The brilliance of Susan Harris



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  • The brilliance of Susan Harris

    You rarely see much mention of writer Susan Harris these days. But in the ‘70s and ‘80s she was Chuck Lorre, Greg Daniels, Chris Lloyd and Steve Levitan all rolled into one. And maybe add Tina Fey. These are the sitcoms she created: SOAP, BENSON, IT TAKES TWO, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, EMPTY NEST, NURSES, GOOD & EVIL, THE GOLDEN PALACE, and THE SECRET LIVES OF MEN.

    Many were huge hits. Some were groundbreaking. SOAP introduced the first gay character as a regular cast member (played by Billy Crystal). And GOLDEN GIRLS was a show about women in their 60’s or older. Can you imagine someone pitching that to a major broadcast network now? Today an older woman is considered 35.

    But when GOLDEN GIRLS premiered in 1985 on NBC it was an immediate breakout hit. Twice GOLDEN GIRLS won the Emmy for Best Comedy and even more remarkable – all of its stars (Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan) won individual Emmys.

    And today the show continues to enjoy a tremendous following in syndication. I don’t think you can turn on the TV at night without finding GOLDEN GIRLS on at least one channel. And I don't know one young person who doesn't love THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

    The show holds up nicely, remains extremely funny, and the creative voice was Susan Harris’. When idiots say that women don’t write big jokes, Susan Harris wrote BIG JOKES. Lots of them. Along with heart and depth. Prior to creating series of her own she wrote the classic abortion episode of MAUDE.

    She’s won Emmys and numerous other awards, and in 2011 was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame (something even Babe Ruth can’t get into).
    I never worked with her, but we were at the same agency (does that count?). I always wanted to though, she's one of my comedy writing idols.