TVNewsCheck reported the deaths of outstanding men and women who shaped television as actors, lawmakers, producers, business people, journalists and on-air personalities. Here’s a look back at some of those influencers.
Milford “Buddy” Bostick founded KWTX-TV Waco, Texas, in 1955 and grew the station from a fledgling independent to an established market leader, adding stations in Bryan, Sherman and Lafayette, La., over the years before selling to Gray Television in 1999. He died Jan. 4 in Waco. He was 98.
Nat Hentoff, 91, the author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution, died on Jan 7.
Miguel Ferrer, who brought stern authority to his featured role on CBS’s hit drama NCIS: Los Angeles and, before that, to Crossing Jordan, died Jan. 19. A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Ferrer was the son of Academy Award-winning actor Jose Ferrer and singer-actress Rosemary Clooney, and a cousin of George Clooney. He was 61.
Mary Tyler Moore gained fame in the 1960s as the frazzled wife Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the 1970s, she created one of TV’s first career-woman sitcom heroines in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She won seven Emmy awards over the years and was nominated for an Oscar for her 1980 portrayal of an affluent mother whose son is accidentally killed in Ordinary People. She died at 80 on Jan. 25.
Barbara Hale, a movie actress who found her most famous role on television as steadfast secretary Della Street in the long-running CBS series Perry Mason, died on Jan. 26. She was 94.
Mike Connors, was the star of Mannix, which ran for eight years on CBS beginning in 1967. Viewers were intrigued by the tall, smartly dressed, well-spoken detective who could mix it up with the burliest of thugs and leap on the hood of a racing car to prevent an escape. His movie and TV career stretched from the 1950s to 2007, when he had a guest role on Two and a Half Men. He was 91 when he died on Jan..27.
Irwin Corey, the comic maestro who endeared himself to generations of audiences as the World’s Foremost Authority, whose nonsensical monologues aped blowhard pundits, pompous academics and other know-it-alls, died Feb. 6. He was a household name to generations of Americans through his appearances on latenight television talk shows from the 1950s onward and on the college circuit starting amid the 1960s counterculture. He was 102.
Ward B. Chamberlin Jr., a public broadcasting pioneer who helped set up the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, personally led major stations in New York and Washington and played a critical role in kick-starting the career of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, died Feb. 23. He was 95.
The People’s Court judge Joseph Wapner, on which Wapner decided real small-claims from 1981 to 1993, was one of the granddaddies of the syndicated reality shows of today. His affable, no-nonsense approach attracted many fans, putting The People’s Court in the top five in syndication at its peak. He died Feb. 26 at 97.
Paul Kangas, co-anchor of the popular public television show Nightly Business Report from 1979 to 2009, died Feb. 27 at the age of 79. Kangas, whose trademark phrase ending the show wished viewers the “best of good buys,” was honored by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy for business and financial reporting.
Robert Osborne, the former columnist for The Hollywood Reporter who as the genial and scholarly host of Turner Classic Movies became an icon to a legion of film fans, died March 6. He was 84.
Robert “Bob” Blackmore, who reigned as head of advertising sales at NBC during the Peacock Network’s glory days, died March 9. Blackmore set a new record during the 1985-86 primetime upfront marketplace, delivering the first $1 billion upfront season for a network. He was 90.
Game show innovator Chuck Barris, at one point in his career, supplied the broadcast TV networks with 27 hours of entertainment a week, mostly in five-days-a-week daytime game shows. The grinning, curly-haired Barris became a familiar face as creator and host of The Gong Show, which aired from 1976 to 1980. His first game creation, The Dating Game, became a hit on both daytime and nighttime TV. From then, the Barris machine accelerated. New creations included The Newlywed Game, The Parent Game, The Family Game and even The Game Game. He died at 87 on March 21.
Legendary comic Don Rickles, who headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and livened up latenight talk shows, died at 90 on April 6. No one was exempt from Rickles’ insults, not fans or presidents or such fellow celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson. He had guest appearances on numerous TV shows, but success as a star of his own TV series eluded him.
