As 2022 Fades To Black, We Say Goodbye

This year, TVNewsCheck reported on the deaths of outstanding men and women who shaped television as actors, lawmakers, producers, business people, journalists, on-air personalities and more. Here’s a look back at some of those influencers, each linked to their obituary.

Peter Bogdanovich, who parlayed his ardor for Golden Age cinema into the direction of acclaimed films like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, only to have his professional reputation tarnished in one of Hollywood’s most conspicuous falls from grace, died Jan. 6. To television viewers, he was probably best known for his recurring role on the HBO drama The Sopranos. He was 82.

Sidney Poitier, winner of the best actor Oscar in 1964 for Lilies of the Field, died Jan. 6 at 94. Before Poitier, the son of Bahamian tomato farmers, no Black actor had a sustained career as a lead performer or could get a film produced based on his own star power. Before Poitier, few Black actors were permitted a break from the stereotypes of bug-eyed servants and grinning entertainers. Before Poitier, Hollywood filmmakers rarely even attempted to tell a Black person’s story.

Dwayne Hickman, an actor, producer and television director best known for his starring role in the 1950s and ’60s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, died Jan. 9. He began screen acting at a young age with film appearances in The Boy with the Green Hair and 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath. As a teenager, he starred as Chuck MacDonald in TV’s The Bob Cummings Show, acting alongside the titular comedian across the sitcom’s four-year run. In 1959, Hickman earned the marquee role on Dobie Gillis. The actor starred in all 148 episodes of the 20th Century Fox sitcom. As the first major television series to feature teenagers as its primary characters, Dobie Gillis solidified Hickman as one of the first and primary cultural emblems for the generation of Baby Boomers in the 1950’s and ’60s. He was 87.

Bob Saget, the actor-comedian known for his role as beloved single dad Danny Tanner on the ABC sitcom Full House and as the wisecracking host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, died Jan. 9 while on a stand-up tour. He was 65.

Tom Cookerly, longtime GM of ABC affiliate WJLA Washington, head of Allbritton Communications’ broadcast group, former chair of the Television Bureau of Advertising and past chair of ABC Television Afilliates Association, died Jan. 16. He was 94.

Louie Anderson, whose four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the FX series Baskets, died Jan. 21. He was 68. Anderson won his Emmy in 2016 and received three consecutive Emmy nods for his performance. He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show Family Feud from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and in frequent latenight talk show appearances.


Howard Hesseman, who played the radio disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and the actor-turned-history teacher Charlie Moore on Head of the Class, died Jan. 29. He was 81. Hesseman, who had himself been a radio DJ in the ’60s, earned two Emmy nominations for playing Johnny Fever on CBS’s WKRP, which ran for four seasons from 1978-1982. The role made Hesseman a counterculture icon at a time when few hippie characters made it onto network television.

Gloria Rojas, who was billed as New York City’s first Latina broadcast journalist when she was hired by WCBS-TV in 1968, and who went on to work as a journalist for every major network affiliate in the city for 23 years, died on Feb. 2. She was 82.

Walter E. Dellinger III was acting solicitor general in 1996-97 when he argued successfully in Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC before the Supreme Court that the 1992 Cable Act’s requirement that cable operators reserve channels for local broadcast TV (must carry) was a content-neutral regulation of speech that served three important government interests: preserving free over-the-air TV, promoting a diversity of information sources and promoting TV competition. In a 5-4 decision, the court agreed. He died Feb. 16 at 80.

Bob Beckel, a political analyst and former Fox News host, died Feb. 21. He was 73. Beckel co-hosted, along with Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld, Fox’s long-running panel talk show The Five until he was dropped in 2017 over an insensitive remark made to a Black employee, the network said at the time. He had previously left the network in 2015 after undergoing major back surgery.

Renee Poussaint, longtime WJLA Washington anchor, died March 4 at 77. She was co-anchor of the 6 and 11 p.m. WJLA news beginning in 1978 and held that position for more than a decade. A trailblazing journalist, Pouissant began her career in broadcasting in 1970 working in Chicago, ultimately substituting for Peter Jennings on ABC World News Tonight. She was also a former network correspondent for CBS and ABC News, winning three national Emmy awards for her work on ABC’s PrimeTime Live for reporting, writing and interviewing.

Keizo Kiyohara, the founder of FOR-A Corp. in Japan in 1971, died March 7. The company is a major manufacturer of video and audio systems to the broadcast post-production, and professional video markets. He was 88.

