Danny Zuko. In 1978, he played Zuko's (John Travolta) buddy Kenickle in the movie Grease. He made his film debut in the 1971 romantic drama Jennifer on My Mind. Other film credits for him included Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Jawbreaker, Ghost Writer, and Do You Wanna Know a Secret?.

Conaway's television career began in 1975 when he appeared on two episodes of Happy Days as Rocko. In 1978, he was cast as the vain, struggling, but goodhearted actor Bobby Wheeler in Taxi. Conaway left the series after the third season in 1981 due to reported drug abuse. He received two Golden Globe nominations in 1979 and 1980 for his role. Some of his other regular television roles were on the 1983 short-lived fantasy-spoof series Wizards and Warriors, the 1985 drama Berrenger's, a stint on the soap The Bold and the Beautiful in 1989-90, and the sci-fi series Babylon 5 from 1994-1999. His sitcom guest appearances included Mary Tyler Moore, Who's the Boss?, The Love Boat, Hope & Gloria, and George & Leo. In early 2008, he appeared on the VH1 reality series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew for two seasons. He had battled drug and alcohol addiction for many years. Mr. Conaway was 60.

Jackie Cooper

Jackie Cooper (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Jackie Cooper was an American actor, television director, producer and executive. Mr. Cooper died after a short illness on May 3, 2011, in Santa Monica, California. Cooper was the first child actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for his role in the 1931 film Skippy. In 1929, he joined the Our Gang series produced by Hal Roach and appeared in 15 of the comedies. He starred in two popular sitcoms, NBC's The People's Choice from 1955-1958 with Patricia Breslin and CBS's Hennesey from 1959-1962 with Abby Dalton. On Hennessey, he also was the producer and primary director. Cooper was the vice president of program development at Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division from 1964-69. He helped sell sitcoms such as I Dream of Jeannie, Gidget, and The Flying Nun. As a director, he worked on M*A*S*H and The White Shadow, winning Emmy Awards in 1974 and 1979. One of his most known later movie roles was as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Superman film series. Mr. Cooper was 88.

Madelyn Pugh Davis

Madelyn Pugh Davis (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Madelyn Pugh Davis, who with her writing partner Bob Carroll Jr. made television history in the 1950s writing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's landmark situation comedy I Love Lucy, died on April 20, 2011, in Bel Air, CA after a brief illness.

Pugh began her career as radio writer for NBC and later CBS, where she met Bob Carroll Jr. Their professional partnership lasted more than 50 years and together they would write some 400 television programs and roughly 500 radio shows. They began writing for Lucille Ball's radio show, My Favorite Husband, which they worked on for 2 1/2 years along with head writer Jess Oppenheimer. Pugh and Carroll would later create a vaudeville act for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, which became the basis for the pilot episode of I Love Lucy. During the six season run of the show, they received two Emmy Award nominations but they never won. Their other Lucille Ball television credits included writing episodes of The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (aka The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour) and Life with Lucy.

Some of their other television writing credits included The Paul Lynde Show, Dorothy, Those Whiting Girls and The Tom Ewell Show. In 1967, they created and wrote The Mothers-in-Law for Desi Arnaz Productions. For seven years, they were executive producers and occasional writers for the long-running sitcom Alice on CBS. They received a Golden Globe Award for one of their scripts in 1979. Their film credits included Forever, Darling and Yours, Mine and Ours. In 2005, she released her memoirs titled Laughing with Lucy: My Life with America's Leading Lady of Comedy. You can view an extensive two-and-a-half-hour interview with Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr. from November 1997 at the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television at emmytvlegends.org . Ms. Pugh Davis was 90.

Sam Denoff

Sam Denoff (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Sam Denoff was an American Emmy Award-winning writer and television producer. He died of complications from Alzheimer's disease on July 8, 2011, at his home in Los Angeles. Denoff wrote some of The Dick Van Dyke Show's most memorable episodes, including "That’s My Boy???," "Bupkis" and "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth." With his long time collaborator Bill Persky he wrote and created the television show That Girl starring Marlo Thomas. His other credits included Good Morning, World, Lotsa Luck and Harry and the Hendersons. You can view an interview with him at the Archive of American Television. Mr. Denoff was 83.

