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Jay Tarses

Jay Tarses

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: July 3, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: producer, director, writer, comedian, actor, playwright

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

While lacking the name recognition of fellow sitcom auteurs like Norman Lear, Garry Marshall and James L Brooks, Jay Tarses must be counted among the major voices to emerge in the genre over the last two decades. As a writer-producer, he has worked on some of the most acclaimed sitcoms in recent memory. As few of them lasted more than a season or two, however, a typical Tarses comedy was more likely to be a critical darling or cult favorite rather than a ratings powerhouse. His most characteristic sitcoms, including "Buffalo Bill" (NBC, 1983-84) and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" (NBC, 1987-89; Lifetime, 1989-91), were notable for their wry and rueful qualities as well as a relative lack of sentiment. Tarses' one great commercial (as well as critical) success was as the executive producer and sometimes writer on "The Bob Newhart Show" (CBS, 1972-78), a sitcom more memorable for its eccentric characters and absurd situation than the warm-fuzzies the genre often delivers.Most of the first two decades of Tarses' TV career was spent in close collaboration with writer-producer Tom Patchett. The pair first gained some notoriety during nearly two decades as the standup comedy team, Patchett and Tarses,...

While lacking the name recognition of fellow sitcom auteurs like Norman Lear, Garry Marshall and James L Brooks, Jay Tarses must be counted among the major voices to emerge in the genre over the last two decades. As a writer-producer, he has worked on some of the most acclaimed sitcoms in recent memory. As few of them lasted more than a season or two, however, a typical Tarses comedy was more likely to be a critical darling or cult favorite rather than a ratings powerhouse. His most characteristic sitcoms, including "Buffalo Bill" (NBC, 1983-84) and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" (NBC, 1987-89; Lifetime, 1989-91), were notable for their wry and rueful qualities as well as a relative lack of sentiment. Tarses' one great commercial (as well as critical) success was as the executive producer and sometimes writer on "The Bob Newhart Show" (CBS, 1972-78), a sitcom more memorable for its eccentric characters and absurd situation than the warm-fuzzies the genre often delivers.

Most of the first two decades of Tarses' TV career was spent in close collaboration with writer-producer Tom Patchett. The pair first gained some notoriety during nearly two decades as the standup comedy team, Patchett and Tarses, in clubs and TV appearances that included a stint as ensemble players in the summer replacement variety series "Make Your Own Kind of Music" (CBS, 1971). They segued into TV comedy writing working on the classic comedy-variety star vehicle "The Carol Burnett Show" in the early 1970s. The duo became executive producers as well as sitcom writers with "The Bob Newhart Show." They found less success with "The Tony Randall Show" (CBS, 1976-78), a likable family sitcom about a widower judge who juggles work and family with attempts to kick start his love life. "We've Got Each Other" (CBS, 1977), an amiable romantic comedy about a non-traditional couple, failed to hold on to enough of the huge audience delivered by its formidable lead-in "All in the Family." "Mary" (CBS, 1978), a variety vehicle for Mary Tyler Moore, was dispatched after only three episodes. Tarses and Patchett endured a series of busted pilots and another failed sitcom ("Open All Night" ABC, 1981-82) before crafting a minor classic with "Buffalo Bill."

Starring Dabney Coleman at his most unsavory, this sitcom broke the rules by placing a detestable protagonist center stage. It conformed to accepted norms, however, by having his schemes continuously fail. Bill was the popular host of a local talk show in Buffalo NY who dreamed of big city success and cared not a whit about who he used or abused to achieve it. Mild by today's standards perhaps, "Buffalo Bill" was remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental for its day as it dealt with such "hot button" topics as racism and abortion in a much less didactic manner than Norman Lear-produced fare. The superb Coleman was abetted by a first-rate supporting cast that included Joanna Cassidy, Geena Davis, Meshach Taylor and Max Wright. The end of this series marked the end of the long and fruitful Tarses-Patchett collaboration.

On his own, Tarses achieved his greatest success as a sitcom creator with "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," an affecting "dramedy" starring the splendid Blair Brown as an attractive thirtysomething divorcee navigating the complications of romance and career. A critical favorite with a devoted following, the show underperformed on CBS but received a new lease on life on the cable network Lifetime. In addition to serving as creator and producer, Tarses frequently wrote and directed and made occasional appearances as an actor. He achieved less success with "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story" (ABC, 1987-88), a failed vehicle for Coleman as an irascible but lovable sports writer.

Tarses also dabbled in features, making his debut with Patchett as screenwriters for the Robert Downey-directed, MAD MAGAZINE-financed "Up the Academy" (1980), a teen comedy set at a military academy. Seemingly (mis)calculated to cash-in on the raucous youth comedy craze inaugurated by "Animal House" and continued by the "Porky's" movies, "Up the Academy" was decried as racist, sexist and gross by offended reviewers who were not amused. A strange project for writers then best-known for the cool absurdism of "The Bob Newhart Show," this was an aberration that was not repeated. The pair went on to write two successful films starring the Muppets: Jim Henson's "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981) and Frank Oz's "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (1984). Both films proved critical and commercial successes.

