Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He Gave So Much Joy But Is Mostly Unremembered

The fact is, we all watch television at some point or another. What is not so widely understood is that behind every sitcom, drama and reality show is a writer--or a team of writers. They formulate the plot, write the script--carve out the characters, developing their personalities and making us love, hate or loathe them.

Television writers have been creating memorable characters since television was created. But I'll bet you can't name a single one of them, can you?

I realize being behind the camera, or locked away in a writer's room is hardly as glamorous as being front and center in front of the camera. But without writers, excellent writers, none of the characters millions of people have grown to love and care about would exist. They would be utterly mute; devoid of thought and feeling; no hopes, no dreams, no suffering, no joy.

So it was with the characters created by Jack Elinson. He died this week at the ripe old age of 95.

If you are old enough to remember "That Girl", "Hogan's Heroes" or "The Andy Griffith Show" then you are familiar with his work. He also wrote for "The Facts of Life" and "Good Times" both of which are within the range of even Generation X'ers.

Elinson was hardly alone in the writer's room. He was often part of a team of writers who created jokes, sub-plots, story lines and everything else that made for great television. Yet just about nobody who enjoyed his work likely even knew he existed.

I hope to see the day when the person who writes the material is remembered as fondly as the person who reads it. But that day has not yet come.

Jack Elinson, a veteran TV comedy writer and producer, died Thursday of natural causes at his Santa Monica home, the Writers Guild of America, West announced Monday. He was 89.

Elinson, who cut his teeth writing jokes for Walter Winchell's newspaper column, rose to prominence in the 1950s working on such Golden Age fare as "The Jimmy Durante Show," "The Johnny Carson Show" and "The Colgate Comedy Hour." The following decade saw him writing for series including "The Danny Thomas Show," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Hogan's Heroes," "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." and "That Girl," the latter two of which he also produced.

Click here to read more about Jack Elinson.

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