Emilio Delgado, the actor and singer who for 45 years was a warm and familiar presence in children’s lives and a rare Latino face on American television as fix-it shop owner Luis on Sesame Street, died March 10. He also played a recurring character on the newspaper drama Lou Grant from 1979 to 1982, and made multiple appearances on Quincy M.E., Falcon Crest and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He was 81.

Pierre Zakrzewski, a video journalist for Fox News was killed in Ukraine when the vehicle he was traveling in outside of Kyiv with another reporter came under fire on March 15 following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Zakrzewski, who was based in London, had covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria for Fox.

Av Westin (r) with Hugh Downs

Av Westin, an influential television producer who rose from copy boy at CBS News for Edward R. Murrow in the 1940s to help make ABC’s 20/20 newsmagazine a perennial winner of Emmy Awards, died on March 12. He had spent a year as the executive producer of ABC’s World News Tonight when he took over 20/20 in 1979. Over the next seven years, the program won more than 30 news and documentary Emmy Awards, including 11 in 1981. He was 92.

Stephen Wilhite, the inventor of the internet-popular short-video format, the GIF, died March 14 at 74. He won a Webby lifetime achievement award in 2013 for inventing the GIF, which decades after its creation became omnipresent in memes and on social media, often used as a cheeky representation of a cultural moment.

Marvin J. Chomsky, a four-time Emmy-winning director with credits including Roots, Star Trek and Hawaii Five-O, died March 28. He won his Emmys for his work on the 1978 miniseries Holocaust, the 1980 telefilm Attica, the 1982 telefilm Inside the Third Reich and the 1986 miniseries Peter the Great. He collected five other nominations during his career. He was 92.

Estelle Harris, who hollered her way into TV history as George Costanza’s short-fused mother on NBC’s Seinfeld and voiced Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise, died April 2. She was 93.

Bruce Johnson, who anchored the news on CBS affiliate WUSA Washington for 44 years, died on April 3. He was 71. Johnson, who announced his retirement from WUSA about two years earlier, completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree before landing at what was then WTOP-TV at age 25.

Francis “Fran” La Maina, the former president and chief operating officer of Dick Clark Productions, died April 9. He joined Dick Clark Productions in 1966 as head of the accounting department. Over the years, he worked numerous positions working his way up the company. He was appointed president-COO in 1986 and guided the company as it became publicly traded. He was 82.

Gilbert Gottfried, the actor and standup comic known for his raw, scorched voice and crude jokes, died April 12. He first came to national attention with frequent appearances on MTV in its early days and with a brief stint in the cast of Saturday Night Live in the 1980s. Gottfried also did frequent voice work for children’s television and movies, most famously playing the parrot Iago in Disney’s Aladdin.

Jim Hartz, the low-key, folksy newsman who hosted Today with Barbara Walters in the mid-1970s, less than halfway through his three-decade television career, died on April 17. He was 82. At 24, he was hired away from KOTV Tulsa, Okla., by NBC and became evening anchor at WNBC New York. After Today, he anchored at WRC Washington, hosted Over Easy, Innovation and Asia Now at PBS. He was 82.

Bill Carroll, a consistently amiable and helpful presence at rep firm Katz Media for three decades, died April 27. He was a former Rochester, N.Y. TV station manager who moved in 1985 to the role of consulting station programmers for the Katz Television. He left Katz in 2017 and ran his own consultancy. He was 70.

Andrew Whiteside, president of antenna and signal-transmissions solutions company Dielectric, now owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, died April 30 in a climbing accident at Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument National Park. He was 67. Whiteside authored numerous technical papers and articles on transmitter technology and was deeply involved in the FCC Spectrum Repack initiative for U.S. broadcasters and had been integral in the development and rollout of the ATSC 3.0/NextGen TV transmission standard.

Richard C. Wald, a former president of NBC News and a senior vice president at ABC News who worked behind the scenes with Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Ted Koppel and Roone Arledge, died May 13. Wald was involved with the creation of Nightline, the signature ABC News latenight program that grew out of special coverage in 1979 on the taking of U.S. embassy staff in Tehran by Iranian militants. Wald gave the show, which devoted itself to a single topic each night under the aegis of Koppel and remains on the air at ABC in modernized form, its name, trying to create an analogue to the “morning line” at a race track. He also put Brokaw on NBC’s Today, and hired Pauley, while working to modernize the format of NBC Nightly News. He was 92.

