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Sam Bobrick, the Emmy-nominated writer and playwright who created the NBC comedy Saved by the Bell and wrote four comedies that played on Broadway, has died. He was 87.
Bobrick died Friday at Northridge Hospital Medical Center after suffering a stroke, his friend, Adam Carl, an actor, writer and producer, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Bobrick also was on the staff of The Andy Griffith Show, for which he wrote 19 episodes, and worked on other TV comedies including The Flintstones; Gomer Pyle: USMC; Get Smart; Hey, Landlord; Good Morning, World; and Bewitched.
The Chicago native received his Emmy nomination in 1968 for his writing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, sharing the honor with Lorenzo Music, Mason Williams and others, and later developed and produced The Paul Lynde Show.
Bobrick wrote or co-wrote more than 40 plays during his career. Four of those, all created with one-time partner Ron Clark (also a Smothers Brothers writer), got to Broadway: Norman, Is That You?, directed by George Abbott and featuring Maureen Stapleton and Martin Huston (it became a Redd Foxx-starring movie); No Hard Feelings, directed by Abe Burrows and starring Eddie Albert and Stockard Channing (it opened and closed on the same night in 1973); Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, featuring Tony Roberts; and Wally’s Cafe, starring Rita Moreno and James Coco.
Bobrick, who also did an uncredited rewrite of The Wiz before its Broadway bow in 1975, quit writing for TV in the 1990s to concentrate on the stage. “He always said, ‘I’m more proud of my worst play than my best TV show,'” Carl noted.
In 2011 at age 79, he won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his play The Psychic, which made its world premiere at The Falcon Theater (now the Garry Marshall Theatre) in Burbank.
Bobrick created Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which ran on the Disney Channel for a season (1988-89) and starred Hayley Mills, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Dustin Diamond. After it was canceled, NBC picked it up, renamed it Saved by the Bell and moved the Indianapolis-set show to Bayside High School in California.
Saved by the Bell aired on NBC from 1989-93 and spawned spinoffs and TV movies, and a new series to star original castmembers Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley has been set for NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock.
Born on July 24, 1932, Bobrick attended the University of Illinois, got his first job in the ABC mailroom and wrote for The Ray Bolger Show, Captain Kangaroo and the game show Make Me Laugh early in his career. He penned songs as well; the first one he ever wrote, “The Girl of My Best Friend,” was covered by Elvis Presley in 1960.
He also came up with jokes for Groucho Marx and created a TV pilot for Dudley Moore.
For the big screen, Bobrick supplied the story for The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), starring (and directed by) Marty Feldman, and wrote the screenplay for Jimmy the Kid (1982), featuring Gary Coleman.
“Sam was, more than anything, a mensch of the highest order,” Carl said. “He was a writer who absolutely adored actors — not always a given — and appreciated the contributions they brought to the table. He was never precious or defensive about suggestions or notes; he wanted the work to be the best it could be and cherished a good idea from no matter where it came.
“He was a delightful raconteur, a thoughtful and generous host and never saw milk he couldn’t turn into a shake. He was also wickedly and darkly funny. His humor was sometimes barbed, sometimes silly, sometimes absurdist, often self-deprecating. But this above all — he was never ever not funny.”
Survivors include his wife, Julie; children Lori (and her husband, Caleb), Stefanie (Geoff) and Joey (Linda); grandchildren Ariel and Josh; and his “fourth child,” Albert the Wonder Pug.
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