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.

One of the more noteworthy DVDs to arrive this year is CBS/Paramount’s June release of the first season of Mannix.  Because Mannix‘s first season differs considerably from the subsequent seven, these initial 24 episodes were not included in the show’s syndication package.  Unlike most of the familiar TV product that’s coming out on DVD these days, the early Mannixs are a time-capsule find that hasn’t been seen on American television for several decades.

I wish I should say that Mannix‘s lost year represents a major discovery, but that’s not quite the case.  Mannix was created by the team of William Link and Richard Levinson, eventually the men behind the juggernauts of Columbo and Murder She Wrote, but in 1967 just a pair of talented freelancers with credits on the likes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Burke’s Law.  With Mannix, Link and Levinson attempted a revision of the private eye genre that anticipated the postmodern pulp reformations of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye or Jeremy Kagan’s The Big Fix

Their hero, Joe Mannix, was not the familiar hard-boiled loner archetype, operating out of a dingy office, with a wise-cracking secretary out front and a battered fedora and trenchcoat on the rack in the corner.  Instead he was a cog in a wheel, one of a fleet of impeccably dressed operatives in the employ of Intertect, a corporate detective agency crammed with high-tech equipment.  (Computers the size of a minivan that shuffled around stacks of punchcards, in other words.) 

Intertect was inspired by Link and Levinson’s experiences at Universal, the first of the Hollywood studios to track its employees by computer.  The Universal of the sixties was run by former talent agents inherited from its parent company MCA, who dressed in black suits and had offices in the fearsome obsidian monolith known as “The Black Tower,” a modern glass executive building that loomed over the front gates.  Lou Wickersham, the head of Intertect, was an insider joke on Lew Wasserman, the legendarily ruthless head of Universal.  (The name Wickersham was derived from “Wasserman” and Lankershim Boulevard, the North Hollywood address of Universal’s main entrance.  Joseph Campanella, who played Wickersham, once told me that his slight resemblance to Wasserman was a factor in his casting.)  Joe Mannix, the series’ nonconformist hero, was the only Intertect operative with the inclination to buck Wickersham’s unfeeling, bottom-line approach to sleuthing.

You can see how Link and Levinson intended Mannix as a platform for venturing into some Big Ideas.  Their scenario was a genre allegory that opened the door for sideways exploration of topics like mechanization, capitalism, the dehumanizing aspects of modernity, and so on. 

But Link and Levinson were out of Mannix even before a pilot was written, and the reins were taken by Mission: Impossible honcho Bruce Geller (who executive produced) and producer Wilton Schiller.  Schiller had produced the last three seasons of Ben Casey and the final year of The Fugitive.  He was competent but uninspired, as were most of the cadre of freelance writers who had followed Schiller from one or both of the earlier shows onto Mannix: John Meredyth Lucas, Chester Krumholz, Barry Oringer, Howard Browne, Sam Ross, Walter Brough.  In their hands, the conflict between Mannix and Lou Wickersham remained a constant element of the series, but it lacked any depth or metaphorical meaning.  The two characters simply bickered like unhappy spouses, and the clash between them never varied much in content or intensity.  It is fascinating to speculate as to how Link and Levinson might have developed their idea.  Might Mannix have become a prototype for the serialized drama of the eighties, with a character conflict at its center that grew more complex and gripping as time went on?

For the second season of Mannix, Intertect disappeared without explanation and Joe Mannix worked alone out of a stylish home-office.  Now he embodied the cliche Link and Levinson sought to undermine: a hard-boiled loner type with a wise-cracking secretary.  The initial revisionist concept had devolved into a totally classical text. 

Surprisingly, this wasn’t an altogether bad thing.  Mannix‘s new producers, veteran screenwriters Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, brought in better writers and directors.  They crafted the familiar elements of the format into an appealing blend of old-fashioned mysteries and jazzy film-noir vibes.  Mike Connors, the series’ star, had a relaxed personality that fit the new Mannix better than the old one.  Connors was like that gregarious but no-nonsense uncle you knew you could count on to scare off the schoolyard bullies.

