Gary David Goldberg, the Emmy-winning creator of Family Ties and Spin City, died yesterday in Montecito, Calif. He was 68. Goldberg was an experienced TV writer of 1970s programs like Lou Grant, The Tony Randall Show, and The Bob Newhart Show when he built Family Ties in 1982 for NBC, basing the idealistic hippie parents played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter on himself and his wife, Dr. Diana Meehan. The show became an essential part of the network’s Thursday-night lineup – pairing with The Cosby Show for a time as TV’s two biggest shows – and made Michael J. Fox a huge star.
After Family Ties completed its run in 1989, he made his feature directorial debut with Dad, a heartwarming tale about three generations of men, starring Jack Lemmon, Ted Danson, and Ethan Hawke. He returned to TV in 1991 for Brooklyn Bridge, a nostalgic, semi-autobiographical dramedy that was canceled after two seasons despite critical praise, including an Emmy nomination. In 1996, he reunited with Fox for Spin City, another solid hit that lasted for six seasons on ABC.
He also wrote the screenplays for the romantic-comedies Bye Bye Love (1995) and Must Love Dogs (2005), which he directed. Dogs was at least partially inspired by his own fondness for man’s best friend: His 2008 autobiography Sit, Ubu, Sit, was derived from the ubiquitous Ubu Productions credit capper that followed each of his episodes – Ubu was the Goldberg’s beloved family Labrador – and the book’s subtitle read “How I went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the same woman, the same dog and a lot less hair.”
Goldberg is survived by his wife and two daughters, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, the Emmy-winning writer and producer of Friends; and Cailin Goldberg-Meehan, a freelance writer and contributor to the Huffington Post.