Thomas S. Murphy, who as chairman and chief executive of Capital Cities Communications stunned Wall Street in 1985 by acquiring the much larger American Broadcasting Co. for $3.5 billion, then 10 years later startled Wall Street again by selling the resultant company to Disney for $19 billion, died May 25. Murphy’s business success can be summed up in a single statistic: Capital Cities stock increased in value 2,000 times between 1957, when the company first sold stock to the public, and 1995, when Disney bought it. He was 96.

William O’Shaughnessy, chairman of Whitney Global Media, owner of Westchester, N.Y., radio stations WVOX-AM and WVIP-FM, author of several books and strident champion of local broadcasting and broadcasters’ First Amendment rights, died May 28. He began his career in 1957 at WVIP-AM (then in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.) where he became the station’s top advertising salesman at the age of 21. From there he moved to WNEW-AM New York. He later was able to buy WVIP and added WVOX to his portfolio. O’Shaughnessy was active in broadcasting circles, serving as past president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Board and as a senior director of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. For the past 13 years, he also served as the chairman of the Foundation’s Guardian Fund, which raises funds for broadcasters who have fallen on hard times or have been impacted by unexpected health issues. He was 84.

Adam Wade, the suave singer and actor who registered three top 10 hits on the Billboard 100 in 1961 and appeared in films including Shaft, Crazy Joe and Claudine before making history as a game show host, died July 7. In June 1975, Wade became the first Black person to host a network game show with Musical Chairs, created by Don Kirshner for CBS. He was 87.

Larry Storch, the rubber-faced comic whose long career in theater, movies and television was capped by his F Troop role as zany Cpl. Agarn in the 1960s spoof of Western frontier TV shows, died July 8. Although F Troop lasted only two seasons on ABC, from 1965 to 1967, it became a cult favorite in reruns. While F Troop brought him lasting fame, Storch appeared in scores of films and TV shows both before and after the show. He also enjoyed a long career in theater and as a comic at resorts in New York State’s Catskill Mountains area. He was 99.

Rehan Aslam, news director of WABC Los Angeles, died July 9 of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. He was 47. Aslam began his broadcasting career in 2001 at WEWS Cleveland, Ohio. He then went on to produce at WJW Cleveland and executive produce at WFLD Chicago. Aslam joined KTRK Houston in 2014 as assistant news director, before being named vice president and news director in 2019. He joined WABC in 2021.

Taurean Blacque, an Emmy-nominated actor who was known for his role as a detective on the 1980s NBC drama Hill Street Blues, died July 21. The New Jersey-native began his acting career at the Negro Ensemble Company in New York. His training at the institute helped him secure guest roles on television series including Sanford and Son, What’s Happening, Good Times, Taxi and The Bob New Hart Show. He was 82.

Tony Dow, best known for portraying Wally Cleaver on TV’s Leave It To Beaver, died July 27 at 77. In addition to playing one of pop culture’s most iconic older brothers — a role he played from 1957 to 1963, then reprised in The New Leave It to Beaver from 1983 to 1989 — Dow’s career included high-profile appearances on shows like Diagnosis Murder, Knight Rider, Lassie and Mod Squad.

Burt Metcalfe, the revered TV producer who worked on all 11 seasons of CBS’s M*A*S*H, died July 27. He was an actor turned director-producer who was recruited to work on the Korean War comedy by director Gene Reynolds, who launched the series adaptation of Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy released by 20th Century Fox. Metcalfe started out as an associate producer and rose to showrunner for the show’s final six seasons. He also directed 31 episodes of the series’ 251 installments. A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewon, Metcalfe began his career in the 1950s and ’60s as an actor with guest shots on series including The Ray Milland Show, Whirlybirds, Have Gun, Will Travel, Death Valley Days, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, The fugitive, 12 O’Clock High and Father of the Bride. He was 87.

