Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TV Writer and Producer Aaron Ruben Passes On

Aaron Ruben, the television writer who produced both The Andy Griffith Show and Sanford and Son, passed on January 30 at the age of 95. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Aaron Ruben was born on March 1, 1914 in Chicago. He attended the Lewis Institute in Chicago, but did not graduate. After college he worked in the Chicago theatre. During World War II, Ruben served in the United States Army. Following the war he began writing in radio, including work for Fred Allen, Milton Berle, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Henry Morgan, and Dinah Shore. It was in 1951 that Ruben broke into television, writing for The Sam Levenson Show. He worked on specials featuring Eddie Cantor, Danny Thomas, and Ed Wynn. In 1953 Aaron Ruben started writing for The Milton Berle Show. He also wrote for Caesar's Hour. In the late Fifties he wrote the pilot for the prospective show Poor Richard, starring Dick Van Dyke. The pilot failed to sell, but it aired under the title "The Trouble with Richard" on The New Comedy Showcase in 1960. Ruben made his debut as a television director on The Phil Silvers Show (AKA Sgt. Bilko) in 1957.

It was in 1960 that Aaron Ruben began work on The Andy Griffith Show as producer and story consultant. He would write seven episodes of the series and direct two episodes. He remained with the show for its entire run. Aaron Ruben also created the show's spinoff, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. He served as the show's producer and executive producer for much of its run. He also directed two episodes of the show.

After The Andy Griffith Show ended its run, Aaron Ruben co-wrote the movie The Comic with Carl Reiner and also produced the film. The film starred Dick Van Dyke and followed his rise and fall as a silent movie comedian. In 1970 Ruben produced the failed Andy Griffith series Headmaster. It was in 1972 that Ruben went to work on Sanford and Son. He was producer on the show for nearly half its run, and wrote twenty episodes of the series. In 1975 he wrote the failed pilot Grandpa Max (starring Larry Best) and in 1976 the failed pilot Charo and the Sergeant. in 1976 Aaron Ruben went to work on C.P.O. Sharkey, starring Don Rickles. He wrote twenty eight episodes of the series and also served as its producer and executive producer on a few episodes. Aaron Ruben would serve as executive producer  on the series Teachers Only and Too Close for Comfort. He wrote episodes for The Stockard Channing Show, Teachers Only, and Too Close for Comfort as well. Aaron Ruben's last work in television was on the failed pilot Piece of Cake, on which he served as producer and co-writer. Aaron Ruben worked much of his later life as a court appointed advocate for abused and abandoned children. He also did hospice work.

Most writer-producers are lucky to have even one hit television show. Aaron Ruben was fortunate enough to have three legendary shows, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C,  and Sanford and Son, to his credit. In addition, he also produced shows which met with some success, such as C.P.O Sharkey and Too Close for Comfort. Ruben's success can be credited to his skills as both a producer and writer. As a producer he liked involving the whole cast of a show in the creative process. As a writer he created some of the best episodes of classic television ever aired. Indeed, he wrote some of the best episodes of both The Andy Griffith Show and Sanford and Son. There can be no doubt that Aaron Ruben was one of the best in his field.

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