Creator of Must-See TV’s ‘Family Ties’ Dies at 69. Gary David Goldberg Also Created TV Critics’ Favorite ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’ and Co-Created ‘Spin City.’ Sit, Ubu, Sit

Jun 24, 2013  •  Post A Comment

"Gary David Goldberg, the genial two-time Emmy Award winner who mined his rich personal life to create such amusing and affecting entertainment as the Michael J. Fox sitcom ‘Family Ties,’ has died," reports The Hollywood Reporter

The story continues, "Goldberg, who later co-created Spin City,’ another series starring Fox, and the critically lauded ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’ died from brain cancer yesterday, Sunday, June 23, 2013, at his home in Montecito, California. He was 68 years old." He would have been 69 tomorrow, June 25.

On his website, Goldberg said he didn’t land his first "real" job writing for TV until he was 32, when he started writing for "The Bob Newhart Show."  Also on Goldberg’s website, if you click here, you can watch a fun, short video about Goldberg’s life that he narrates.

The THR obituary adds, "The down-to-earth Brooklyn native collected seven Emmy nominations in his late-starting but illustrious career, winning an outstanding series trophy in 1979 for co-producing the CBS newsroom drama ‘Lou Grant’ and a writing prize in 1987 for an episode of ‘Family Ties.’

"Goldberg also penned episodes of ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ and wrote and directed the features ‘Dad’ (1989) starring Jack Lemmon and ‘Must Love Dogs’ (2005)."

The THR story also notes, "Based on his life and families of friends he knew with similar backgrounds, Goldberg created ‘Family Ties’ in the early 1980s and pitched it to CBS, which turned him down. He then brought it to innovative NBC entertainment chief Brandon Tartikoff, who ‘nurtured it and really made it happen,’ the writer once recalled."

Premiering in September 1982 on Wednesday nights, "Famiily Ties" didn’t hit ratings gold until 1984, when it moved to Thursday nights behind a new show that season,"The Cosby Show." For the entire 1985 and 1986 TV seasons, "Family Ties" was No. 2 for the year, right behind the No. 1-rated show on TV, "Cosby." 

Writes THR about ‘Family Ties,’  "Initially, Goldberg did not want to cast Michael J.Fox for the lead (Matthew Broderick had already turned down the role). But hounded by his casting director, he agreed to a second reading by the actor and was sold. Fox would become the series’ breakout star."

The THR story also says: "Goldberg later recruited Bill Lawrence (who recently had been fired from ‘Friends’) to create ‘Spin City’ — the first successful TV series from the fledgling studio DreamWorks SKG. They cast Fox, now a movie star, as New York Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty, coming up with the idea for the show while on the cross-country flight to pitch the actor. ‘Mike wanted to prove himself to a whole new generation,’ Goldberg recalled. ‘He said, "No free ride … I want to do it in a different way." ‘ "

Goldberg’s shows are also remembered for their end card, which showed a black labrador holding a frisbee in his mouth. On the soundtrack we hear "Sit, Ubu, sit." Goldberg’s company was called Ubu Productions.

In March 2008, Goldberg wrote, on his website, an entry about his dog Ubu. Here’s an excerpt:

Ubu was, what I would later hear described as a “lifetime dog.” As in once in your lifetime, if you’re lucky, you meet that dog who’s going to change your life. And Ubu changed mine.

I had always wanted to be a guy who had a dog. A big dog who was never on a leash but who would be controlled by — (Ubu preferred “respond appropriately to”) — affection and respect. I was trying to change myself from a city kid, sports-crazed and rigid, to a more laid back country boy. More mellow, more in touch with nature. And, being with Ubu and his energy put you in contact with those natural rhythms.

Ubu taught me to play. Just play. Not worry about winning and losing but making time and space disappear as I watched this creature totally immersed in every moment of his life. Never false. Fiercely loyal. Unabashedly affectionate and generous of spirit. Qualities I wanted in myself. Ubu always expected the best of me and I tried to live up to that reflection. He gave me confidence to be who I wanted to be. He taught me patience. He taught me to take time to smell the flowers. And, occasionally to piss on them.

Gary David Goldberg.jpg

Gary David Goldberg, from a picture on his website

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