*

I first watched Mannix in 1995-1996, when the TV Land channel was rerunning it nearly every day.  I was in film school at the time, at the University of Southern California.  College was a frustrating experience, four years of searching for the intellectual stimulation I’d been promised the whole time I was growing up and finding it only on the margins of the experience – in the film archives, from exploring the city of Los Angeles,  or in long conversations with a few kindred spirits, but rarely in classes or amid the general campus population.  Often when there was a lull in the grind of studying or writing dull undergraduate papers, I’d unwind by consuming five or six Mannix segments in a row.  It was just the kind of smooth, undemanding escapism I needed.  It’s kind of a shame, but those marathons of Mannix (sometimes interspersed with Thriller, airing on the Sci-Fi Channel, or Route 66, on loan from a T.A. researching a doctoral thesis on road movies) number among my fondest college memories.

When I received my copy of the Mannix DVDs, I immediately took a look at a particular episode, “Turn Every Stone” – and not because, just by coincidence, it’s the only one credited to writer Jeri Emmett.  If Mannix is forever associated with USC in my memory, “Turn Every Stone” is the episode that reflects that memory back at me.

The climax of “Turn Every Stone” is a shootout between Mannix and the villains (Hampton Fancher and Nita Talbot) in the central courtyard of a tall, distinctive red-brick building.  That building is the Rufus B. Von KleinSmid Center, which stands on the east side of Trousdale Parkway, the main drag of the USC Campus.  (USC benefactors tended to have funny names; don’t get me started on the Topping Center, or Fagg Park.) 

Here’s a shot of Mike Connors and Fancher entering a classroom hallway:

And a better look at the tall, narrow interior columns, which convey the impression that the building all exterior and no interior:

An innovative use for the the basement level’s sunken courtyard:

The Von KleinSmid Center (or VKC, as the students call it) is one of the main classroom buildings at USC, and I probably attended a half-dozen classes in it during my four years there.  It’s one of the most commonly used locations on a campus that’s famous, at least among those who’ve done time there, as a ubiquitous backdrop in movies and TV shows.  When I was a USC freshman, I attended a screening of Copycat (1995), wherein my fellow students went wild upon catching a glimpse of VKC’s tall globe-topped spire; a few days later, I stumbled across Morgan Freeman shooting a scene for Kiss the Girls (1997) in a car being towed down Trousdale Parkway.  But the campus’s onscreen history goes back beyond tacky nineties serial killer flicks.  The Von KleinSmid Center was completed in 1965, and its then-modern architecture made it a magnet for movie companies in the sixties and seventies. 

USC’s most famous turn in the spotlight came during the same year that “Turn Every Stone” was filmed, in Mike Nichol’s The Graduate (1967).  Northern Californians and fans of the movie will be crushed to learn that, during the scene in which Dustin Hoffman pursues Katharine Ross back to Berkeley, “UC-Berkeley” is actually . . . USC.  Our first glimpse of Hoffman on campus during the scene scored to Simon & Garfunkel’s  “Scarborough Fair” comes as he’s walking down the low steps that surround VKC:

Hoffman then walks up a tree-shrouded, diagonal path through Alumni Park to the neighboring building, the thirties-era Doheny Library, the basement of which contains my favorite USC hangout, the Cinema-Television Library:

Later Hoffman and Katharine Ross walk down the same outdoor corridor that we see in Mannix:

The scene where Hoffman stands outside for the duration of Ross’s class was filmed inside VKC (you can tell from the narrow vertical windows), quite possibly in one of the same first-floor rooms where I had classes.  A subsequent shot was photographed through the same VKC window:

All of these buildings still look about the same today as they did forty years ago.

Parts of the USC campus also turn up for a split-second in Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), and in Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) – a great tracking shot that traces the route I’d take onto campus through the Jefferson Boulevard entrance, which was just across the street from my first L.A. apartment.  But since I’m a TV historian, and this a TV blog, the television appearances of the USC campus are what I’ve tracked with the most enthusiasm. 