Don Diamond

Don Diamond (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Don Diamond was an American radio, film, and television actor who portrayed "Crazy Cat", the sidekick and heir apparent to Chief Wild Eagle on the popular 1960s television sitcom, F Troop. Diamond died due to heart failure in Los Angeles, CA on June 19, 2011. Other television roles for him included El Toro in The Adventures of Kit Carson and Corporal Reyes on Zorro. Some sitcom guest appearances for him included The Gale Storm Show, My Favorite Martian, The Patty Duke Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, That Girl, Get Smart, Here's Lucy, The Flying Nun, One Day at a Time, Chico and the Man, WKRP in Cincinnati and Newhart Mr. Diamond was 90.

Charles S. Dubin

Charles S. Dubin (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Charles S. Dubin was an American film and television director from the early 1950s to 1991. Dubin died of natural causes on September 5, 2011, in Brentwood, CA. He directed more episodes of the popular 1970s television comedy M*A*S*H than anyone else. Other directing credits for him included Father Dowling Mysteries, Matlock, Too Close for Comfort, Hotel, Lou Grant, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, Medical Center, Sanford and Son and Room 222. You can view an interview with him at the Archive of American Television. Mr. Dubin was 92.

Bill Erwin

Bill Erwin (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Character actor Bill Erwin, whose nearly seven-decade Hollywood career included his memorable role as the grumpy old man on television's Seinfeld, died on December 29, 2010, at his home in suburban Los Angeles' Studio City. He died of natural causes.

Erwin's Hollywood career dates back to 1941, when he appeared in the movie You're in the Army Now. His scores of credits include guest roles on The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, The Danny Thomas Show, Leave it to Beaver, Bachelor Father, The Andy Griffith Show, Mister Ed, Maverick, The Fugitive, Mannix, Perry Mason, My Three Sons, The Jeffersons, Dallas, The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Here Come the Brides, Mayberry R.F.D., Get Smart, The Golden Girls, Highway to Heaven, Moonlighting, Growing Pains, Just the Ten of Us, Punky Brewster, Married with Children, Full House, E/R, The Dukes of Hazzard, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, Who's the Boss?, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mad About You, Michael Richards Show, The Drew Carey Show, Grace Under Fire, Suddenly Susan, Cybill, Living Single, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, The John Larroquette Show, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Quantum Leap, So Little Time, Just Shoot Me!, The West Wing, Monk, The King of Queens, Everwood and his last TV appearance in 2006 on My Name is Earl. But his old man character Sid Fields on Seinfeld, which got him an Emmy nomination in 1993, is perhaps his most memorable role. The only series he was a regular in was the short-lived CBS 1979 sitcom Struck by Lightning with Richard Stahl. The series lasted just 3 episodes. Mr. Erwin was 96.

Peter Falk

Peter Falk (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Peter Falk, best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo, died at his Beverly Hills, CA home on June 23, 2011. The cause of death was revealed as cardiorespiratory arrest, with pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease as underlying causes.

Falk played the squinty, rumpled detective Columbo for over 30 years in primetime television from 1968-2003. The Columbo character first appeared on TV in a 1968 ninety-minute pilot titled Prescription: Murder. Columbo was part of the NBC anthology series, The NBC Mystery Movie (1971-1978), where it would rotate with McCloud and McMillan & Wife. Steven Spielberg directed and Steven Bochco wrote the premiere Columbo episode in 1971. It returned occasionally on ABC with one or two TV movies a season from 1989 to 2003. The final Columbo movie aired on January 30, 2003. Falk won four Emmy Awards for his iconic role.

His early television appearances included Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One, Kraft Television Theater, New York Confidential, Naked City, Have Gun, Will Travel, Decoy, The Law and Mr. Jones, and Target: The Corruptors. Falk's first lead TV role was in the 1965-66 drama The Trials of Mr. O'Brien. He appeared in numerous films, including Murder, Inc. (Oscar nominated), Pocketful of Miracles (Oscar nominated), Robin and the 7 Hoods, The Great Race, The In-Laws and The Princess Bride. Mr. Falk was 83.

Bill Foster (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Bill Foster was an American television director known for his work with sitcoms. He died of cancer on February 2, 2011, in Los Angeles, CA. His career spanned more than 50 years. His directing credits included 12 episodes of Sanford and Son, 43 episodes of Benson, 36 episodes of Amen and 23 episodes Full House. Other sitcom credits included episodes of Chico and the Man, What's Happening!!, You Again?, and Marblehead Manor. He directed the 1967 pilot episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which earned him the only Emmy nomination of his career. In 1971 and 1972, he directed the Primetime Emmy Awards. Mr. Foster was 78.

