EXPIRED: 07/29/10 – Bernie West, 92, probably didn’t watch as much TV was he wrote. But boy did he write a lot of TV.
Chances are if you watched television sitcoms in the 60’s and 70’s you fell victim to West’s sense of humour. As an Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer he worked a host of classic sitcoms.
He won his Emmy in 1973 for writing an episode of “All in the Family” called “The Bunkers and the Swingers” in which Archie’s dingbat of a wife, Edith, naively makes friends with a wife-swapping couple.
While working for “All in the Family” creator Norman Lear West created the character of Maude, Edith’s very liberated cousin, played by Bea Arthur. “Maude” was spun off into another long-running CBS series. Maude’s maid, Florida, played by Ester Rolle, eventually got her own show, too, called “Good Times.”
And it was good times for West. He also worked on the 1974 pilot of the Freddie Prinze vehicle “Chico and the Man,” another “All in the Family” spin-off starring Sherman Helmsley called “The Jeffersons,” and “Three’s Company” and it’s spinoffs, “The Ropers” and “Three’s a Crowd.”
Born in the Bronx, West got his start making jokes in “Borscht Belt” comedy acts in the Catskill circuit of upstate New York and the resorts of the Poconos. He then appeared on early television programs filmed live on New York City stages like “The Garry Moore Show,” “The Arthur Murray Show,” “The Jack Paar Show,” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” before moving to scripted comedy like “The Phil Silvers Show,” “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
Sadly, I wasted a lot of hours watching that stuff. And for that Bernie West, I thank you.