In the original pilot for Harry O, a made-for-television movie called Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On (1973), the Von Kleinsmid Center is the backdrop for a conversation between David Janssen and S. John Launer (a fine character actor whom I interviewed during my USC years):

Outtakes from that sequence made it into the series’ opening titles. . .

. . . giving USC a weekly cameo in Harry O , under Janssen’s star billing card no less, throughout its two-year run:

Continuing its chameleonesque career of imitating other colleges, USC served as just “the University” in an “Until Proven Innocent,” a 1971 episode of Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law.  Lindsay Wagner played a judge’s daughter from wealthy Santa Barbara who was slumming at “the University” until she could transfer to George Washington University – a pretty typical USC co-ed, in other words.  Once again, the Von Kleinsmid Center is everpresent.  Wagner and Lee Majors roam both the sunken courtyard and the basement-level library (the real thing, not a set) in a lengthy scene.  Here, with Majors, Wagner, and Randolph Mantooth lined up in front of it, VKC looks as if it’s doubling as an acting school for dull Universal contract players.

VKC Owen Marshall

Decades later, USC did a sustained impersonation of Brown University on one of my favorite shows of the past decade, The O.C., as Seth (Adam Brody) visited the Rhode Island school and his inamorata Summer (Rachel Bilson) eventually went there.  But it was another bit of USC TV-fakery that really blew my mind.

I have to indulge in a detour now and explain a bit about why college in general, and USC in particular, were so disappointing to me.  Part of it is that for years of my parents and teachers had promised that college – far more than the public education which preceded it – would be the ideal atmosphere for my adolescent nerdiness.  Their assurances did little to prepare me for the realities of the shallow, alcohol- and party-feuled student life, or the cynicism and toxic academic politics among the faculty. 

But part of it was TV’s fault, because I’d put in a lot of time watching The Paper Chase when I was a pre-teen.  The Paper Chase, one of the great, underrated dramas of the eighties, was a smart, nostalgic portrait of life among law students based on John Jay Osborn’s autobiographical novel.  For a twelve year-old, the distinction between undergraduate life and an idealized Ivory League law school was subtle, and so The Paper Chase – and, really, nothing but The Paper Chase – shaped my conception of what higher education would be.  I had set myself up for a major shock.

Flash forward to my junior year at USC, when I’m conducting a phone interview with Ralph Senensky, a talented episodic television director of the sixties and seventies.  The Paper Chase was Senensky’s last major credit, and as we’re chatting about it, Ralph drops a bombshell on me: The Paper Chase‘s unnamed-East Coast-university-that’s-clearly-meant-to-be-Harvard was actually USC.  Every outdoor frame of it!

Later that year, on a holiday trip back to Raleigh, I dug out the last surviving tape of the Paper Chase recordings I’d made years before, and replayed the show’s final episode on my father’s dying Beta machine.  Sure enough, the office of Professor Kingsfield (the much-feared master teacher played to perfection by John Houseman) was located in the Bovard Administration Building, which is directly across Trousdale Parkway from the Doheny Library.  The Taper Hall of Humanities doubled as a classroom building.  I couldn’t be sure exactly where the exterior of the basement office of the Law Review (which I thought was so cool as a teenager, and which the show’s protagonist, James Stephens’ Hart, held in some esteem too) was, but it’s a redress of a side entrance to either Bovard or the neighboring Physical Education Building.

Coming near the nadir of my disillusionment with film school (I’d just completed my one grueling film production class), this seemed a particularly cruel blow.  I had gone back to revisit my cherished ideal of what college should have been and found those industrious, earnest grad students of my TV-fueled fantasy walking the same sunny SoCal campus that encircled my own dreary reality.

That moment was probably my first brush with a quality of living in Los Angeles that I later came to love.  I always get blank looks when I try to explain this to non-Angelenos (especially the ones who’ve been there and back and complain that there are no tourist attractions to visit), but one of the wonderful things about L.A. is the constant and somehow comforting awareness that you’re living out your life in the world’s biggest movie set.  The places you pass through in your daily travels are the same backdrops you see in countless movies and TV shows, and as you move through them the collective fiction of your moviegoing experience forms a sort of overlay upon your “real” life.  If you’re a film buff like me, your awareness of this duality is constant.  Los Angeles is a meta-city.  Elaine and Benjamin’s Berkeley is Hart and Ford’s Harvard is my USC, and who am I to privilege one of these meanings over another?  Some people come for the climate, some for the laid-back attitude (which is no myth, trust me) . . . but this is why I love L.A.