Anne Francis

Anne Francis (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Anne Francis died on January 2, 2011, at a retirement home in Santa Barbara, CA. The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer. Ms. Francis had surgery and chemotherapy after she learned she had lung cancer in 2007.

She was recurring on ABC's My Three Sons as bowling alley waitress Terri Dowling in 1971, but it was her title role on the ABC crime drama Honey West in 1965 that made her a name. She was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for the role. She was a movie star in the '50s and '60s but when her movie career declined, Ms. Francis became active in television. She appeared in dozens of series, including Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, Rawhide, The Untouchables, Cannon, Columbo, Charlie's Angels, Riptide, Simon & Simon, Fantasy Island, Dallas, CHiPs, Quince ME, Hawaii Five-0, The Love Boat, Crazy Like a Fox, Hardcastle and McCormick, Matlock, Jake and the Fatman, The Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, Burke's Law, Wings, Home Improvement, The Drew Carey Show, Nash Bridges, Fantasy Island 99, and her last role in 2004 on Without a Trace. She wasn't known for sitcoms, but she was quite a popular TV actor, mainly in dramas. Ms. Francis was 80.

Betty Garrett

Betty Garrett (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Betty Garrett, a veteran actress who started her career on such MGM musicals as On The Town and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but is more known for her television work on All in the Family and Laverne & Shirley died on February 12, 2011, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center of an aortic aneurysm.

Garrett was best known on TV for her roles on two popular 1970s sitcoms, as landlady Edna Babish on Laverne & Shirley and as Archie Bunker's neighbor Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family. In 1975, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress on Television for All in the Family. She has also guest starred on many other series such as The Fugitive, The Love Boat, Mr. Merlin, Murder, She Wrote, The Golden Girls, Harts of the West, The Good Life, Townies, Union Square, Boston Public, Becker (for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2003) and Grey's Anatomy in 2006. Ms. Garrett was 91.

Peter Hobbs

Peter Hobbs (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Character actor Peter Hobbs, who straddled stage and screen, died on January 2, 2011, at his home in Santa Monica, CA following a short illness. In his 50-year showbiz career Hobbs played Captain McLean in the original Rialto version of Teahouse of the August Moon from 1953-56. He also was featured in Billy Budd, Joan of Lorraine as well The Life of Reilly and The Russian People. Frequently portraying authority figures like doctors, lawyers and judges on TV he played Peter Ames in Secret Storm from 1954 to 1962 and had recurring roles on The F.B.I., The Odd Couple, Barney Miller, Knots Landing and Lou Grant.

He also guested on many series such as Perry Mason, The Joey Bishop Show, The Farmer's Daughter, Mister Ed, Donna Reed Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, Good Morning World, The Big Valley, Bonanza, Marcus Welby, Mannix, Dan August, It Takes a Thief, Doris Day Show, Bridget Loves Bernie, The Mod Squad, The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Starsky & Hutch, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mrs. Columbo, Rhoda, Kojak, Fish, Streets of San Francisco, All in the Family, Happy Days, M*A*S*H, The White Shadow, Remington Steele, The Dukes of Hazzard, Dynasty, Hart to Hart, St. Elsewhere, Gloria, Hill Street Blues, Dallas, One Day at a Time, Incredible Hulk, Little House on the Prairie, Quincy M.E., 9 to 5, Private Benjamin, Riptide, Crazy Like a Fox, Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Newhart, Hunter, The Colbys, The Paper Chase, The Bronx Zoo, Day By Day, Who's the Boss?, L.A. Law, Amen, Empty Nest, Princesses and True Colors. Mr. Hobbs was 92.

Jeffrey Hodes (IMDB) - Comedy writer and producer Jeffrey Hodes died suddenly from cancer-treatment related complications on September 14, 2011. Hodes had cancer but was in remission and was getting ready for a bone marrow transplant when he developed breathing problems. An MRI showed blood in his brain. After a day in intensive care, he was taken off life support.