Nichelle Nichols, who broke barriers for Black women in Hollywood when she played communications officer Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek television series, died July 30 at 89. Her role in the 1966-69 series earned Nichols a lifelong position of honor with the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. It also earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited Black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time. Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs starting in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and frequented Star Trek fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps. In 1992, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pat Carroll, a comedic television mainstay for decades, Emmy-winner for Caesar’s Hour and the voice of Ursula in The Little Mermaid, died July 30. Her first film role came in 1948 in Hometown Girl but she found her stride in television. She won an Emmy for her work on the sketch comedy series Caesar’s Hour in 1956, was a regular on Make Room for Daddy with Danny Thomas, a guest star on The DuPont Show with June Allyson and a variety show regular stopping by The Danny Kaye Show, The Red Skelton Show and The Carol Burnett Show. She also played one of the wicked stepsisters in the 1965 television production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren. She was 95.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, whose dulcet tones provided the soundtrack of summer while entertaining and informing Dodgers fans in Brooklyn and Los Angeles for 67 years, died Aug. 2. As the longest tenured broadcaster with a single team in pro sports history, Scully saw it all and called it all. He began in the 1950s era of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, on to the 1960s with Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, into the 1970s with Steve Garvey and Don Sutton, and through the 1980s with Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela. In the 1990s, it was Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo, followed by Kershaw, Manny Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in the 21st century. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that year, and also had Dodger Stadium’s press box named for him in 2001. The street leading to the stadium’s main gate was named in his honor in 2016. That same year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. He was 94.

John Severino, a top ABC executive in Los Angeles and New York who also headed the CBS station group and served as president of the Prime Ticket regional sports network, died Aug. 3. In between his four-year stint atop ABC in New York, Severino was general manager of the network’s Los Angeles O&O KABC from 1974-81 and 1986-88. In local news circles, Severino was known for implementing and developing the “Eyewitness News” format at stations including WLS-TV Chicago, where he was VP and GM. Critics called it too sensational, but it proved popular with viewers. He was 85.

Jim Thompson, the Broadcasters Foundation of America’s longtime president and veteran broadcaster, died Aug. 14. Thompson took over the reins of the Broadcasters Foundation in 2009, guiding the charitable organization to more than quadruple the amount of financial aid it distributes to radio and TV professionals from $400,000 to nearly $2 million last year. Thompson had been president and CEO of Group W Radio, the second largest radio company in the country during his leadership, and along with Mike Craven was co-owner of Liberty Broadcasting, a 19-station radio group concentrated on the East Coast. He began his broadcasting career as an account executive at KYW-TV Philadelphia in 1971, where he rose to vice president and general manager. He was 75.

Len Dawson, legendary NFL quarterback and former sports director at KMBC Kansas City died Aug. 24. Dawson led the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl in 1967 and 1970, the team beating the Vikings in the big game in ‘70. Dawson was named MVP of Super Bowl IV in 1970. Dawson was named sports director at KMBC in 1966, while he was still playing for the Chiefs. He spent four decades there. Dawson also worked on Inside the NFL at HBO from 1978 to 2001, and was a football analyst at NBC. He was 87.

Bernard Shaw, CNN’s chief anchor for two decades and a pioneering Black broadcast journalist best remembered for calmly reporting the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, died Sept. 7. Shaw was at CNN for 20 years and was known for remaining cool under pressure. Shaw was a former U.S. Marine who worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the chief anchor role at CNN when Ted Turner started the cable news network in 1980. He was 82.

Lowry Mays, whose accidental purchase of a San Antonio radio station propelled him into the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, died Sept. 12. Mays was a prosperous petroleum engineer and investment banker when he agreed to co-sign a note to purchase a San Antonio FM station in 1972 but ended up owning it. The purchase grew into Clear Channel Communications as it continued to buy other radio stations and billboard companies. Now named iHeartMedia, the San Antonio-based company owns more than 860 radio stations and syndication networks that carried such conservative talk show hosts as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. The Mays family sold its interest in what was then Clear Channel Communications in 2008 when it was taken private. He was 87.

Nick Holonyak Jr., whose development in 1962 of the first practical visible-spectrum light-emitting diode, or LED, proved a breakthrough that now has countless practical applications, including lightbulbs, mobile phones, TV sets and microscopic surgical equipment that can save lives, died Sept. 18. He was 93.

Bill Plante, whose tenure as a CBS News White House correspondent spanned the administrations of Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, died Sept. 28. He Plante retired in 2016 after 52 years with the news division, a career that included coverage of the civil rights movement and of Vietnam, as well as all presidential elections from 1968 to 2016. Plante was also the anchor of CBS Sunday Night News from 1988 to 1995. He was 84.