Thanks to David Gebhard and Robert Winter’s An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles for the crash course in campus architecture.  Updated 7/29/09 to include the Von Kleinsmid Center’s Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law episode.

More days off and more TV episodes logged in.  Detective shows were the lingua franca of’70s television, so I’ve gradually been sampling them all, dropping the ones that bore me (McMillan and Wife, Quincy) and sticking with those that managed to achieve something creative within the limitations of the genre.  Often that seems to have been an insurmountable task.  Harry O, for example, slid almost immediately into a rote action/mystery formula that had bore little resemblance to the quirky, off-tempo character drama launched by its brilliant creator, Howard Rodman.  Kojak is almost completely ordinary, despite having been managed by a succession of writer-producers of impeccable reputation (Abby Mann, Matthew Rapf, Jack Laird).  Maybe it was because Telly Savalas (one of television’s unlikeliest stars) was so intent on looking cool that he didn’t want anything but the most generic cop-show cliches cluttering up his periphery. 

(I’m pretty sure I’ve added Kojak to the reject list, but I will offer a parting, backhanded recommendation for the tenth episode, “Cop in a Cage,” which pits Savalas against cult movie villain John P. Ryan as an ex-con out to get Kojak for putting him away.  It’s one of the most over-the-top showdowns between narcissistic ham actors that I’ve ever seen.  Great fun.)

The only series I tackled this weekend that was completely new to me was Banacek, one of the NBC Mystery Movie franchise shows produced by Universal.  When the NBC mystery wheel moved the three hits of its first season – Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife – to Sunday, the network launched three completely new properties in the original Wednesday time slot.  Banacek was the only one of those to limp along to a second season.  (The flops were Cool Million and Madigan, replaced the following year by Faraday and Company, The Snoop Sisters, and Tenafly – also duds.  Although I’d love to see the latter, which starred the wonderfully acerbic James McEachin as a deglamorized African American private eye.). 

I was curious about Banacek mainly because it was build around George Peppard, a downsliding sixties movie star I’d always enjoyed for the naked arrogance he radiated during his brief screen career.  Peppard was perfect for roles like the Howard Hughes figure in The Carpetbaggers or the proto-nazi World War I ace in The Blue Max, since he seemed to luxuriate in a blatant anti-social quality, an I-don’t-care-if-you-like-me-because-I’m-a-big-star ‘tude that most of his peers held in check until the cameras were turned off.  I was hoping Peppard would project his full-wattage movie star id as Banacek too, but in that sense the show was a bit of a disappointment.  He’s still pretty aloof and superior, as befits the character, but he also turns on an unctuous charm whenever an attractive woman is around.  Somebody must have taken Peppard aside and explained to him about Q ratings.

If Columbo, the template for all the ninety-minute Universal detective series, was a howdunit that revealed the identity of the bad guy from the start, then Banacek tried to top it by being both a how- and a whodunit.  Each episode depicts a daring theft before the opening titles, without showing the culprit, and leaves Banacek to ferret out the crook and piece together the details of his or her tricky scheme (usually in an extended reconstruction sequence in the last act). 

Like Columbo, it was a format that demanded a lot of its writers.  The first couple of episodes revolve around dazzling, seemingly impossible crimes – a football player who’s kidnapped in the middle of a flying tackle (in Del Reisman’s “Let’s Hear It For a Living Legend”) or a freight car that disappears from a moving train (David Moessinger’s “Project Phoenix”).  As the first season progressed, the crimes got more and more pedestrian.  The show had a strong writing pedigree – it was created by Emmy nominee Anthony Wilson (the son of MGM producer/writer Carey Wilson, he died of a brain tumor a few years after Banacek) and produced by George Eckstein, a graduate of The Untouchables and The Fugitive – but it’s a daunting task to come up with eight perfect heists a year.  If you could, you wouldn’t be a TV producer, you’d be, well, a master criminal.

