Assembling a list of notables who died during a 12-month time span is like taking stock of how much the world you once knew is disappearing. Although I don't often admit it in the company of non-journos, I (usually) like working on obits. It's challenging work, usually against a tight deadline, and I feel a certain responsibility to do right by the person. I often hear Mrs. Loman's famous command in my head: "Attention must be paid."
In that spirit, here is an electronic chronicle of those who left their mark on the TV biz. 2007 saw the passing of industry titans the likes of Jack Valenti, Merv Griffin, Tom Snyder and Roger King; influential hyphenates including Sidney Sheldon, Mel Shavelson, Martin Manulis, Mel Tolkin and Bob Carroll, Jr.; and a local TV news icon in Hal Fishman.
It was a tough year for "Match Game" fans, with Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers heading in to the blank hereafter. And no obit in the pages of Variety this year was more heartbreaking than that of Cartoon Network exec Jennifer Davidson, 38, who was a charter member of the cabler's staff and a mother of three.
(Special thanks to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television oral history project for the great work they do and for providing easy online access to lengthy video interviews with many of the subjects below. Click here for a full list of the Archive's interviews. Also embedded are links to each person's Variety obit and as much relevant video as I could find.)
Ron Carey, 71, actor known for his role on "Barney Miller" as Officer Carl Levitt, the uniformed cop who was desperate to earn his promotion to detective.
Bob Carroll, Jr., 88, writer and co-creator of "I Love Lucy." He penned all 180 segs of the indelible domestic comedy with his writing partner Madelyn Pugh Davis. Here's a link to his Archive of American Television interview with Davis from 1993.
Yvonne de Carlo, 84, actress known to generations as Lily Munster of 1964-66 CBS sitcom "The Munsters." Here's a 1970s clip from "The David Frost Show" of de Carlo discussing the pros and cons of becoming synonymous with one character.
Sidney Sheldon, 89, prolific film and TV writer and novelist whose small screen contributions included "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Patty Duke Show." Here's a link to part 1 of his five-part Archive of American Television interview from 2000.
Iwao Takamoto, 81, animator who created "Scooby-Doo" and drew dozens of other Hanna-Barbera charaters. He named his famous pup after Sinatra's crooning in "Strangers in the Night." Here's a short clip of Takamoto, who also worked for Disney early in his career, drawing Fred Flintstone.
Calvert DeForest, 85, a semi-regular on David Letterman's NBC and CBS latenight skeins who played the bizarro character Larry "Bud" Melman. Here's a representative clip from "Late Night with David Letterman" circa 1983.
Stan Daniels, 72, writer-producer and co-creator of "Taxi" and also worked on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," among other MTM Prods. shows.
Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96, actress, socialite (widow of Moss Hart) and arts advocate who played against type as a witty mainstay of game show "To Tell the Truth" for a dozen years. Here's a link to her Archive of American Television interview from 2005, and below is a clip offering a glimpse of her string-of-pearls charm on "To Tell the Truth."
Barry Nelson, 89, actor with a long resume that included a ton of early TV work. He bore the distinction of being the first actor ever to portray James Bond, in a terrific live adaptation of "Casino Royale" in 1954 for the CBS anthology series "Climax!" Nelson's Bond was an American, while Clarence (not Felix) Leiter was a Brit (played by Michael Pate) and Peter Lorre was the bad guy LeChiffre. This version pops up on cable every so often and is out on DVD. Here's a clip:
Jack Valenti, 85, lobbyist, strategist, adviser to moguls and presidents. In his nearly 40 years as head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Valenti had his share of influence on the TV biz, particularly in the fight to establish and preserve the financial interest in syndication rules and in calming the overhyped debate over TV violence in the mid-1990s. Here's a clip of Valenti addressing a copyright org, Creative Commons, that demonstrates his command of the entertainment industry's central concern and his trademark eloquence.
Tom Poston, 85, actor and jocular everyman type known for being part of the "Steve Allen Show" ensemble and for his role as a goofy handyman on the CBS sitcom "Newhart." Here's a fun clip of Poston from "Steve Allen" days interviewing a faux hipster jazz group.
Charles Nelson Reilly, 76, A Tony-winning actor known for his many "Tonight Show" appearances in the Carson era and for his residency on "Match Game." Here's a typical bit of playfulness between Reilly and "Match Game" host Gene Rayburn.
Ed Friendly, 85, writer-producer who worked on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in" and waged a long campaign to bring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the small screen in the "Little House on the Prairie" series.
Don Herbert, 89, aka "Mr. Wizard," host of a science-oriented kidvid show "Watch Mr. Wizard" in the 1950s that taught baby boomers about the fun of experimenting with household items. Here's a link to his Archive of American Television interview from 2005. And here's a clip of Herbert on an early episode of NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman." Letterman appears genuinely excited to meet him.
Joel Siegel, 63, a film critic who spent 30-plus years with WABC-TV New York and ABC News. He was respected for his knowledge of film and his candor in reviewing pics for ABC's "Good Morning America."
Tom Snyder, 71, news anchor and host with an outsize personality and much-spoofed diction and laugh. Snyder hosted NBC's almost-anything-goes interview show "Tomorrow" in the post-"Tonight Show" slot in the 1970s, and after a rough career patch had a comeback in early 1990s on CNBC and on CBS, in tandem with David Letterman's move to the Eye. Here's a fond memory of an afternoon spent on location with his CNBC show. And below is a representative clip of Snyder talking about one of his favorite subjects -- himself -- with Barbara Walters in an early edition of his run on CBS' "The Late Late Show."