Hodes and his wife and writing partner, Nastaran Dibai, worked together on a number of sitcoms over the years. Their writing credits included Flesh 'n' Blood, Living Single, The Preston Episodes, The Nanny, Jesse, 3rd Rock from the Sun, According to Jim, Hope & Faith, Rita Rocks and the first season finale of Happily Divorced. They served as producers on Living Single, The Nanny, Jesse, 3rd Rock from the Sun, According to Jim and Happily Divorced. The pair helped develop a comedy project for ABC last year with Kelly Ripa and her husband Mark Consuelos. Mr. Hodes was in his 40s.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Len Lesser, the veteran character actor best known for his scene-stealing role as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld, died of cancer-related pneumonia in Burbank, CA on February 16, 2011. He appeared in about 15 episodes as Seinfeld's uncle on the long running sitcom starting in the second season all the way to the series finale.

Lesser's lengthy list of television credits included parts on Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dragnet, Love on a Rooftop, The FBI, My Favorite Martian, Honey West, Ben Casey, Get Smart, That Girl, The Munsters, The Monkees, The Rockford Files, The Bill Cosby Show, All in the Family, Kojak, Medical Center, The Bob Newhart Show, Bonanza, Ironside, Enos, Quincy, Remington Steele, Simon & Simon, Falcon Crest, Airwolf, thirtysomething, Babes, Boy Meets World, The John Larroquette Show, Caroline in the City, Mad About You, Smart Guy, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Son of the Beach, Rock Me Baby, Just Shoot Me!, Quintuplets, Cold Case, ER, 'Til Death, and Everybody Loves Raymond, which featured Lesser in a recurring role as the arm-shaking Garvin. He most recently appeared on the ABC's Castle in 2009. Mr. Lesser was 88.

Sid Melton

Sid Melton (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Sid Melton was an American actor known for his roles as incompetent carpenter Alf Monroe in the CBS sitcom Green Acres and as Uncle Charlie Halper, proprietor of the Copa Club, in Make Room for Daddy and its spin-offs. Melton died from pneumonia on November 2, 2011, in Burbank, CA. Some of his other television credits included It's Always Jan, The Golden Girls, Captain Midnight, Dragnet, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., I Dream of Jeannie and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Mr. Melton was 94.

Marian Mercer

Marian Mercer (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Marian Mercer, an American actress and singer, passed away from complications of Alzhheimer's disease on April 27, 2011, in Newbury Park, California. One of her best known roles was as the humorless restaurant hostess, Nancy Beebe, on the ABC and later syndicated sitcom It's a Living. Her many sitcom guest appearances included Love, American Style, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Archie Bunker's Place, Phyl & Mikhy, Mama's Family, Benson, The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Dave's World, Working, and Suddenly Susan. She was a regular as Kay Fox on The Sandy Duncan Show in 1972 and on Foot in the Door as Mrs. Griffin in 1982. In 1991, she played Martha Benedict on the short-lived Sunday Dinner. She portrayed Grace Bailey on Home Free, starring Matthew Perry, in 1993. Ms. Mercer was 75.

Harry Morgan

Harry Morgan (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Veteran and Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, best known to television audiences as M*A*S*H's Col. Sherman T. Potter, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles on December 7, 2011. His daughter-in-law Beth Morgan said that he had recently been treated for pneumonia.

Morgan's career in film and TV spanned from 1942 to 1999. He appeared in mostly supporting roles in more than 100 films. In 1942, he made his screen debut (as Henry Morgan) in To the Shores of Tripoli. Other early films included The Ox-Bow Incident, Wing and a Prayer, Dragonwyck, The Big Clock, High Noon, Bend of the River, Thunder Bay, The Glenn Miller Story, The Far Country and Strategic Air Command. Some of his later film roles from the 1960s and 1970s included Inherit the Wind, How the West Was Won, John Goldfarb, Please Come Home, Frankie and Johnny, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Support Your Local Sheriff!, Support Your Local Gunfighter!, Snowball Express, The Shootist and The Wild Wild West Revisited. In 1987, he reprised his Bill Gannon character in a supporting role in Dragnet.