One aspect of Banacek that I like, though, is that (except in the pilot TV movie that launched the series) nobody dies.  Banacek is a “freelance insurance investigator” who solves big-ticket robberies and gleefully pockets a big fee from the insurance execs.  That meant the show could strike a breezy tone – sending Banacek to bed, for instance, with each week’s female guest star – without having to find some way to desensitize us against a rising body count.  Giving Banacek corporate underwriters to work for also spared us the scene of the private eye agreeing to help some impoverished sad sack solve his grandma’s or old army buddy’s or pet schnauser’s murder out of the goodness of his heart.  That’s a cliche I’m really getting tired of as I see it used over and over again, even in dark-hearted shows that should know better, like Harry O

Banacek’s DNA seems to come partly from Amos Burke, the preposterous millionaire homicide lieutenant who solved murders from the backseat of his Rolls in Aaron Spelling’s trash classic Burke’s Law.  The most obvious nod to the earlier series is the presence here of the generally insufferable Ralph Manza as Banacek’s chauffeur, Jay Drury, a comic Italian stereotype; Amos Burke also had an ethnic driver, a Chinese man named Henry (Leon Lontoc), as part of his entourage.  Manza’s comic relief is rarely funny, and his character makes no sense, given that Banacek travels around the country to solve his cases and would logically hire a local driver in each city rather than pay an annoying sidekick’s travel expenses.  But it just goes to show that even a smart series like this one struggled to get across all its necessary exposition without building in some characters for the loner-protagonist to talk to.  (Banacek’s other interlocutor was the arch, very gay rare-book dealer Felix Mulholland, played by Murray Matheson.  Banacek wore a lot of turtlenecks and the car phone in his Packard was in an unbelievable shade of pastel blue, so I suppose there’s a bisexual subtext to be unpacked if anyone cares to.)

One thing that puzzles me about Banacek is why everyone keeps harping on the title character’s Polish ancestry.  Herb Edelman refers to him as “Super Pole” in one episode and (my favorite) Broderick Crawford calls him Bananacek.  I mean, it’s not like everybody in Columbo went around pointing out to Peter Falk that he was a greasy little wop – even though Columbo (a blue-collar guy schlumping around among blue-blooded villains) might’ve expected some class snobbery, whereas Banacek is awfully well assimilated into the world of generic rich white folks.  I guess it was an attempt to give a pretty bland character a little color in an era of proliferating crime shows where every hero had a gimmick.  Cannon was the fat detective, Longstreet the blind detective, Barnaby Jones the old detective.  But it comes across as totally forced, sort of like Ironside’s bizarre fetish for chili in the early episodes of that series.

And finally a bit of pedantry: Something that frustrates me, as a historian, about these ninety-minute shows is that while the stories had room for more speaking parts than a typical hour-long series, the credits did not.  So you tend to see a lot of fairly prominent supporting players who didn’t receive billing, and whose names have thus been lost to history.  Just in these eight Banacek episodes, I spotted a few familiar actors who, back in the day, were probably pretty apoplectic about being left off the credit roll.  In “Project Phoenix,” for instance, there’s Stuart Nisbet as the head train guard, and Owen Bush as an engineer.  “A Million the Hard Way” (perhaps the strongest first season segment, a casino robbery piece by Batman scribe Stanley Ralph Ross) features the reliable Irish fireplug Judson Platt, a late member of the John Ford stock company, in a sizeable speaking part as the guard in front of whose eyes the million bucks gets boosted.  Lewis Charles appears in “The Greatest Collection of Them All” as Reilly, a waiter in Banacek’s favorite restaurant, a part that might’ve been a recurring one if the show had amassed more than a handful of episodes.  And it was a surprise and a pleasure to discover my old acquaintance Lonny Chapman, atypically sporting a mustache, turn up in a little unbilled cameo in the pilot TV movie, in a funny turn as a philosophical redneck bartender.  Here he is:

So there are a few folks you won’t find mentioned in the credits, or on the IMDb or anywhere else on the internet.  But I’d sure love to dig around in Universal’s production records and learn the names of the dozens of other actors who didn’t make the cut.

