Bud Yorkin was a producer, director and writer of both television and film, and was the longtime business partner of Norman Lear. Together the men founded Tandem Productions in 1959, a partnership that lasted until 1983, when Lear bought his interest in the company. Yorkin served as executive producer on the hit series All in the Family, Sanford and Son and What's Happening!!
He was also the winner of three Emmy Awards, including two for his work on An Evening with Fred Astaire, the first musical hour to be shot in color. He won in 1959 in the categories of best direction and best writing of a single musical or variety program. His third Emmy win came the following year for outstanding directorial achievement in comedy for The Jack Benny Program. Yorkin would be nominated four more times — once for the comedy special Henry Fonda and the Family, and three times after that for Sanford and Son.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II and attending Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Yorkin began his career in entertainment in 1949 as an engineer at NBC. He rose through the ranks and eventually began directing variety shows, including episodes of Colgate Comedy Hour, starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. He also directed Spike Jones, Tony Martin, George Gobel, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Andy Williams in their self-named variety hours.
Drawing inspiration from a British sitcom called Till Death Us Do Part, about a bigoted father and his son, Yorkin and Lear developed the groundbreaking comedy All in the Family. The series starred Carroll O'Connor as the working-class, bigoted New Yorker Archie Bunker, alongside cast members Jean Stapleton as Archie's wife, Edith; Sally Struthers as his daughter, Gloria; and Rob Reiner as his son-in-law, Mike. ABC bought the rights but passed twice on the pilot; later, the series landed at CBS, and premiered in 1971. It soon became a smash hit and was No. 1 in the ratings for an unprecedented five years. At its peak, 60 percent of the viewing public, more than 50 million people, tuned in.
All in the Family also begat the spinoff Maude, starring Beatrice Arthur as Edith’s liberal cousin, which had its own spinoff, Good Times, both of which ran for six seasons.
Another British show, Steptoe and Son, was the inspiration for the NBC sitcom Sanford and Son, starring Redd Foxx. The series, which followed the story of an irritable junk dealer and his frustrated son, debuted in 1972 and also ran for six seasons.
Additionally, Yorkin directed a number of feature films with well-known actors, including the comedies Come Blow Your Horn, starring Frank Sinatra; Divorce American Style, starring Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds; Inspector Clouseau, starring Alan Arkin; Start the Revolution Without Me, starring Gene Wilder; and The Thief Who Came to Dinner, starring Ryan O’Neal and Jacqueline Bisset.
Yorkin's sitcoms garnered 25 Emmy wins from 63 nominations, and 10 Golden Globes. In 2003 he was honored with the Producers Guild of America’s Golden Laurel Award for Lifetime Achievement in Television.
Yorkin died August 18, 2015, in Bel Air, California. He was 89.
Bud Yorkin was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2002.