Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gary David Goldberg, "Family Ties" Creator

Gary David Goldberg, Television Writer And Creator of ‘Family Ties,’ Dies at 68

NBC, via Photofest
Michael J. Fox, right, with Michael Gross in the pilot episode of “Family Ties.”

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Gary David Goldberg, a writer and producer who created warmhearted television shows, most notably “Family Ties,” a leading comedy of the 1980s that propelled Michael J. Fox to stardom, died on Saturday at his home in Montecito, Calif. He was 68.

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Gary David Goldberg
The cause was brain cancer, said his daughter Shana Silveri.
Mr. Goldberg came to writing relatively late, after a peripatetic young adulthood in the 1960s and early ’70s that included dropping out of colleges, waiting tables in Greenwich Village, hitchhiking around the world with the woman who would become his wife and starting a day care center with her in Northern California.
The rebellious flower-child sensibility that informed these adventures was the spur for “Family Ties,” which captured the culture clash between parents of the hippie generation and their children growing up during the Reagan administration.
The show, broadcast on NBC from 1982 to 1989, was set in a suburban neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, and focused on the Keatons: Steven and Elyse (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney) and their children, Alex (Mr. Fox), a bright, earnest young Republican with a hunger for wealth; the fashion-obsessed Mallory (Justine Bateman); and Jennifer (Tina Yothers), the intellectually precocious little sister. (In later seasons, after Ms. Baxter-Birney’s pregnancy was incorporated into the show, the family added a fourth child, Andrew, played by Brian Bonsall.)
The pilot episode opened with the Keatons in their living room watching home movies of Steven and Elyse at a demonstration against the Vietnam War.
“That was history in the making,” Elyse explains. “There were people from every state in the union at that protest.”
“What were you protesting?” Alex asks. “Good grooming?”
Originally meant to focus on the parents, whom Mr. Goldberg said were based on him and his wife, the show became a vehicle for Mr. Fox, who was 21 when the show started. He soon earned the lead role in the 1985 hit film “Back to the Future.”
Mr. Fox was not the first choice for the “Family Ties” role — Matthew Broderick was — and even after his audition Mr. Goldberg did not want him for the part. It was only after the casting director, Judith Weiner, pestered Mr. Goldberg to see Mr. Fox again that the match was made.
“From that point on he was a tireless defender of me,” Mr. Fox said in a recent interview. As Mr. Fox became central to “Family Ties,” the show began dealing more with teenage issues than with parental ones. Some were serious; in one Emmy-winning episode, Alex went to a psychiatrist after a friend died in a car crash. But what made the show a success was that differences among the Keatons were settled in a loving manner. Like the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show,” which came along two seasons later, they were a happy family.
“I was interested in the dynamic of a couple that had been together long term, that were still very physically active and attracted to each other, a house where there was romance and where the parents’ relationship to the kids reflected expanded lanes of communication and represented the way families were changing,” Mr. Goldberg said in a 2007 interview for the Archive of American Television.
He added: “This father was not threatened by the growing power of his own children. They were trying to have a relationship that would continue into the future. His goal was not to show how he could control and coerce these kids. It was ruling by love. It was the power of love that kept everybody — and respect — which is more powerful than fear. I wanted to show those elements.”
Born in Brooklyn on June 25, 1944, Mr. Goldberg was known as Gary as a boy. He began using his middle name, David, as a professional affectation. “If I could get rid of it, I would,” he said.
Gary and his brother, Stanley, grew up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood. Their father, George, was a postal worker and their mother, Anne, a bookkeeper for her father’s hat company. Anne’s parents lived downstairs; his grandmother, Mr. Goldberg said, was the family’s most powerful member: the keeper of the TV, the telephone and, though she couldn’t drive, the car.
“So if you wanted to go anywhere, learn anything or talk to anybody, you had to go through her,” he said. He added, “Anything that happened to me that’s been good really goes back to Brooklyn and goes back to my grandmother’s apartment.”
He played basketball at Lafayette High School and earned an athletic scholarship to Brandeis University, but, an indifferent student, he never finished. He also attended Hofstra briefly. He finally graduated from San Diego State University in 1975.
In 1969, Mr. Goldberg was a waiter at the Village Gate in Manhattan when he met Diana Meehan, a flight attendant. The two eventually spent 14 months traveling, mostly penniless, accompanied by their dog, Ubu, for whom Mr. Goldberg later named his production company. When they returned they started the day care center, in Berkeley.
After two years they moved to Southern California, where, at San Diego State, a writing teacher helped Mr. Goldberg get jobs in television. He wrote comedy for “The Bob Newhart Show” and became a producer of the newspaper drama “Lou Grant,” starring Ed Asner, and “The Tony Randall Show,” a comedy in which Mr. Randall played a widowed judge.
Mr. Goldberg created other shows after “Family Ties,” most notably “Brooklyn Bridge,” a homage to his childhood that lasted two seasons in the early 1990s; and “Spin City,” created with Bill Lawrence, which reunited him with Mr. Fox, who played the deputy mayor to a dimwitted mayor of New York. It lasted six seasons, 1996 to 2002, the last of which featured Charlie Sheen in place of Mr. Fox.
Mr. Goldberg also produced the feature films “Dad” (1989), about a father-son reconciliation that starred Jack Lemmon and Ted Danson; “Bye Bye Love” (1995), with Paul Reiser, Matthew Modine and Randy Quaid as divorced men; and “Must Love Dogs” (2005), a romantic comedy with Diane Lane and John Cusack. He directed “Dad” and “Must Love Dogs.”
Mr. Goldberg and Ms. Meehan married in 1990. Besides his daughter Ms. Silveri, he is survived by his wife, his brother, his daughter Cailin Goldberg Meehan and three grandchildren.
“Gary is one of those guys who has no guile in him,” Mr. Fox said shortly before Mr. Goldberg’s death. “His work is a celebration, of life, of relationships, of small family moments. A line like, ‘Why are there two milks open in the fridge?’ You could tell it was from Gary, so well observed without being trite or sappy. I used to marvel at what brought him to this place of gentle, loving humor, this jock from Brooklyn who could craft this stuff.”


