Tom Whedon, an Emmy-winning writer-producer on such popular TV shows as The Golden Girls, Benson and Alice and the father of filmmaker Joss Whedon, died Thursday. He was 83. His son Jed Whedon, co-creator and co-showrunner of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., announced the news in an Instagram post but offered no details.
A New York native and the son of TV writer John Whedon, Tom Whedon got his start writing for the beloved children’s series Captain Kangaroo in 1955 and years later would be head writer on another popular kids show, The Electric Company, which premiered in 1971. He won an Emmy for the show in 1973. In between he wrote for series and specials starring Alan King and Mike Douglas as well as daytime talker The Dick Cavett Show.
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In 1977, he started writing for Alice, the CBS comedy starring Linda Lavin as a widowed aspiring singer who tries to make ends meet by working at Mel’s Diner. It was the Age of the Sitcom Catchphrase, and Alice’s co-worker Flo regularly told off her boss with a sneering, “Mel, kiss my grits!” Whedon would pen two dozen of the show’s 200-plus episodes.
In 1980, he landing his first producing gig on Season 2 of ABC’s Soap spinoff Benson. He also wrote about a half-dozen episodes of the series starring Robert Guillaume as the seen-it-all caretaker of a governor’s mansion who ends up becoming the state’s budget director. Whedon would go on to write more than two dozen episodes of the 1985-89 syndicated workplace comedy It’s a Living.
Whedon’s next project would be his biggest. In 1989 he began a long run as a producer on The Golden Girls, NBC’s comedy about four retirees — Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty — living together in Miami. He would score a pair of Emmy noms for Outstanding Comedy Series for the show, which premiered in 1985 and ended up with a seven-season run. Whedon also wrote several episodes.
He also was a writer-producer on Fox’s short-lived family comedy The Sinbad Show, starring the popular comic Sinbad, and later scored a Daytime Emmy nom as a writer for the PBS children’s series Between the Lions.
Along with sons Joss and Jed, survivors include son Zach Whedon, a screenwriter on such TV shows as Halt and Catch Fire and Southland.
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