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Peg Lynch, Pioneering Writer and Star of ‘Ethel and Albert,’ Dies at 98

Peg Lynch, who wrote and starred in the early TV sitcom “Ethel and Albert,” died Friday at her home in Becket, Mass. She was 98.

Lynch pioneered writing and performing her original characters — live on stage — decades before such figures as Tina Fey and Amy Schumer. Jerry Seinfeld was far from the first comic to make a show about the mundane lives of single New Yorkers; that too can be credited to Lynch.

“Ethel and Albert” followed the ordinary life of a young married couple, Ethel and Albert Arbuckle, who lived in an American town called Sandy Harbor. The domestic comedy would include life’s everyday bemusements such as balancing the family budget or entertaining guests at a party.

In her heyday,  Lynch and co-star Richard Widmark performed the happy couple on radio programs five days a week.

By 1950, the show was being adapted to the smallscreen co-starring Alan Bruce as the man of the house. It appeared in sketches on afternoon variety show “The Kate Smith Hour,” before becoming its own weekly series on NBC in 1953. The series later moved to CBS followed by ABC, before going off the air in 1956.

The comedienne was born Margaret Frances Lynch in Lincoln, Neb. She moved with her mother to Kasson, Minn. Lynch was first introduced to television as a teenager when she worked at a station owned by a classmate’s father. According to her website, Lynch was able to interview famous guests visiting the station, such as William Powell, Lou Gehrig, Jeanette MacDonald and Ernest Hemingway.

After receiving a college degree from the University of Minnesota, Lynch started writing variety programming for a local radio station, KATE, in 1938. Her time there marked the inception of Ethel and Albert, who first appeared in three-minute sketches on the program.

Lynch brought Ethel and Albert to other radio stations across the country before landing her own 15-minute segment in New York in 1944.

Lynch was married to Odd Knut Ronning until his death in 2014. She is survived by her daughter, Astrid King, and grandson.

 

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