Bob Schiller, Writer on 'I Love Lucy,' Dies at 98

Courtesy of Sadie Novello
Bob Schiller

The two-time Emmy winner teamed with Bob Weiskopf in one of the great TV partnerships; they also worked on 'All in the Family' and many other shows.

Bob Schiller, the legendary sitcom writer known for his work on such shows as I Love Lucy and All in the Family, died Tuesday. He was 98.

Schiller, who collaborated with his late writing partner, Bob Weiskopf, for nearly a half-century, died at his home in Pacific Palisades, his daughter, Sadie Novello, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Best known for being the first (and only) additions to the original writing team for I Love Lucy, Schiller and Weiskopf came up with some of that series' most beloved episodes, including the one that guest-starred John Wayne and the one that featured Lucy (Lucille Ball) "grape stomping" in Italy.

For All in the Family, the pair penned the two-part episode "Edith's 50th Birthday" in which Edith (Jean Stapleton) is the victim of an attempted rape.

They also wrote for such popular 1950s comedies such as Make Room for Daddy, The Bob Cummings Show, My Favorite Husband, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Ann Sothern Show and Pete and Gladys.

Their partnership continued through the '60s, '70s and '80s, writing and/or producing for The Lucy Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Good Guys, The Phyllis Diller Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Maude and Archie Bunker's Place.

The pair carpooled to the office during most of their career and played off each other perfectly — in writing and in person. When Schiller was once asked the reason for the success of their partnership, he responded, "That's easy — we've never agreed on anything!" Weiskopf's witty retort: "Yes, we have."

Schiller won two Emmys (shared with Weiskopf for their work on Flip and All in the Family), and they received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for lifetime achievement from the Writers Guild of America in 1988.

Lifelong civil rights supporters, Schiller and Weiskopf also pushed for conversation around social issues and controversial topics such as race, gender, sexual assault and equal rights.

Born on Nov. 8, 1918, in San Francisco, Schiller and his family moved to Los Angeles a decade later. He attended John Burroughs Junior High and Los Angeles High School, graduating at age 16, and then enrolled at UCLA in 1935. In college, he wrote a humor column in the Daily Bruin titled "Bob Tales."

While in the U.S. Army in Europe, Schiller penned a column for Stars and Stripes and produced comedy variety shows for the troops, providing much-needed levity during dark times. "The worst weapon I had to use was a pie to the face," he once said.

After the war, Schiller took a job with Rogers & Cowan, whose client included a dentist for whom Schiller wrote the billboard copy, "Visit your neighborhood friendly dentist. Come in before they come out."

He then began to work in radio, writing for shows starring Abbott & Costello, Mel Blanc and Jimmy Durante and for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, December Bride and Duffy's Tavern, which made him a staff writer in 1946.

Schiller first met Weiskopf, who had just relocated to Los Angeles from New York, in 1953, and they teamed on a radio script for Our Miss Brooks before delving into the new medium of network television.

He and Weiskopf were hired by head writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer — Weiskopf's former roommate — in 1955 and joined I Love Lucy and original writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis for the start of the show's fifth season.

After co-writing 53 episodes though the sixth and final season and then working on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, the duo developed The Lucy Show and had a hand in every one of that comedy's 156 episodes from 1962-68.

Schiller, who had a standing golf game twice a week at Riviera Country Club for as long as he could play, retired soon after the 1988 WGA strike.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Sabrina; his children Tom, Jim, Abbie and Sadie; and his grandchildren Ona, Charlie, Lucy, Archie and Amelie. His first wife was Joyce Harris; they married in 1947, and she died in 1963.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the ACLU.

Sadie said that Schiller would often say that "words were his inventory," and his response to the constant question of "How are you?" as he got older was, "Perfect, but improving."

comments powered by Disqus