Exec won Emmy for series 'Police Story'

Prolific television producer-executive David Gerber died Jan. 2 of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 86.

An Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody award winner, Gerber produced such ground-breaking TV movies and series as “In the Heat of the Night,” and “thirtysomething” besides heading studio television divisions and production companies, including his own, in a career of more than half a century. He served on the exec boards of the TV Academy and the Producers Guild.

Credited with taking on serious subjects, he achieved many industry “firsts,” including the Emmy-winning “Police Story” and “Police Woman,” the first successful genre series with a female lead, as well as “That’s My Mama,”one of the first comedy series featuring a full cast of African-American actors. Similarly, he was largely responsible for such ground-breaking projects as the television series “In the Heat of the Night,” “Beulah-Land,” the Civil War miniseries that became l2th high rated in television history; the critically acclaimed “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case,” the World War I story “The Lost Battalion” and his last television movie, the six-Emmy nominated “Flight 93,” detailing the heroic stories of the passengers of the United Airlines flight of September 11 and its crash into a Pennsylvania field.

Born in Brooklyn, Gerber served in the U.S. Air Corp. was shot down over Germany and became a prisoner of war.

After the war he earned a B.A. from the U. of the Pacific and worked at the BBD&O ad agency, the Famous Artists Agency and General Artists Corp. He was veepee of Twentieth Century Fox Television, where his first effort was the long-running “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and the breakthrough ethnic comedy “Room 222.” He was involved with more than 50 primetime TV sales when he entered production with the comedies “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” winning the first of two Christopher Awards for the ABC after school special, “Follow the North Star.”

Recruited to head MGM Television in l981, Gerber was responsible for such series as “Today’s FBI,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and the Peabody-winning mini “George Washington.” When he became chairman and CEO of MGM Worldwide Television Group in l991, he was involved in “thirtysomething,” and “The Young Riders” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Under Gerber’s tenure 25 MOWs were produced, among them such films as “Finding the Way Home,” starring George C. Scott and Hector Elizondo; “Tenth Man,” “Inherit the Wind,” starring Jason Robards and Michael Douglas; two “Dirty Dozen” movies; and “The Freeway Killings,” starring Angie Dickinson, Richard Crenna and Ben Gazzara. Gerber was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, plus kudos from the Caucus of Producers, Writers & Directors, NAACP and Nosotros. He served three terms on the executive board of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Producers Guild Board of Directors and on the Caucus steering Committee.

Gerber was active in community affairs, serving on the board of the House Ear Institute, and started a vineyard in Northern California where he produced his own wine.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Laraine.

Donations may be made to the David and Laraine Gerber Endowment Fund at U. of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA 95211; The USC Cardiac Electrophysiology Service, c/o Leslie A. Saxon, MD, 1510 San Pablo St., Suite 22, Los Angeles, CA 90033; House Ear Clinic, 2100 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90057.

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