Actor George Segal died last Tuesday, he was 87 years old. I thought I’d write about it because, while I wouldn’t say that I was a huge fan of his specifically, he was part of two TV shows that I loved, and I thought it’s interesting how he maintained his career.
First, I will say that I was surprised that he was 87, he seemed so sharp. Looking at his IMDB his first professional acting credit was in 1960, when he would have been 26 years old. So that’s a bit of a late start, I’d say. But over the next 61 year, he had a steady career, both in film and TV. That’s impressive.
I first noticed him in the 1981 film Carbon Copy.
He played Walter Whitney, a rich White man who’s life becomes upended when he meets his adult illegitimate Black son named Roger. Yes, this is a comedy, because in 1981 this sort of thing was considered funny. I don’t recall much of this film, I certainly didn’t watch it more than once, but I recall that it did at least try to make some serious points about White racism (and anti-Semitism, as we discover that Walter’s been hiding the fact that he’s Jewish from his friends and colleagues) but there’s not much to say of it other than it being a footnote in Denzel’s career, as this was his theatrical debut.
But George would make a bigger impact on me 16 year later, when he would be cast in the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me!
The series was one of those workplace comedies, set in the offices of Blush magazine, a fictional women’s magazine ala Vogue. George played Jack Gallo, the owner and publisher of magazine. The series began with Jack’s estranged adult daughter Maya (played by Laura San Giacomo) coming to work at Blush after losing her previous job and having no other option. Laura being a feminist and serious journalist often found herself clashing with her father over his old-fashioned views and the superficial topics she was forced to cover in the magazine. Rounding out the main cast was David Spade as Jack’s executive assistant David Finch, often just referred to as Finch, Enrico Colantoni as Elliot, Blush’ lead photographer, and Wendi Malick as Nina, a former supermodel now working as Blush as the fashion editor.
After a 6-episode first season, it was picked up for 6 more full-length season. I loved this show, with it’s quirky cast and goofy stories. One of my favorites was a multi-episode arc where Finch basically tricks a supermodel (played by Rebecca Romijn) to marry him, and then he has to constantly hide his real personality and interests (he’s a cat-lover and obsessive Star Wars fan) to pretend to fit into her world. A running joke throughout the series was an ongoing rivalry that Jack had with Donald Trump (who never actually appeared on the show) that would often manifest in the two of them making various bets with outlandish consequences with each other that Jack would always lose (one episode implied that after losing an earlier bet Jack had to get Trump’s name tattooed on his ass). Another standout episode is when Jack published his autobiography, but he secretly had Finch write it for him, and he instructed Finch to include a bunch of fictional street fights with various dead action movie stars, including Robert Conrad. But when it turns out that Finch made a mistake and Conrad was actually still alive, the actor showed up at the office looking to kick Jack’s ass.
The show was great, but it’s one of those shows that despite being successful it never really made much of a cultural impact. It’s not a Friends type of show that people remember and talk about reunions or reboots. It’s just sort of forgotten, as the cast went on to other projects. I think a major problem the series suffered from an irregular time slot during the majority of it’s run. In the 7 seasons NBC moves it’s air time 11 times, eventually landing it on Saturday nights, which is often considered a graveyard for network TV, especially sitcoms. Still, it remains a favorite of mine.
This is one of my current favorite TV shows, I love it! As a Gen X’er who was raised in the 1980’s, this hits all the right nostalgic spots. This is a family comedy, based on the real-life childhood of series creator Adam F. Goldberg, is all told in flashbacks as Adam narrates various events in his life.
Sean Giambrone plays Adam Goldberg, initially a pre-teen when the series began but now a teenager, living in Pennsylvania with his parents Murray and Beverly (Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey) his older siblings Erica and Barry (Hayley Orrantia and Troy Gentile) and his grandfather, Beverly’s widowed father and Murray’s former boss, Albert, generally knowns as “Pops,” whom Adam was particularly close to and who was played be George.
And that’s why this death is significant to me, as it sucks that they’ll have to write Pops out of the show. I’m curious how they’re going to do that, since I assume Adam’s real-life grandfather didn’t actually back then. But I will say that I think it’s great that George Segal got to die doing what he loves. He’d been in show business 61 years, and his 80’s he was a regular cast member on a hit TV show. How cool is that? And from watching the show I never would have guess that George was that, he seemed as sharp as ever. It’s of course that his life ended as it did, due to a botched surgery, but at least he lived a full life and went out, creatively speaking, on top.
Categories: I SEE DEAD PEOPLE