Gary David Goldberg, a writer and producer who created the long-running NBC comedy Family Ties, died June 23, 2013, in Montecito, California. He was 68. According to news reports, the cause was brain cancer.
During his career, Goldberg received seven Primetime Emmys nominations and won two, both as a writer — one for Family Ties and the other for Lou Grant, the drama series starring Edward Asner. In addition to his popular series, Goldberg is remembered for his production company, Ubu Productions, which he named after his beloved black Labrador retriever. The closing credits of his company's series ended with a photo of the dog in front of the Louvre in Paris and Goldberg saying, “Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog,” followed by a bark.
Goldberg, who grew up in Brooklyn, mined his personal life for much of the material he brought to television, but it took him many years before he broke into the medium. After unsuccessful stints at Brandeis University and Hofstra University, Goldberg was working waiting tables at the Village Gate nightclub in New York when he met Diana Meehan, a flight attendant who would eventually become his wife. In the years that followed, the couple hitchhiked around the world and opened a day-care center in Berkeley before moving to San Diego, where Goldberg, at age 31, took a class at San Diego State University taught by Nate Monaster, an Oscar-nominated writer and former president of the Writers Guild. Impressed by Goldberg's work, Monaster helped find an agent, which launched his career.
With Monaster's encouragement, he moved to Los Angeles, where he found work on such series as The Dumplings, The Bob Newhart Show, The Tony Randall Show, Lou Grant and The Last Resort before creating Family Ties, which starred Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross as Elyse and Steven Keaton, committed liberals raising three children. The oldest, Alex, played by Michael J. Fox, was a staunch conservative Republican, which fed much of the show's humor. Daughters Mallory and Jennifer were played by Justine Bateman and Tina Yothers, respectively. Family Ties aired for seven seasons and won five Primetime Emmys, three of them for Fox's performance as Alex.
Goldberg went on to create The Bronx Zoo, which starred Asner as the principal of a Bronx school, and lasted two seasons. Then came Brooklyn Bridge, a comedy based largely on his childhood. The show was praised by critics and won Golden Globe and Humanitas Awards, was ultimately canceled due to low ratings.
He had greater success with Spin City, which premiered in 1996 and starred Michael J. Fox as the Deputy Mayor of New York City. In 2000, Fox left the show to seek treatment for his Parkinson's disease, at which point Charlie Sheen joined to replace him. Goldberg retired from television when Spin City ended n 2002.
In addition to his television work, Goldberg made the feature films Dad, Bye Bye Love and Must Love Dogs. In 2008 he published a memoir titled Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went From Brooklyn to Hollywood With the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair.