Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Life in Reruns

Sherwood Schwartz has died in his sleep at age 94. His 4 children were nearby - along with his wife of 69 years, Mildred.

Schwartz started in radio working with Bob Hope, Ozzie & Harriet and moved to televsion with Red Skelton.

His own creations Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch have a lasting power that are due partially to great casting decisions, fun cartoony writing, and kicky theme songs (written by Schwartz) that hooked you within seconds and didn't let you go. His sitcom worlds (tropic island, suburbia) were cleverly made more fun for viewers with a steady stream of dopplegangers, guest stars, and dream sequences. Returning to watch these shows is like visiting a favorite amusement park, or eating a favorite candy from our youth.

His "Gilligan's Island" (which aired for 3 years) became a 4-decade franchise of
2 cartoons, 3 TV-reunion films, a summer stock stage musical, a reality show, and a planned feature film.

His "Brady Bunch" (which aired for 5 years) became a 4-decade franchise of
1 cartoon, a 70s Variety Show, a spin-off sitcom The Brady Brides, and a short-lived dramedy The Bradys (we dubbed: Bradysomething). He hit gold again when he visited a storefront Chicago theater in 1991 and saw that audiences loved sharing in the memories of the original sitcom by attending a show called: Real Live Brady Bunch. He didn't sue the non-profit tiny theater - he simply ran with that satire idea and produced 2 feature film parodies and a TV-film where the parody bunch moved to the White House.

The actors in his 60s shows were kept in the limelight by his reruns, reunions,
and were given an immortality that many in showbiz seldom enjoy. Some were embittered by lack of residual money and the type casting. Schwartz knew it was a double-edged sword. He said: "That's the damaging thing about being terrific in what you do as an actor, everybody wants you to be the same person.”

Being the true Producer he was - he had to make his own living, and move on to the next project. He would bring back these "same persons" again and again as long as the public wanted to embrace them.

If anybody could re-invent his properties (or squeeze every last penny from them) it was Mr. Schwartz. He was kind and personable to fans, and loved his work. We loved it back.

Sleep well, Sherwood Schwartz.


Donna Lethal said...

You forget that Gilligan and Brady were only on for such a short time! Incredible. And look who guested - at least on Gilligan: Phil Silvers, Don Rickles, Zsa Zsa, Strother Martin - fantastic.

Pantheon Zeus said...

Brady guest stars: Desi Jr, Abbe Lane, Jim Backus (twice), Joe Namath, Davy Jones and Jackie Coogan as a scumbag.

Anonymous said...

The Brady Bunch ran for 5 seasons, not 4.

Pantheon Zeus said...

thanks Anonymous!
I changed it to 5.

Lucky the show ended in year 5.
In Year 6, Schwartz would have killed off Mike Brady and left Carol a widow.

josh pincus is crying said...

Let's not forget other Brady guest stars Herbert Anderson, Marion Ross, Don Drysdale, Imogene Coca, Paul Winchell, Claudia Jennings (in the famed "Johnny Bravo episode), Rita Wilson, and the incomparable Robbie Rist.

Gilligan's Island also featured Hans Conreid, Kurt Russell, Vito Scotti (several times) and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Roman Gabriel.

I recently did some graphic design work for Dawn Wells. Where would she be if not for Mr. Schwartz's guidance?

Pantheon Zeus said...

the Vito Scotti eps are amazing