Al Primo, credited with creating local television’s “Eyewitness News” format, died Sept. 29. Primo became news director at WABC New York in 1968, launching Eyewitness News that November with Roger Grimsby as lead anchor. Two years later, he’d pair Grimsby with Bill Beutel, and a legendary anchor team was born. Primo quickly turned a station with languishing newscasts and ratings into a powerhouse that became the standard in the industry. Primo had developed the Eyewitness News concept earlier, and was recruited from KYW-TV Philadelphia, where he had great success with his new approach to storytelling, and brought on talent like Tom Snyder. He was 87.

Nikki Finke, the veteran reporter who became one of Hollywood’s top journalists as founder of the entertainment trade website and whose sharp-tongued tenacity made her the most-feared columnist in show business, died Oct. 9. A famously reclusive blogger, Finke began writing LA Weekly’s “Deadline Hollywood” column in 2002 and made it essential reading for gossip and trade news. Four years later, she launched Deadline Hollywood Daily as a website. Finke’s sharp-elbow style earned her plenty of enemies in Hollywood. her regular drumbeat of exclusives proved her considerable influence with executives, agents and publicists. In 2010, Forbes listed her among “the world’s most powerful women.” She was 68.

Angela Lansbury, the scene-stealing British actor who kicked up her heels in the Broadway musicals Mame and Gypsy and solved endless murders as crime novelist Jessica Fletcher in the long-running CBS series Murder, She Wrote, died Oct. 11. While first winning fame in films and on Broadway, Lansbury’s widest fame began in 1984 when she launched Murder, She Wrote on CBS. Based loosely on Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, the series centered on Jessica Fletcher, a middle-aged widow and former substitute school teacher living in the seaside village of Cabot Cove, Maine. It ran (and delivered strong ratings) for 11 years and garnered Lansbury 18 Emmy nominations, never winning one. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations and wins for best actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for lead actress in a drama series. She was 96.

Leslie Jordan, a veteran actor and comedian whose credits included sitcoms Will & Grace and Call Me Kat, died Oct. 24. Jordan memorably played Karen (Megan Mullally)’s rival Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace, a role that won him an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2006, and Phil on the Mayim Bialik sitcom Call Me Kat. He also played flamboyant actor Ashley Gilbert on American Horror Story: Roanoke. He was 67.

Jules Bass, whose work as a producer and director of stop-motion and animated television specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town and The Year Without A Santa Claus has become an integral part of the holiday season for generations, died Oct. 25. Bass was working in advertising in New York City when, in 1960, he teamed up with an art director at ABC named Arthur Rankin Jr. to form a film production company called Videocraft International. The company was launched with the 1960 series The New Adventures of Pinocchio, utilizing traditional animation, but found its breakthrough success in 1964 with the stop-motion classic Rudolph, featuring the voice of Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman. Rudolph also paved the way for Rankin/Bass’s premiere spot as a maker of holiday TV specials. Subsequent productions including the traditionally-animated Frosty the Snowman, with the voices of Jackie Vernon and Jimmy Durante, in 1969; and the stop-motion specials The Little Drummer Boy (1968); Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970); and The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974), among numerous others. He was 87.

Shirley Baskin Familian, who co-founded Los Angeles public TV station KCET in 1964 and served on its board for more than 60 years, died Oct. 30. She was 101.

John Aniston, the Emmy-winning star of the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives and father of Jennifer Aniston, died Nov. 14 at age 89. His best known role was Victor Kiriakis in Days of Our Lives, but his credits also included Search for Tomorrow, The West Wing and Gilmore Girls.

Robert Clary, the French actor, singer and Holocaust survivor who portrayed Corporal LeBeau on the World War II-set sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, died Nov. 16. CBS’s Hogan’s Heroes, which aired over six seasons from September 1965 to April 1971, starred Bob Crane as Colonel Robert E. Hogan, an American who led an international group of Allied prisoners of war in a covert operation to defeat the Nazis from inside the Luft Stalag 13 camp. As the patriotic Cpl. Louis LeBeau, the 5-foot-1 Clary hid in small spaces, dreamed about girls, got along great with the guard dogs and used his expert culinary skills to help the befuddled Nazi Colonel Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperer) get out of trouble with his superiors. He was 96.

