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Robert Collins, the creator of the groundbreaking 1970s NBC series Police Woman that starred Angie Dickinson, died Oct. 21 of cardiopulmonary arrest in Van Nuys, Calif. He was 81.
Collins also wrote and or directed for such series as Marcus Welby, M.D., Serpico, Cannon, The Mod Squad and the anthology series Police Story, which spawned Police Woman. His episode “The Gamble,” which closed Police Story’s highly rated first season, introduced Dickinson’s character.
Police Woman, which ran 1974-78, became one of the first successful hourlong drama series in the U.S. to feature a woman in a starring role, paving the way for other action shows starring females. Inspired by Dickinson’s character, Sgt. Pepper Anderson, who often went undercover to solve crimes in Los Angeles, women across the country signed up for police jobs.
Collins received his lone Emmy nomination in 1975 for another episode of Police Story, and his “Wyatt Earp Syndrome” episode in 1974 has been preserved as a training film for police academies in Los Angeles and New York.
The Los Angeles native also penned or helmed a number of telefilms, including Hallmark Hall of Fame installment Gideon’s Trumpet (1980), which starred Henry Fonda and Jose Ferrer (and for which Collins received a DGA nomination); Act of Violence (1979) with Elizabeth Montgomery; and The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro (1989) starring Karl Malden.
Collins also directed for the stage, guiding a version of Death of a Salesman at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles.
Survivors include his wife, Dorothy Mark; sons Clay (Robin), Curtis (Sharon) and Casey; daughter-in-law Cindy; brother Frank (Trisha); grandchildren Ryan, Leslie, Rachel, Kyle, Sarah and Caleb; and nieces Kate and Anne.
A service will take place at 1 p.m. Oct. 27 at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles. The family asks that donations be made to Doctors Without Borders based in New York.
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