TV producer, director and program exec Jim Gates died of cancer June 12 in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 81.
During the 1960s, Gates served as exec VP of programming at KTTV Los Angeles, where he was responsible for “The Merv Griffin Show” and several other talkshows. Later, he diected the annual Vision Awards show for Retinitis Pigmentosa and helped develop TheatreVision, which adapted film scripts for blind audiences.
Born in Milwaukee, Gates served in the military before moving to California. Upon graduating from the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949, he was recruited to work as an intern at KTTV channel 11 in Hollywood, soon moving to partner station CBS as an associate director. At CBS, he worked on classic shows including “The Alan Young Show,” “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show” and the pilot for “I Love Lucy.”
Returning to KTTV, he began directing shows including 175 episodes of the original “Divorce Court,” the first TV series syndicated on videotape.
He began directing specials for KTTV on Percy Faith, Stan Kenton and Carmen Dragon, as well as pilots and commercials. As Exec VP of Programming, Gates moved “The Merv Griffin Show” from late-night to prime-time, creating a long-running ratings success. He also created and exec-produced other latenight talkshows with hosts including Mort Saul, Melvin Belli and Donald O’Connor Show. Gates brought groundbreaking programming to TV when black commentator Louis Lomax and singer Della Reese began hosting their own shows.
After leaving KTTV in the 70s and forming Jim Gates Productions, he produced and directed hundreds of commercials and celebrity-hosted public service announcements and shows for charities.
For over two decades he directed the annual Vision Awards for retinitis pigmentosa. He also helped develop TheatreVision, writing and producing film scripts adapted for the blind, and working with voice over stars to narrate the films, including William Shatner for “Apollo 13,” James Cameron for “Titanic,” Katharine Hepburn for “Little Women” and former President George H. W. Bush for “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
He is survived by four children, two grandchildren and a sister.