Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Television Writer Richard Baer R.I.P.

Richard Baer, who wrote for such sitcoms as Bewitched and F Troop, passed last Friday at the age of 79. The cause was complications from a heart attack.

Baer was born April 22, 1928 in New York City. He attended Yale where he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and the University of Southern California where he earned a master's degree in cinema. Baer's maternal uncle, David Sarnoff (founder of the NBC and the head of RCA for much of its history) got Baer into the television business. Reportedly, he order an NBC vice president at the early hour of six in the morning to find Baer "...a job by 9 o'clock."

Baer broke into television writing episodes for the 1953 sitcom The Life of Riley (the version starring William Bendix). Later in the Fifties he would write episodes for shows such as Life Begins at 17, Leave to Beaver, and Have Gun Will Travel. The Sixties were arguably Baer's heyday as a TV writer. For the dramedy Hennesy, about a Navy doctor, he wrote 34 episodes alone. He also wrote episodes for such series as Bewitched, The Munsters, Petticoat Junction, F Troop, and That Girl. The seventies saw Baer write for shows such as M*A*S*H, Archie Bunker's Place, Turnabout, and Adam's Rib. He also wrote the TV movies Playmates, and Poor Devil. His last work for television was on the sitcom Who's the Boss.

Following his career in television, Baer wrote the play Mixed Emotions. Debuting in Los Angeles, it eventually played on Broadway.

Richard Baer was arguably one of the more talented writers to work on classic sitcoms. Among the episodes he wrote were "Driving is the Only Way to Fly" for Bewitched, in which Samantha tried to learn how to drive, and "Wilton the Kid" for F Troop, in which a vicious killer is the spitting image of Captain Parmenter. Baer had a gift for the sort of comedy that grows out of unusual, even bizarre situations. It is a gift not many television writers seem to have today.

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