Dorothy Mengering, David Letterman’s mother, a Midwestern homemaker who became an unlikely celebrity in her 70s as she baked mystery pies and covered the Olympics for her son’s latenight show, died April 11. She was 95.
Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, died April 22. She was 56.
As an executive vice president of NBC, Robert “Bob” Walsh jetted around the world to oversee coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Wimbledon and the French Open. In addition to NBC Sports, he was responsible for NBC radio and the TV stations owned and operated by the network. He reported to Grant Tinker, NBC’s legendary chief.
Brad Grey founded the management and production company Brillstein-Grey Entertainment with the late Bernie Brillstein, co-founded the production company Plan B Entertainment with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and produced multiple Emmy Award-winning television shows, including The Sopranos, Real Time with Bill Maher and The Larry Sanders Show. He died on May 14. He was 59.
Roger Ailes was a former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He later turned his media savvy to running TV networks. In early 1996 he accepted a challenge from media titan Rupert Murdoch to build a news network from scratch to compete with CNN. He led Fox News Channel for 20 years until 2016 when in little more than two weeks, both his legacy and job unraveled following allegations by a former anchor that he had forced her out of Fox News after she spurned his sexual advances. The lawsuit filed on July 6, 2016, by Gretchen Carlson quickly triggered accounts from more than 20 women with similar stories of alleged harassment by Ailes either against themselves or someone they knew. He was fired on July 21. Ailes died on May 18, 2017. He was 77.
A. Jerrold “Jerry” Perenchio, who amassed a fortune by building a powerhouse TV production company and later the Spanish-language network Univision, and was among California’s most prolific philanthropists and political donors, died May 22. He was 86. A partner with Norman Lear in the production of such shows as The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time, Perenchio made a fortune on megahits of the 1970s, particularly from the sale of the shows into syndication. No media investment, however, was as lucrative for Perenchio as the one in the Spanish-language network and station owner Univision, which he sold to a consortium led by Haim Saban for $13.7 billion in 2007.
Al Vecchione, a television producer who helped broadcast the Senate Watergate hearings to a national audience and who later made crucial contributions that allowed the PBS NewsHour to rival commercial news programs in prestige if not in profit, died May 24. He was 86.
Michael Ogiens, a television producer and former programming executive at CBS and MTM Productions, died May 25. He was 69. Ogiens co-created the 1990s TNT series The Lazarus Man, starring Robert Urich and most recently, he developed and produced movies for the Hallmark Channel.
Adam West, 88, television’s original Batman, played the superhero straight for kids and funny for adults. He initially chaffed at being typecast after Batman went off the air after three seasons, but in later years he admitted he was pleased to have had a role in kicking off a big-budget film franchise by showing the character’s wide appeal. He died June 9. In a tribute to him on June 15, Los Angeles became Gotham City as the Bat Signal glowed at City Hall. Hundreds of fans, some in costume, cheered as Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck switched on the iconic signal and splashed a yellow oval with a bat silhouette high up on the wall of City Hall.
Marion Goldin, one of the most respected and prolific producers at CBS’s flagship newsmagazine, 60 Minutes, died on June 15. She was 76. Goldin, after beginning her career in television news during the tumultuous 1960s, began working with the veteran journalist Mike Wallace in 1972, forming a successful if combative partnership that would last 15 years.
Martin Landau, 89, died July 15. The Oscar-winning actor gained fame as Rollin Hand, the crafty master of disguise in the CBS series Mission: Impossible that aired from 1966 to 1973.
June Foray, the voice of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his nemesis Natasha Fatale of Boris and Natasha fame in the early 1960s and a key figure in the animation industry, died July 27. She was 99.
Robert E. Vitarelli, who as director of the CBS Evening News and Sunday morning’s Face the Nation was an unseen yet indispensable influence on television news for decades, died July 30. He was 86. “Vit” — as he was known among colleagues — rose from the mail room in the CBS office in New York to be a defining presence at the network’s Washington bureau from 1963 until his retirement in 1992.