Last week I went to Los Angeles to add a few more tendrils to the sprawling oral history project that’s largely overtaken my life during the last few years.  (The median age in my rolodex is probably somewhere around 81.)  Compiling the research needed to ask good questions is a formidable chore all its own, and it always yields some unexpected dividends.  Sometimes these surprises are unpleasant ones. 

For instance, while I was digging around putting together videographies for this batch of interview subjects, I came across the unpleasant discovery that the TV producer James McAdams had passed away last September.  There was no obituary, just a mention in (of all places) a comment posted an Amazon.com review of the DVD release of McAdams’ series The Equalizer by one of his friends.  I didn’t reach out to anyone to confirm this, but the mention is bylined by one Coleman Luck, an Equalizer writer, and there’s a matching Social Security Death Index entry, so sadly I’m thinking this is for real.  McAdams was neither a writer nor a director, just one of those veteran production guys who made the wheels turn.  One of my director friends remembered knowing him as an office boy at Universal even before his first official credit, as an assistant to exec producer Frank Rosenberg on Arrest and Trial.  McAdams rose up through the ranks on other Uni TV product like Ironside, The Virginian, The Bold Ones, and finally scored some Emmy nominations on Kojak.  James McAdams: 1937-2007.

During that same flurry of fact-sifting I finally sorted out another industry veteran’s death once and for all, this one from a lot further back.  I knew that Richard Lang, who directed a raft of Harry O and Kung Fu episodes, had died around 1997 or so, because it was mentioned in Ed Robertson’s production history of Harry O, in the audio commentary on the Cleopatra DVD (Lang was an assistant director on the film), and apparently on an “in memoriam” card on the final Melrose Place episode he directed.  So I gather Lang died suddenly.  But there was no obituary in the press or the trade papers, and no source has ever formally reported Lang’s death until now, when it occurred to me that his real name could be Walter Richard Lang, Jr.  (His father was the film director Walter Lang.)  That hunch yielded a matching SSDI listing and finally closed my file.  Richard Lang: 1939-1997.

Then, as I was in L.A. making some new acquaintances among the ranks of early television writers, so was the Grim Reaper.  I had already made my peace with the idea of not interviewing Seaman Jacobs, the veteran comedy writer with credits on a laundry list of famous sitcoms: The Real McCoys, Petticoat Junction, Bachelor Father, F Troop, The Andy Griffith Show.  Jacobs, who died on April 8 at 96, was fairly well known and had told his stories to others better qualified to capture them than me.  (And if you’re having a chuckle over his first name right now, watch the first thirty seconds of his Archive of American Television oral history and you’ll see that Jacobs beat you to that joke.)  Seaman Jacobs: 1912-2008.

But I had some pangs of regret when I saw the obit for Robert Warnes Leach, a long-forgotten television scribe who died on March 30 at 93.  His credits are those of a journeyman – some Ziv shows (Men Into Space), a quick pass at Perry Mason – but there’s something about his decisive exeunt from the TV industry, and that wonderful nineteenth-century name, that make wish I’d taken a crack at firing some questions at him.  Robert Warnes Leach: 1914-2008.

And then the final blow landed on Friday, when a lunch companion informed me that the veteran TV and film writer-producer Richard DeRoy died in early March.  (Another close friend of DeRoy’s confirmed the information this week, and told me that the family’s desire for no publicity or memorial is the reason that no press release was sent out.  Otherwise I imagine the news would have merited an obit in the L.A. Times, or at least the trades.)  DeRoy was a talented and fairly important writer, one that flourished above all as a head writer, story editor, and finally producer on Peyton Place during its first two seasons.  (Update: Two months later, a decent Variety obit.)

Rather than write more here, I’m going to move my 2004 interview with DeRoy – which was fairly brief, but pithy and amusing – to the head of the line and add it to the oral history page within the next couple of weeks.  Richard DeRoy: 1930-2008.

 

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