Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sitcom Writer Sam Denoff Passes On

Sam Denoff, who wrote some of the best episodes of  The Dick Van Dyke Show and co-created That Girl, passed on 8 July 2011 at the age of 83. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Sam Denoff was born in Brooklyn, New York on 1 July 1928. He  and his long time collaborator Bill Persky had initially set out to be songwriters. They wrote jingles for DJ William B. Williams, then at New York City radio station WNEW. Their most famous work may have been "Let's Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn," a protest against the team moving to Los Angeles. It was in 1950 that Messrs. Denoff and Persky first worked in television, writing on the first episode of the legendary Your Show of Shows.

They would not work in television again until 1963 when they wrote an episode of McHale's Navy. The same year they started writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show. They would win an Emmy for the episode "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" and would be nominated for the episode "The Ugliest Dog in the World." In 1964 Messrs. Denoff and Persky, along with series creator Carl Reiner, would win the Emmy for Writing Outstanding Achievement in Comedy or Variety for various episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show.  The writing team also served as producers on the show.

Following their success on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Sam Denoff and Bill Persky would create That Girl. The sitcom That Girl starred Marlo Thomas as aspiring actress Ann Marie, who must take various temp jobs in order to make a living. The sitcom was revolutionary in being the first American comedy series to centre on a single woman who was on her own and was not working as a domestic. Messrs. Denoff and Persky would then create Good Morning, World. Sadly, it would only last a season.

In the Seventies the writing team would adapt the classic play The Man who Came To Dinner for The Hallmark Hall of Fame. They created the short lived series Lotsa Luck starring Dom DeLuise. Sam Denoff would serve as  a producer n such short lived series as The Montefuscos, Big Eddie, and Turnabout. In the Eighties Mr. Denoff served as a producer on It's Gary Shandling's Show. In the Nineties he wrote episodes of Harry and the Hendersons. His last work was writing episodes of Life With Bonnie in 2002.

The team of Sam Denoff and Bill Persky was definitely one of the greatest writing teams in the history of television comedy. The two of them wrote a huge number of episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, many of which were the show's very best. With Bill Persky he also created That Girl, and the two of them wrote many of the episodes of that show. Few television writers could lay claim to having written for and produced two classic shows, and having created one of them. Together they created classic bits of comedy that will be remembered for years to come.

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