The career of Jerry Lewis spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents’ vaudeville act at the age of 5. The manic, rubber-faced performer who jumped and hollered to fame in a stage, radio, TV and film partnership with Dean Martin, settled to become a self-conscious auteur in movies he wrote, produced and directed, and found new fame as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, died Aug. 20. He was 91.
As one of the first black standup comedians to find success with white audiences, in the early 1960s, Dick Gregory rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to win a college track scholarship and become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement. He died Aug. 19 at age 84.
Syd Silverman, 85, the former publisher and owner of Variety, died on Aug. 27. He inherited the role of publisher in 1950 and held that title until 1987, when he sold the trade magazine. During his years at Variety, he made sure the coverage reflected the many changes in the entertainment industry, including the revolutions in cable and pay-TV, independent film pre-sales, financial interest and syndication rules for TV programs, satellite TV, home video and digital media.
Tom Draper, the owner of WBOC, the CBS and Fox affiliate in Salisbury, Md., died after being struck by a pickup truck on Sept. 7 while out for his daily bicycle ride. He was 76.
Hugh Hefner, 91, the pipe-smoking hedonist who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s with the launch of Playboy magazine and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television, symbolized by bow-tied women in bunny costumes, died Sept. 27. He was 91.
Monty Hall, the genial TV game show host whose long-running Let’s Make a Deal traded on love of money and merchandise and the mystery of which door had the car behind it, died Sept. 30. He was 96. Let’s Make a Deal, which Hall co-created, debuted as a daytime show on NBC in 1963 and became a TV staple. Through the next four decades, it also aired in primetime, in syndication and, in two brief outings, with hosts other than Hall at the helm.
Bob Schiller, a comedy writer whose credits reach back to TV’s infancy, died Oct. 10 at 98. Schiller began writing for television in 1950, and three years later formed a partnership with Bob Weiskopf, with whom he collaborated for nearly a half-century. Among their hundreds of TV scripts was the classic I Love Lucy episode that found Lucy Ricardo stomping grapes.
Waterman Broadcasting founder Bernie Waterman, 96, purchased WBBH, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Fla., in 1978 and WVIR, the NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Va., in 1986. He died on Nov. 12.
Della Reese, the actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running CBS drama Touched by an Angel, died Nov. 19 at age 86.
David Cassidy, 67, the teen and pre-teen idol who starred in ABC’s1970s sitcom The Partridge Family and sold millions of records as the musical group’s lead singer, died Nov. 21.
Jim Nabors, 87, the shy Alabaman whose down-home comedy made him a TV star as Gomer Pyle and whose surprisingly operatic voice kept him a favorite in Las Vegas and other showplaces, died Nov. 30. Nabors became an instant success when he joined The Andy Griffith Show in the early 1960s. The character of Gomer Pyle, the unworldly, lovable gas pumper who would exclaim “Gollllll-ly!” proved so popular that in 1964 CBS starred him in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. For two seasons beginning in 1969, CBS presented The Jim Nabors Hour, on which he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with fellow Gomer veterans Frank Sutton and Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.
Ernie Schultz, 87, longtime broadcast journalist and former president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (now the Radio Television Digital News Association), died on Nov. 28.
Martin Ransohoff, 90, the co-founder of Filmways Television, an early force in syndication, died Dec. 13. He was the man behind such TV shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mister Ed, Petticoat Junction and The Addams Family. Filmways later bought Heatter-Quigley Productions, adding game show The Hollywood Squares.
Major League Baseball Hall of Fame sportscaster Dick Enberg got his big break with UCLA basketball and went on to call Super Bowls, Olympics, Final Fours and Angels and Padres baseball games as well as Rams football games. He retired from his TV job with the Padres in October 2016, capping a six-decade career punctuated with countless calls of “Oh my!” in describing big plays. He died Dec. 21 at age 82.
Rose Marie was a child star of the 1920s and 1930s who endeared herself to TV fans as Sally Rogers on the classic ’60s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show with Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on CBS. Nominated three times for Emmys, Rose Marie had yet to turn 40 when she joined the Van Dyke cast, but had been an entertainer for more than 30 years. She died Dec. 28 at age 94.