Jay Sandrich, the Emmy-winning TV director who was behind such iconic comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, WKRP in Cincinnati and Soap among others, has died. He was 89.
The news was confirmed Thursday by his former agency CAA.
Sandrich directed two-thirds of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the groundbreaking series that ran on CBS from 1970-77. He won Emmys for Directorial Achievement in Comedy for the series in 1971 and 1973 and two more for directing the equally groundbreaking The Cosby Show back-to-back in 1985 and 1986.
In all, Sandrich was nominated for 11 Emmys, winning a Daytime one in 1984 in Individual Achievement in Religious Programming – Direction for Insight.
He also won three DGA Awards during his career. He was named to the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2020.
“Jay Sandrich was the godfather of sitcoms – making his mark on all of his series and eliciting some of the best comedic performances in TV history,” DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter said in a statement today (read it in full below).”
On the movie side, Sandrich also directed the 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times, starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.
Sandrich, the son of director Mark Sandrich (Shall We Dance, Holiday Inn, Top Hat), was born in Los Angeles in 1932 and went to UCLA. After serving in the Army, he started his career as a 2nd assistant director on I Love Lucy. His credits in the 1960s included The Andy Griffith Show, The Danny Thomas Show and Get Smart!
Known as a mentor to younger TV directors, Sandrich was heavily influential in casting decisions, including advocating switching the roles of Betty White and Rue McClanahan for Golden Girls, after he had worked with White on Mary Tyler Moore. He also gave Henry Winkler and John Ritter their first TV jobs.
Sandrich is survived by his wife, Linda; children from a previous marriage, Eric, Tony, and Wendy; and four grandchildren, a niece and nephew, and great nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements will be private. Contributions can be made in Sandrich’s memory to Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the Cradle to Career Aspen Community Foundation.
Here is the DGA leader’s full statement:
“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the loss of a legend among legends. Jay Sandrich was the godfather of sitcoms – making his mark on all of his series and eliciting some of the best comedic performances in TV history. His prolific, award-winning body of work reads like a ‘Best Of’ list across five decades, from the hundreds of episodes he directed of such classics including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Soap, The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls – back to The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy where he cut his teeth as an assistant director. An enormous and generous mentor to so many who themselves went on to achieve greatness, Jay was always willing to help budding directors and blazed the trail far and wide for everyone to follow. As the son of past DGA president Mark Sandrich, fighting for the rights of members was in Jay’s blood, and he always battled to ensure the director’s vision was protected. We were lucky to have benefited from his numerous contributions to Guild service spanning our National Board, Western Directors Council and the Directors Guild Foundation. We will miss Jay tremendously. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
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