Sunday, May 23, 2010

R.I.P, Martin Cohan and David Durston

Prolific television writer-producer Martin Cohan has gone on to his rich reward at the age of 77. He died Wednesday after a two-year fight with large-cell lymphoma, according to his family.

Cohan’s early career as a TV scribe found him contributing to many of television’s hit sitcoms, including The Odd Couple, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Partridge Family, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and Diff’rent Strokes. In 1978, a TV movie that he co-wrote with Dawn Aldredge about three comely stewardesses attracted enough attention to become a series that fall, Flying High. Unfortunately, it lasted a single season—one of its stars was Connie Sellecca, who would later achieve popularity on the series The Greatest American Hero and Hotel.

Cohan co-created another television sitcom success in 1982 with Silver Spoons, a series about a poor little rich kid (the revoltingly nauseating Ricky Schroeder) and the relationship with his painfully immature father (played by Joel Higgins). It lasted five seasons on NBC-TV, although television historians remained puzzled as to how this could have happened. (Honestly, I’m not speaking ill of the deceased…but this was a terrible, terrible show.)

Two years later (in 1984), Cohan and partner Blake Hunter would achieve television immortality with the mega-successful sitcom Who’s the Boss? (1984-92), which starred Tony Danza as an ex-baseball player as chief cook and bottle washer in the home of business executive Judith Light. The long-running show—which also featured Katherine Helmond, Alyssa Milano and Danny Pintauro—was so popular that it was adapted into series in several countries, including the U.K. (The Upper Hand), Germany (Ein Job für's Leben) and Poland (I kto tu rzadzi?).

Writer-director David E. Durston—the auteur behind the notorious cult horror film I Drink Your Blood (1970)—has also shuffled off this mortal coil, succumbing to complications from pneumonia on May 6th. He was 88.

Blood—a movie whose plot revolves around a members of a satanic hippie cult who become rabid zombies after ingesting meat pies laced with the blood of a hydrophobic dog—is one of the more notorious concoctions in the history of horror cinema…chiefly because, as The New York Times’ obituary on Durston notes: “…nearly every human appendage that can be severed is, on camera.” Durston himself wasn’t too wild about the title (his original choice was “Blood Phobia”) but it was foisted upon him by the distributor—he also had to make drastic edits to the finished product to avoid getting a controversial “X” rating.

Among Durston’s other contributions to cinema: Felicia (1964), The Love Statue (1965), The Blue Sextet (1971) and Stigma (1972)—the latter film features an early performance from future Miami Vice star Philip Michael Thomas. He began his show business career as an actor (he appears uncredited in the 1944 war classic Winged Victory) and by the 1950s was (according to the Times) an associate producer on TV’s Your Hit Parade and a writer for series like Tales of Tomorrow (Stephen Bowie has an interesting essay on Durston’s predilection for padding his resume at The Classic TV History Blog).

R.I.P, Messrs. Durston and Cohan. You shall be missed.

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baron-waste said...

Silver Spoons, a series about a poor little rich kid (the revoltingly nauseating Ricky Schroeder)

He got better.

- BW.

Flickhead said...

Thanks for the info on David Durston. I Drink Your Blood is one of the better zero-budget horror pictures of the post-Night of the Living Dead era. I saw it on a midnight double bill, courtesy of Jerry Gross, with I Eat Your Skin, which was actually a 1964 movie called Voodoo Blood Bath, or something to that effect, which combined cheapie zombie stuff with plot elements of Dr. No. That terrible movie was not made by Mr. Durston! But I Drink Your Blood is worth checking out.

Brent McKee said...

I hate to contradict you old buddy but any series that featured Erin Gray at the peak of her hotness only deserves ONE "terrible." Witness Buck Rogers. (Although the singular lack of Ms. Grey in a skin-tight cat suit/uniform does deduct a point from Silver Spoons. Call it one and a half "terribles"

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

(Although the singular lack of Ms. Grey in a skin-tight cat suit/uniform does deduct a point from Silver Spoons. Call it one and a half "terribles"}

Well, I certainly can't argue against Ms. Grey's hottability. One and a half terribles it is.