Veterans of Cancelled TV Shows That We Lost in April 2009

Dan Miller and Nora O'BrienSeveral veterans of cancelled television shows left us in April. Some worked in front of the cameras while others worked behind the scenes. Either way, they contributed to the medium in significant ways.

Thomas Braden passed away on April 3rd. He was 92 years old and died of natural causes at his home in Denver. Braden worked for the CIA until 1954 and then bought a newspaper in Oceanside, CA. He wrote a regular column about his life at home with a wife and eight children. Those columns were later collected in book form and became the basis of ABC’s Eight is Enough TV series. He returned to Washington, DC in the 1960s and helped create a political debate radio show. In 1982, he helped to launch CNN’s political debate series, Crossfire, with Pat Buchanan. He stayed with the program until 1991 and the show ended in 2005. Braden’s wife, Joan, had a varied career that included magazine writer, TV interviewer, public relations officer, and aide to both John F. Kennedy and Nelson A. Rockefeller. She died in 1999. Braden is survived by seven children (Thomas Jr. died in 1999) and numerous grandchildren.

On April 8th, Dan Miller passed away at age 67. He suffered a heart attack while walking with longtime friend and WSMV sports director Rudy Kalis in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia. Miller is primarily known as a newscaster. He began his career as a weatherman at WSM-TV in Nashville and became an anchor there in the 1970s. He became the lead anchor for KCBS in Los Angeles after that. He stayed in that position for a year, leaving to become the announcer and sidekick of friend and fellow WSM veteran Pat Sajak for the short-lived late-night talk show, The Pat Sajak Show. He returned to Nashville and began hosting his own cable talk show, Miller & Company. Miller went back to his old station (now WSMV) in 1995 to work as a news anchor and worked there until his death.

Wendy Blair died on April 14th in North Hollywood. She had been battling cancer and was 70 years old. Blair began working at CBS Television City in the 1950s and became the first female junior executive there. Known for being analytical and very organized, she was tapped to be an associate producer on shows like Three’s Company, The Ropers, and Three’s a Crowd. Blair also worked on many specials and variety shows for Dick Clark and Sid and Marty Krofft. She subsequently became a producer and worked on pilots for shows like What a Country and I Married Dora. She later became the business manager for the Smothers Brothers, a position she held until earlier this year.

On April 16th, actor and director Jim Hutchison died. A longtime community arts supporter and resident of Honolulu, he was 75. As an actor, he appeared in Broadway musicals like The Pajama Game and The Ziegfeld Follies. He then appeared on many popular TV variety shows and in Jim Henson’s Oscar-winning short, Time Piece. After moving to Hawaii, Hutchison appeared frequently on island-based shows like Hawaii Five-0, Magnum P.I., and Jake and the Fatman. He also headed the Honolulu City Ballet (later Ballet Hawaii), became the artistic director for Honolulu Community Theater, directed and choreographed for organizations like the Honolulu Symphony, and served as the Hawaii director for the Screen Actors Guild.

Marilyn Cooper passed away on April 22nd at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ, following a long illness. She was 74. Primarily a stage actress, Cooper made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the chorus of Mr. Wonderful. She later appeared in West Side Story, Mame, Two by Two, and Woman of the Year, for which she won a Tony Award. In 1985, she starred in the female version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. On television, she guested on shows like Alice, Kate and Allie, Cheers, Law & Order, The Nanny, and Caroline in the City.

Kim Weiskopf also died on April 22nd, from pancreatic cancer. He was 62 and passed away at his home in Encino, CA. Weiskopf, with his longtime writing partner Michael Baser, wrote for shows like One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, and Good Times. The duo went on to write and produce three seasons of Three’s Company before leaving to develop the short-lived 9 to 5 series, based on the hit movie. Next, they developed the syndicated sequel series to What’s Happening!! called What’s Happening Now!!. On his own, Weiskopf wrote for shows like Full House and Married with Children and also supplied the voice of the Bundy’s dog, Buck, on the latter series.

Bea Arthur, the outspoken and multi-talented actress best known for her work on Maude and The Golden Girls, passed away on April 25th from cancer. She was 86. Here is a longer appreciation.

On April 29th, Nora O’Brien died suddenly of a brain aneurysm while on the set of the new NBC Parenthood pilot in Berkeley, CA. She was just 44. O’Brien was the VP of drama programming for NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. She’d previously served as the VP of original programming at the Sci Fi Channel where she was the programming exec on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. For NBC, O’Brien worked on Kings, The Philanthropist, and Parenthood, as well last season’s Bionic Woman. She was on the board of directors of Hollywood HEART, which raises money in support of camps for children afflicted by the AIDS virus.

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