His television career began in the early 1950s with guest appearances on several series, including The Doctor and The Lone Wolf. His first regular televison role was as Pete Porter on December Bride, which aired on CBS from 1954-1959. He would later play the same character in the spinoff series Pete and Gladys from 1960-1962. Morgan would be a regular as various characters on The Richard Boone Show in 1963-64. In 1964-65, he co-starred with Dennis Weaver on the NBC series Kentucky Jones. His next well-known role was as Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet from 1967-70. He would work again for his Dragnet co-star Jack Webb on The D.A. in 1971-72 and on the western Hec Remsey in 1972-74.

In 1974, he guest starred on M*A*S*H as spaced-out Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele in the episode "The General Flipped at Dawn." He received an Emmy nomination for his performance. When McLean Stevenson left the show at the end of the third season, Morgan was brought in to replace him as Colonel Sherman T. Potter. In 1980, he received an Emmy award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He also directed 8 episodes of the series. Morgan would reprise his role in the short-lived 1983-84 spinoff series, AfterMASH. In 1986, he co-starred with Hal Linden on Blacke's Magic on NBC. He later starred in the short-lived You Can't Take It with You in 1987. Some other sitcom guest appearances for him included The Partridge Family, The Love Boat, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Simpsons, Grace Under Fire and 3rd Rock From the Sun. His final sitcom role was a guest appearance on Love & Money in 1999.

You can view an interview with him from April 14, 2004 at the Archive of American Television. Mr. Morgan was 96.

David Nelson

David Nelson (IMDB / Wikipedia) - David Nelson, who starred on his parents' popular sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, died on January 11, 2011, in Century City, CA from complications of colon cancer. Nelson was the last remaining member of the Nelsons TV family, which included actor/bandleader Ozzie, his singer wife, Harriet Hilliard and his teen idol brother Rick. The show originated on radio in 1952 as Here Come the Nelsons, then ran for 320 episodes on television on ABC from 1952 to 1966 as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet with some of the story lines taken from the stars' own lives. David Nelson also directed and produced numerous episodes of the show throughout its run. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was shot in the Nelson family home in the Hollywood foothills, which remains a popular attraction for visitors on Hollywood celebrity bus tours. His other television credits included Hondo, The Love Boat, The D.A., and TV movies High School USA and A Family For Joe. Directing credits included Goodnight Beantown, Adam-12, O.K. Crackerby!, and Ozzie's Girls. Mr. Nelson was 74.

Uncle Frank Potenza

Frank Potenza (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Frank Potenza, known as Uncle Frank on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, died of cancer on August 23, 2011. Jimmy Kimmel's real-life uncle worked as a security guard and was a cast member on the show since the show debuted in 2003. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! said in a statement that Potenza was "beloved by his co-workers and considered an uncle to all." It also said that "his kindness and humor will be missed by everyone he touched." Uncle Frank is the second member of the security guard staff and "The Worst Team on Television" to die. Veatrice Rice (Miss V), who played the quiet but foul-mouthed on-air security guard, died on January 21, 2009, after a battle with cancer.

Uncle Frank was a Brooklyn, NY native and Korean War veteran. He worked as a New York City police officer for twenty years, ten years as a private security guard in Las Vegas, and seven years as an usher at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. When his nephew Jimmy Kimmel got his own show in 2003, he was asked to move to Los Angeles to work with him. He appeared in many comedy bits and was a regular sidekick over the years. His ex-wife, Conchetta "Chippy" Potenza, appears semi-regularly on the show and did a series of segments with him called "Uncle Frank and Aunt Chippy's Adventures." In late 2009, he suffered a stroke and didn't appear on the show from December 2009 through March 2010 (except for the seventh anniversary show on January 26, 2010). He would appear less frequently when he returned. In 2004, he appeared on an episode of According to Jim as Uncle Frank. Mr. Potenza was 77.

Peggy Rea

Peggy Rea (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Character actress Peggy Rea known for her many roles in television series, and a number of films, died at her home in Toluca Lake, CA on February 5, 2011. She died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Among her recurring roles in television were as Olivia Walton's cousin, Rose Burton, on The Waltons, as man chasing-Lulu Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, as Ivy Baker (the mother of Suzanne Somers' character) on the first season of Step by Step, and as Brett Butler's mom (Jean Kelly) on Grace Under Fire.