Bruce Christensen, who led PBS from the mid-1980s to the early ’90s amid attacks on public TV for airing controversial documentaries, died Nov. 19. Christensen succeeded Lawrence Grossman as PBS president in 1984. Throughout his tenure, colleagues praised him for defending PBS as it faced accusations that its programming had a liberal slant. Christensen began his media career as a reporter for KSL in Salt Lake City and later worked for WGN News in Chicago as a sports writer and producer. He returned to KSL as a statehouse correspondent, then became director of the department of broadcast services for Brigham Young University in 1972. There he led the university’s TV and radio station. In 1979, he became a PBS board member and GM of PBS Utah’s KUED-TV and KUER-FM. Christensen was the second president of the National Association of Public Television Stations, now known as APTS, from 1982 to1984. He was 79.

Jason Myers (r) and Chip Tayag, meteorologist and helicopter pilot, respectively, for WBTV Charlotte, N.C., were killed in a helicopter crash Nov. 22. Myers began his broadcasting career at KRBC Abilene, Texas, and went on to work at WRIC Richmond, Va., and WTVQ Lexington, Ky., before joining WBTV. Tayag came to WBTV in 2017 as an ENG pilot operating Sky3. He worked with the Total Traffic and Weather Network and had been a pilot for more than 20 years.

Bob McGrath, an actor, musician and children’s author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children’s show Sesame Street, died Dec. 4 at 90. McGrath was a founding cast member of Sesame Street when the show premiered in 1969, playing a friendly neighbor Bob Johnson. He made his final appearance on the show in 2017, marking an almost five-decade-long run. He also was a singer in the 1960s series Sing Along with Mitch.

Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit Cheers and in the Look Who’s Talking films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Dec. 5. She starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on Cheers, the beloved NBC sitcom about a Boston bar, from 1987 to 1993. Alley joined the show at the height of its popularity after the departure of original star Shelley Long. Alley would win an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991. She was 71.

Carl Kleinschmitt, the sitcom writer who worked on The Dick Van Dyke Show and M*A*S*H and created two series starring Sandy Duncan and the football comedy 1st and Ten, died Dec. 8. Kleinschmitt, who wrote often with the late Dale McRaven, penned episodes of other series including Hey Landlord, Good Morning World, The Doris Day Show, That Girl, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Love, American Style, My World and Welcome to It, Karen, Welcome Back, Kotter and The Love Boat. He was 85.

Stuart Margolin, the character actor and James Garner buddy best known for portraying the smarmy yet sweet con man Evelyn “Angel” Martin on The Rockford Files, died Dec. 12. In addition to playing many film roles, Margolin also proved to be a prolific TV director, helming episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Wonder Woman; Touched by an Angel; The Love Boat; Magnum, P.I.; Northern Exposure; Quantum Leap; and, to be expected, The Rockford Files. He was 82.

Drew Griffin, CNN senior investigative reporter, known for his work on an array of topics, died Dec. 17. Griffin joined CNN in 2004 after a previous stint as an investigative reporter for CNN Los Angeles. His long list of accomplishments included a Peabody Award in 2015 for his investigative reporting on delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals that contributed to patient deaths, which led to the VA secretary’s resignation. He was 60.

Edyth “Edie” Landau, a producer who oversaw original programming like The David Susskind Show and the anthology series The Play of the Week during her tenure as executive vice president of National Telefilm Associates, died Dec. 24. Other series under her purview as EVP included The Mike Wallace Show, Open End, The Bishop Queen Show and One Night Stand. She remained at the television production company until 1961, then went on to produce and develop TV and film productions with her husband Ely Landau. She was 95.


Barbara Walters, the intrepid interviewer, anchor and program host who led the way as the first woman to become a TV news superstar during a network career remarkable for its duration and variety, died Dec. 30 at 93. During nearly four decades at ABC, and before that at NBC, Walters’ exclusive interviews with rulers, royalty and entertainers brought her celebrity status that ranked with theirs, while placing her at the forefront of the trend in broadcast journalism that made stars of TV reporters and brought news programs into the race for higher ratings. Walters made headlines in 1976 as the first female network news anchor, with an unprecedented $1 million annual salary that drew gasps. Her drive was legendary as she competed — not just with rival networks, but with colleagues at her own network — for each big “get” in a world jammed with more and more interviewers, including female journalists who followed the trail she blazed. Late in her career, in 1997, she gave infotainment a new twist with The View, a live ABC weekday kaffee klatsch with an all-female panel for whom any topic was on the table and who welcomed guests ranging from world leaders to teen idols. It became an unexpected hit.

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