Serge Krizman (1914-2008)

October 21, 2009

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Production designer Serge Krizman died one year ago, on October 24, 2008, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He was 94.  Krizman’s death was reported at the time in his hometown paper, but has not yet been noted by any entertainment industry sources.

Krizman was the initial and/or primary art director on at least four important television shows: The Fugitive, Batman, Harry O, and The Paper Chase.  He also designed sets for the Schlitz Playhouse, Happy Days, Charlie’s Angels, T. J. Hooker, and a number of other series and made-for-television movies.

Because of The Fugitive’s continued popularity, Krizman may be best remembered for his work on that series, which was realistic in its look and somewhat ahead of the curve in combining studio sets with extensive Southern California location work.  (At the time, most TV dramas stuck to the backlot, if they went outdoors at all.)  Krizman even attended at least one Fugitive fan convention in the nineties.  But the most important item on his resume is unquestionably Batman.  Very few television series can claim production design as the defining element of their creative makeup; Batman tops that list.  Krizman’s designs drew on the DC comic, of course, but also expanded to include elements of exuberant camp and dry visual humor that were unique to the TV version.  For that credit alone, Krizman merits a mention in the annals of television history.

That obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican does a nice job of filling in some details of Krizman’s eventful life, but the author commits one serious error that I think is worth singling out.  The obit lists a purported tally of the individual episodes of various series on which Krizman worked: 70 Batmans, 17 Fugitives, 13 Charlie’s Angels.  I can guess where those stats were sourced.  Wait for it: my old nemesis, the Internet Movie Database. 

The problem is that the IMDb is still hit-or-miss in listing the episodic television credits of many people, especially “below the line” crew members.  It will scoop up a few mentions on one series, and every credit on another, without much rhyme or reason.  In that way, the database presents a very distorted portrait of the significance of specific shows within an individual’s career (or, conversely, the extent of a person’s involvement on a particular series).  Just in the year since his obituary has published, the IMDb’s totals of Krizman’s Fugitives and Batmans have ticked upward by a few episodes. 

I don’t have credit transcripts of any of those shows handy, so I can’t provide the correct numbers.  But I can point out that, while Krizman was credited on all twenty-two episodes of Harry O’s first season, the IMDb records him as the art director for only two.  The IMDb contains a lot of traps into which inexperienced users can fall, but that’s no excuse for journalists to depend on it for “facts” that cannot be confirmed from reliable sources.

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Krizman in the early 1990s, at the Goldwyn Studio during one of the Fugitive fan reunions.

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5 Responses to “Serge Krizman (1914-2008)”

  1. JW Says:

    An excellent point – more and more news sources blindly site IMDB and, even worse, Wikipedia. I don’t feel that it’s being overly pessimistic to say that this will continue to happen so long as both sites continue to grow. Sure, both sites have great merit in some areas, but are frustratingly pathetic in others. However, I guess one could argue that they will improve only if knowledgeable users are convinced to contribute. If not, then those with arcane knowledge unknown to supposed experts such as IMDB or Wikipedia, could be seen as suspect – as in, if it’s not in Wikipedia, how could it be correct?

    In fact, in this week’s Onion interview with Bronson Pinchot, the interviewer asks him about his appearance in “Bachelor Party.” Pinchot says that he wasn’t in “Bachelor Party.” The culprit? IMDB – who still lists “Bachelor Party” as a Pinchot film, yet Pinchot isn’t listed in the film’s credits. Their metadata sucks.

  2. drkimble Says:

    Point well taken on the unreliability of imdb as the final word on credits.

    Krisman actually did 63 episodes of THE FUGITIVE representing just over half of the total output of the series. He was on the show from early 1963 – May 1965 doing all of the 1st season except for the pilot FEAR IN A DESERT CITY (29 shows), all of the 2nd season (30 shows), and the 1st 4 shows filmed for the 3rd season.

    One of his contributions was to revamp and build the small backlot street on the Samuel Goldwyn lot used in many of the episodes. It has since been demolished.

  3. drkimble Says:

    Addendum:

    I presume Serge left THE FUGITIVE to begin work on the BATMAN TV series and to start to design and oversee construction on the many sets and elements required for that show. BATMAN premiered in January 1966 and most likely went into production in the summer of 1965….

  4. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Thanks for the official FUGITIVE tally, Dr. Kimble. And, great website, by the way. Anyone who’s stumbling across this page and hasn’t already visited http://www.davidjanssen.net should do so, pronto.


  5. This is his daughter, Alexandra Andrews. THANK YOU for this! I had no idea how to find people who would know specifics and dads “filing system” was no the best. I am putting together a website for him, http://www.sergekrizman.com and I would LOVE any input you may have!! He also turned into a fine artist here in NM when he retired from the movie biz and some of his work hangs in the archbishops rectory as well as the vatican.


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