USC Comedy Festival, this evening I have the honor of moderating a panel saluting the work of Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions. Panelists will include Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Susan Harris, Jay Sandrich, Mitch Hurwitz, and Betty White. I can’t believe I get to be on the same stage with a woman who is a comedy national treasure. And Betty White.
You rarely see much mention of writer Susan Harris these days. But in the ‘70s and ‘80s she was Chuck Lorre, Greg Daniels, Chris Lloyd and Steve Levitan all rolled into one. And maybe add Tina Fey. These are the sitcoms she created: SOAP, BENSON, IT TAKES TWO, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, EMPTY NEST, NURSES, GOOD & EVIL, THE GOLDEN PALACE, and THE SECRET LIVES OF MEN.
Many were huge hits. Some were groundbreaking. SOAP introduced the first gay character as a regular cast member (played by Billy Crystal). And GOLDEN GIRLS was a show about women in their 60’s or older. Can you imagine someone pitching that to a major broadcast network now? Today an older woman is considered 35.
And today the show continues to enjoy a tremendous following in syndication. I don’t think you can turn on the TV at night without finding GOLDEN GIRLS on at least one channel.
The show holds up nicely, remains extremely funny, and the creative voice was Susan Harris’. When idiots say that women don’t write big jokes, Susan Harris wrote BIG JOKES. Lots of them. Along with heart and depth. Prior to creating series of her own she wrote the classic abortion episode of MAUDE.
She’s won Emmys and numerous other awards, and in 2011 was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame (something even Babe Ruth can’t get into).
Tonight I’ll try not to gush too blatantly and be too much of a fanboy. I don’t know if tickets are still available but here’s the info.