×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Golden Girls’ Producer Paul Junger Witt Dies at 77

Paul Junger Witt, producer of such TV comedies as “The Golden Girls,” “Benson,” and “Soap” and a principal of the prosperous Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 77.

Witt had faced a long battle with cancer, a family representative said.

With producing partner Tony Thomas, Witt in the 1970s and 80s ran Witt/Thomas Productions, which was also home to NBC’s “Empty Nest” and “Blossom” and the original “Beauty and the Beast” series. In 1983, Witt married writer-producer Susan Harris, creator of NBC’s “Golden Girls,” and the company expanded as Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions.

In addition to his TV work, Witt was a producer of such films as 1989’s “Dead Poet’s Society,” 1999’s “Three Kings,” 2002’s “Insomnia,” and 2011’s “A Better Life.”

Born in New York City, Witt graduated from the University of Virginia. He got his start in Hollywood in the mail room of Columbia Pictures. He partnered with producer Tony Thomas, son of entertainer Danny Thomas, and in 1973 the two set up shop at Danny Thomas Productions. The pair shepherded such projects as “The Partridge Family” series and the beloved 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, before launching their own banner in 1975.

Among the many series produced by Witt/Thomas and Witt/Thomas/Harris were “It’s a Living,” “Herman’s Head,” “Nurses,” “The John Larroquette Show,” the Rhea Perlman starrer “Pearl,” “Hail to the Chief,” and the short-lived “Golden Girls” spinoff “The Golden Palace.”

Witt won two Emmys when “Golden Girls” prevailed as best comedy series in 1986 and 1987. He also earned an Emmy for outstanding single program for “Brian’s Song.” “Dead Poet’s Society” also brought him an Oscar nomination for best picture.

Early in his career, Witt worked as a director on “Partridge Family” and such series as “Here Come the Brides,” “Occasional Wife,” and “The Second Hundred Years.”

Witt was also a dedicated environmentalist who served 16 years as a member of the California State Park and Recreation Commission, including stints as chairman and vice chairman. He was a board member of EcoAmerica, the Environmental Media Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and the Emmett Institute on Climate Change.

Survivors include Harris and five children. The family requests that donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Save the Children, or an environmental organization.

More TV

  • New England Patriots running back Sony

    CBS and Fox Cheer Big Turnout for NFL Conference Championships

    Sunday’s AFC and NFC championship games were nail-biters that went into overtime and sent viewership into overdrive. CBS harvested a whopping 53.9 million viewers as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to their third consecutive Super Bowl berth in a hard-fought primetime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Viewership for the AFC [...]

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Review

    TV Review: 'Russian Doll'

    This is a particularly tricky review to write, but not because the merits of “Russian Doll” are at all ambiguous. On the contrary, the show is so striking and smart that I made a note to include it on my favorite TV shows of 2019 immediately after blowing through the season — which is saying [...]

  • Black Earth Rising Review

    TV Review: 'Black Earth Rising'

    Bringing to bear a talented cast on a story of real geopolitical significance, “Black Earth Rising,” Netflix’s drama about the long-tail aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, would seem to have had the potential to be one of 2019’s early television successes. Which makes its falling short all the more painful and pronounced. The show, previously [...]

  • DIRTY JOHN -- "This Young Woman

    'Dirty John' Finale Hits New Ratings Highs in Live+3

    The Season 1 finale of “Dirty John” on Bravo continued the scripted show’s ratings hot streak in Live+3. The finale, which aired on Jan. 13, grew to 3.3 million viewers in delayed viewing with 1.3 million of those falling in the key adults 18-49 demographic. That is up 10% in total viewers and 15% in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content