Peggy also appeared in such television programs as I Love Lucy, Family Affair, The Good Guys, Gidget, The Patty Duke Show, Hazel, Sergeant Bilko, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Adam-12, Medical Center, Ironside, The Doris Day Show, Mannix, All in the Family, Quincy M.E., Charlie's Angels, Maude, Sanford, One Day at a Time, The Odd Couple, Love American Style, Marcus Welby, M.D., Mathnet, Burke's Law, Monsters, The Golden Girls, MacGyver, and Meego. Ms. Rea was 89.

Sol Saks

Sol Saks (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Sol Saks, a veteran comedy writer who created the classic ABC sitcom Bewitched, died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia on April 16, 2011, in Los Angeles. He began his career as a radio actor as a child. Saks would later write for radio comedies such as Duffy's Tavern and early television sitcoms including My Favorite Husband, Mr. Adams and Eve and I Married Joan. In addition to his writing work for radio and television, he wrote the screenplay for Cary Grant's final film in 1966, the comedy Walk, Don't Run. In 1985, he wrote The Craft of Comedy Writing.

In 1964, he created the long-running and successful Bewitched for ABC. According to harpiesbizarre.com, Saks drew inspiration for the story about a witch who weds a mortal man from two films: I Married a Witch (1942), starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake, and Bell Book and Candle (1958), with James Stewart and Kim Novak. He would write only the pilot episode of the series that was titled, "I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha." You can view an extensive 2009 interview with Saks at the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television at www.emmytvlegends.org . Mr. Saks was 100.

Sherwood Schwartz

Sherwood Schwartz (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Sherwood Schwartz, writer and creator of two beloved sitcoms from the 1960s and 1970s, Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on on July 12, 2011.

Schwartz's entertainment career began as a writer of jokes for Bob Hope's radio program, The Bob Hope Show, in 1939. He would go on to write for other radio programs in the 1940s, including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Alan Young Show. His television career began as a writer for I Married Joan, The Red Skelton Show (winning an Emmy Award in 1961) and My Favorite Martian. In 1964, he created Gilligan's Island, which starred Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells. The show followed the comic adventures of seven castaways as they attempted to survive and ultimately escape from the island where they were shipwrecked. Although the show aired for only 3 seasons and 98 episodes on CBS from 1964-1967, it became a cult classic in syndication. Two animated series (The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan's Planet) and three TV reunion movies (Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island) were later produced. In 1966, he created the science fiction sitcom It's About Time, which dealt with two astronauts being sent back into prehistoric days.

His next big success came with The Brady Bunch. The 1969-74 ABC sitcom starred Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Susan Olsen and Ann B. Davis. The series revolved around a large blended family when a widow with three daughters marries a widower with three sons. Although the show was never a huge ratings or critical hit during its original primetime run, it became a cultural phenomenon in syndication over the years. The success of the show would lead to the animated series The Brady Kids, a variety series called The Brady Bunch Hour, the TV movie The Brady Girls Get Married and TV series The Brady Brides, A Very Brady Christmas TV movie, the TV dramedy The Bradys, and two theatrical movies. Schwartz's other television writing, creating and producing credits included Dusty's Trail (starring Bob Denver), Big John, Little John, Harper Valley PTA and Together We Stand. On March 7, 2008, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

You can watch an extensive interview with him from September 17, 1997 at The Archive of American Television. Read his farewell letter to family and fans here. Mr. Schwartz was 94.

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Patricia Smith was an American actress who appeared in film and television roles from the early 1950s through the 1990s. She died in Los Angeles of heart failure on January 2, 2011. She had a regular role as Charlotte Landers on The Debbie Reynolds Show and a recurring role as Margaret Hoover during the first season (1971-72) of The Bob Newhart Show. Some of her other television credits included The Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones and Quincy M.E.. Ms. Smith was 80.

Leonard B. Stern

Leonard B. Stern (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Legendary TV producer, director and writer Leonard Stern died of heart failure on June 7, 2011, at his home in Beverly Hills, CA. Stern was a writer and producer for such classic sitcoms such as The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show and Get Smart. While working on The Honeymooners, he helped co-create the classic word game Mad Libs with his partner Roger Price.