Gary David Goldberg (June 25, 1944 – June 22, 2013) was an American writer and producer for television and film. Goldberg was best known for his work on Family Ties (1982–89), Spin City (1996–2002), and his semi-autobiographical series Brooklyn Bridge (1991–93).

Gary David Goldberg was born on June 25, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Anne (née Prossman) and George Goldberg, a postal worker. He attended and graduated from Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. He studied at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and San Diego State University, ultimately deciding to become a writer. In 1969, he met the woman who would become his wife, Diana Meehan. They founded and ran a day care center in Berkeley, California, during the 1970s.

Gary started his showbiz career while living in Israel in 1972, landing the lead role of Scooterman in the language teaching show The Adventures of Scooterman. His first "real job" not in front of the camera came in 1976, when he became a writer for CBS' The Bob Newhart Show. This was followed by The Tony Randall Show and later CBS' Lou Grant, for which he was also producer.

In 1981, he formed his own company, Ubu Productions (named after his dog). In 1982, he created Family Ties which ran for seven seasons. It was a critical and ratings hit and continues to be seen to this day in syndication and helped launch the career of Michael J. Fox. The show was based on the experiences he shared with his wife and family of hippie parents raising children in the 1970s. He later produced Brooklyn Bridge and Spin City. In 1989, he produced the feature film with a marquée cast, Dad, starring Jack Lemmon, Ted Danson, and Olympia Dukakis. This film was followed by Bye Bye Love, starring Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser and Randy Quaid; and Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. He received two Emmy awards (1979 for Lou Grant, 1987 for Family Ties) and four Writers Guild of America Awards (1979, 1988, 1998, 2010) for his work. He also received the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of excellence and innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television in 1994 and the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award in 2001.

His daughter is the comedy writer Shana Goldberg-Meehan. He died of brain cancer in Montecito, California on June 22, 2013, just three days shy of his 69th birthday.

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