Tarses' next TV project, "Black Tie Affair" (NBC, 1993), was a short-lived misfire that satirized 1940s film noir in a serialized format for four weeks. If controversy brings ratings, the prognosis for his next project "Public Morals" (CBS, 1996) should have been excellent. Tarses executive produced with Steven Bochco and scripted the pilot for this edgy comedy about the NYC Public Morals Division. Industry buzz predicted that the show would push the envelope of TV taste. The viewing audience stayed away in droves and the series was pulled after one airing.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Faculty, The (1986) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Teen Wolf (1985) Coach Finstock
3.
 Chopped Liver Brothers, The (1977) Jay Luckman
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Milestones close milestones

:
Wrote and acted in theater in Pittsburgh, PA
:
Worked as advertising and promotion for Armstrong Cork Company in Lancaster, PA
1956:
Formed partnership with co-worker Tom Patchett
:
Performed as a partner in the stand-up comedy team Patchett & Tarses
:
First writing credit (with Patchett and others) on a TV special, "Diana", a variety outing for Diana Ross
1971:
Appeared as an ensemble member (with Patchett) on "Make Your Own Kind of Music", a summer replacement comedy-variety series on CBS
1972:
Segued into TV comedy writing (with Patchett) as a writer on "The Carol Burnett Show"; shared an Emmy award for the 1972/73 season
1972:
Served as executive producer (with Patchett) and writer on "The Bob Newhart Show" on CBS
:
Created and executive produced (with Patchett) "The Tony Randall Show" on ABC (1976-77) and then CBS (1977-78)
1977:
Executive produced, wrote and co-starred in (all with Patchett) "The Chopped Liver Brothers", an unsold ABC sitcom pilot about a pair of unknown stand-up comics struggling to become headliners
:
Created and executive produced (with Patchett), the CBS romantic sitcom "We've Got Each Other"
1978:
Produced (with Patchett) "Mary", a short-lived variety vehicle for Mary Tyler Moore
1980:
Feature writing debut (with Patchett), "Up the Academy"
1981:
Wrote (with Patchett, Jerry Juhl and Jack Rose) the screenplay for Jim Henson's "The Great Muppet Caper", a British production (and the second Muppet feature)
:
Created, produced and wrote theme music (all with Patchett) "Open All Night", an ABC sitcom about a 24-hour grocery; also portrayed Police Officer Steve
1983:
Co-wrote (with Patchett) and produced the Patchett-directed "Sitcom", a busted HBO sitcom pilot spoofing network sitcoms
:
With Patchett, executive produced and wrote for the critically acclaimed NBC sitcom "Buffalo Bill" starring Dabney Coleman
1984:
Scripted (with Patchett and Frank Oz) and provided story (with Patchett) for "The Muppets Take Manhattan"
1984:
Debut as a TV series regular, "The Duck Factory", an NBC sitcom set at an animation studio
1985:
Feature acting debut, played Coach Finstock in "Teen Wolf"
1986:
Directed the busted sitcom pilot "The Faculty" (also executive produced and wrote)
:
Created, produced and sometimes wrote, directed and acted on the acclaimed sitcom "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"; on NBC from 1987-89 and Lifetime from 1989-91
:
Created, produced and sometimes wrote and directed "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story", an ABC sitcom staring Dabney Coleman
1992:
Debut as a playwright, "Man in His Underwear", produced off-Broadway in NYC
1993:
Created and executive produced as well as wrote and directed episodes of "Black Tie Affair", a short-lived sitcom spoof of film noir
1996:
With Stephen Bochco, produced and served as writer for CBS sitcom "Public Morals"
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Education

Williams College: Williamstown , Massachusetts -
Ithaca College: Ithaca , New York -

Notes

In addition to many Emmy nominations (and one win in 1972/73 for "The Carol Burnett Show") for "Best Writing in Variety or Music" (1973/74--"The Carol Burnett Show"), "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series" (1982/83, 1983/84--"Buffalo Bill"; 1986/87, 1990/91--"The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd") and "Outstanding Comedy Series" (1973/74--"The Bob Newhart Show"; 1982/83, 1983/84--"Buffalo Bill"), Tarses garnered two Emmy nods for "Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series" (1987/88, 1990/91--"The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd").

"If I pitch something that they like, they'll buy it and then they'll kill it if it's something that is nopt one hundred percent commercial"--Tarses on dealing with networks, quoted in NEWSDAY, December 14, 1992

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Rachel Tarses. Red Cross volunteer. Served for six months in the Persian Gulf.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Jamie Tarses. Executive. Became president of ABC Entertainment in June 1996; the youngest person and the first woman to hold such a job; born c. 1964.
daughter:
Mallory Tarses. Teacher; fiction writer. Born c. 1966.
son:
Matt Tarses. Screenwriter. Writer and story editor on NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air"; staff writer for Tarses' "Public Morals"; born c. 1968.

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