Stern worked on a number of other sitcoms during his many years in the business. He was the creator of I'm Dickens, He's Fenster (1962-63), Run, Buddy, Run (1966-67), He & She (1967-68) and The Governor and J.J. (1969-70). Stern wrote, directed and produced other sitcoms such as Holmes & Yo-Yo, The Good Guys and Operation Petticoat. His work on TV detective dramas included McMillan and Wife and The Snoop Sisters. He was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won two for "Best Comedy Writing - Variety or Situation Comedy" for The Phil Silvers Show and "Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy" for Get Smart with Buck Henry. In addition, he won three Writers Guild of America Awards and a Peabody Award. Earlier in his career, he was a writer on The Steve Allen Show and Steve Allen's The Tonight Show. His film screenplays included Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, Lost in Alaska, The Jazz Singer, Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town, Three for the Money, Just You and Me, Kid (also directed), Missing Pieces (also directed) and Target.

Our friends at Just My Show did a podcast interview with him back in 2006. You can also watch several video interviews with him at The Archive of American Television. Mr. Stern was 87.

Leonard Stone

Leonard Stone (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Leonard Stone was an American character actor who played supporting roles in over 120 television shows and 35 films. Stone died on November 2, 2011, at his home in San Diego after a brief bout with cancer. In 1966, he had a supporting role as Morton on the short-lived CBS sitcom The Jean Arthur Show starring Jean Arthur and Ron Harper. Some of his other television credits included Dragnet, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, Camp Runamuck, The Donna Reed Show, Sanford and Son, M*A*S*H, One Day at a Time, Barney Miller, Quincy M.E., Night Court, Hill Street Blues, Falcon Crest, Simon & Simon, Sisters and L.A. Law. Mr. Stone was 87.

Edson Stroll

Edson Stroll (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Edson Stroll was an American television and film actor. Stroll died of cancer on July 18, 2011, in Marina del Ray, CA. He played Virgil Edwards (Gunner's Mate) on McHale's Navy. Other television appearances for him included How to Marry a Millionaire, Sea Hunt, The Twlight Zone, It's About Time, Murder, She Wrote, Hotel, Dynasty, Simon & Simon and Dallas. Mr. Stroll was 82.

Barbara Stuart

Barbara Stuart (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Barbara Stuart, an American actress, died
on May, 15, 2011, in St. George, UT. Her first television series role was playing Bessie, the secretary, on the syndicated The Great Gildersleeve, based on the classic radio show Fibber McGee and Molly and starring William Waterman. In 1969, she was cast as Wilma Winslow on The Queen and I, starring Larry Storch. She had a recurring role as Alice on Pete and Gladys on CBS. On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., she played Miss Bunny, Sgt. Carter's girlfriend, in three episodes. Some of her other sitcom guest appearances included December Bride, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Bill Dana Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Cara Williams Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Andy Griffith Show, Mister Roberts, The Farmer's Daughter, Three's Company, Taxi, and The New Love, American Style. Ms. Stuart was 81.

Don Taffner

Don Taffner (IMDB) - Donald Taffner Sr., a 40-year veteran of the television industry and an inventive executive who helped bring Three's Company, Too Close for Comfort and The Benny Hill Show to the American public, died on September 6, 2011, after a brief illness. His daughter, Karen Butler, spoke to the St. John's University newspaper The Torch and said that the doctors believe the cause of death was a "cataclysmic heart event, like an aneurysm or clot.”

Taffner and his wife, Eleanor, founded D.L. Taffner Ltd. in 1963. The couple later changed the name to Taffner Enterprises before it became known as DLT Entertainment. The company was originally formed to help international broadcasters looking for American television shows for their schedules, but they later started to sell overseas shows to the U.S. networks. They helped bring the ABC sitcoms Three's Company, its spinoff Three's a Crowd and Too Close for Comfort to American audiences. DLT Entertainment also brought us the 1985-88 Canadian sitcom Check It Out! which starred Don Adams; the BBC sitcoms My Family and As Time Goes By; and various cartoons that featured the Beatles, Crazy Cat, Barney Google and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. In 1986, he received the International Emmy Founders Award "for setting new levels of creativity in the worldwide exchange of television programs." You can read more about his career and view a video interview at the Archive of American Television. Mr. Taffner was 80.

Clarice Taylor

Clarice Taylor (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Clarice Taylor, a television, film, stage and radio actress best known for her recurring role The Cosby Show as Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable's mother, Anna Huxtable, died on May 30, 2011. Ms. Taylor died at her home in Englewood, New Jersey from congestive heart failure.

Taylor and Earle Hyman (Russell Huxtable) played Cliff's parents in recurring roles for seven years on The Cosby Show. Interestingly enough, she first auditioned to play Phylicia Rashad's mother on the show. In 1986, Taylor and Hyman were both nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series. For 14 years from the late 1970s until 1990, she had a recurring role on Sesame Street as Harriet, the grandmother of David. Her other television work included guest appearances on Ironside, Sanford and Son (as Cousin Emma), Nurse, Lady Blue, Spenser: For Hire and Due South. Her stage work included the role of Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, in The Wiz. She won an Obie Award for her one-woman show, Moms. Film roles for her included Clint Eastwood's directorial debut in the thriller Play Misty for Me, Five on the Black Side and Sommersby. Ms. Taylor was 93.

Sada Thompson

Sada Thompson (IMDB / Wikipedia) - Sada Thompson was an American stage, film, and television actress who was best known television role was on Family where she played the matriarch Kate Lawrence. The role won her the 1978 Emmy Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and garnered her three nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama. She died of lung disease on May 4, 2011, in Danbury, CT.

Thompson received a total of nine Emmy nominations over her career. Her sitcom appearances included The Love Boat and Cheers. Some of her other television guest apperaances included Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Lincoln, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Law & Order. Ms. Thompson was 83.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September)

New Girl - The Complete Season Three The Goldbergs - The Complete First Season The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Seventh Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season One How I Met Your Mother - The Ninth and Legendary Final Season

Modern Family - The Complete Fifth Season Mom - The Complete First Season Mike & Molly - The Complete Fourth Season

09/02 - Benson - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/02 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Halloween Episodes Collection
09/02 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season Nine
09/02 - The League - The Complete Season Five
09/02 - New Girl - The Complete Season Three
09/02 - Soap - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/02 - What's Happening!! - Season 1 (Mill Creek) / Season 2 / Seasons 1 & 2
09/09 - The Goldbergs - The Complete First Season
09/11 - Growing Up Fisher - Season One
09/16 - About a Boy - Season One
09/16 - Awkward - Season 3
09/16 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray/DVD)
09/16 - South Park - Season 17 (Blu-ray)
09/23 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season One
09/23 - How I Met Your Mother - The Ninth and Legendary Final Season / The Complete Series
09/23 - Mama's Family - The Complete Fifth Season / The Complete Collection
09/23 - Modern Family - The Complete Fifth Season
09/23 - Mom - The Complete First Season
09/30 - The Donna Reed Show - Season 1 (MPI)
09/30 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Fourth Season
Other TV Series:
09/02 - Grey's Anatomy - The Complete Tenth Season
09/09 - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
09/16 - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Fourteenth Season
09/16 - Castle - The Complete Sixth Season
09/23 - Nashville - The Complete Second Season
09/23 - Scandal - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, September 23

New Girl - "Dice" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Schmidt tutors Jess in the not-so-fine-art of dating via mobile apps. Meanwhile, Winston is desperate to make a good impression on his fellow police cadets, which backfires when Nick, Coach and Cece show up at a party thrown by fellow officers.

The Mindy Project - "Annette Castellano Is My Nemesis" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
It’s Mindy’s time to shine when Danny’s mom (guest star Rhea Perlman) comes to the city and Mindy is determined to win her approval. Meanwhile, Morgan tries to stand up for himself in his relationship with Tamra (Xosha Roquemore).

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 22) (All times ET unless noted)

Tuesday, September 23

  • Lauren Graham (Townies/Conrad Bloom) - Catch Lauren on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project) - Ed is a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jason Mantzoukas (The League) - Jason appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) - Ike stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) - Tune in to see Kim on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Andrea Martin (Working the Engels) - Andrea chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Wendi McClendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Michael and his parents are guests on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Geena Davis (The Geena Davis Show/Sara/Buffalo Bill) - Geena is interviewed by Norah O'Donnell on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Debra Messing (Will Grace) - Debra talks about her new show The Mysteries of Laura, growing up in the same place as Meredith and even participating in a former Junior Miss competition on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Haley Joel Osment (Thunder Alley/The Jeff Foxworthy Show) - Haley Joel will be on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York between 7-10am.
  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons and Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish/Reed Between the Lines/Girlfriends) - Anthony and Tracee talk about their new show black-ish on 106 & Park on BET at 3pm.