Family & Companions
The never-ruffled, ruggedly handsome tough-guy star of "Vega$" (ABC, 1978-81) and "Spencer: For Hire" (ABC, 1985-88), Robert Urich, who long played characters who were up to the task no matter how daunting, demonstrated the same resilience in his personal life, bouncing back no matter how many TV shows of his got canceled. His biggest challenge, however, came in 1996 when he learned he had a rare form of cancer, and he met the dreaded disease head-on, exhibiting the courage he'd always said he had with a power of positive energy and prayer approach that, coupled with medical technology, rid him of the scourge. Though the cancer cost him a second season of "The Lazarus Man" (TNT, 1996-97), his first show renewed since "Spencer," Urich remained upbeat about losing his favorite series (and first truly heroic) role, saying, "I think we could still be on the air, even with treatment, but maybe that is my destiny, to do something else. I'm still trying to find the full answer to what this has meant."
After enjoying a standout career as an offensive lineman at Florida State University, Urich caught the acting bug while working as an account executive at WGN-Radio in Chicago. Dismissed by the station when his boss learned he was moonlighting, he performed professionally in the Chicago area before moving to Los Angeles and making his feature debut as one of the bad cops in Michael Cimino's "Magnum Force" (1973), starring Clint Eastwood. That same year he also made his small-screen debut as a series regular in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" (ABC), inspired by the 1969 feature film directed by Paul Mazursky. Though its run was brief, Urich had found his niche in TV, going on to co-star in "S.W.A.T." (ABC, 1975-76), play tennis pro Peter Campbell on ABC's "Soap" in 1977 and co-star in "Tabitha" (ABC, 1977-78) before scoring his first certifiable hit with "Vega$." After three years there and a short-lived starring turn as "Gavilan" (NBC, 1982-83), the planets lined up for him again, and he landed the title role in "Spencer: For Hire," based on the Robert B Parker detective novels.
In addition to starring in the features "Endangered Species" (1982), "The Ice Pirates" (1984) and "Turk 182!" (1985), Urich has had major roles in well over 30 miniseries and TV-movies, perhaps most notably in the Emmy-winning "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989), which established his Western persona and led to his casting as "The Lazarus Man." He also appeared in a final salute to the Cold War, the miniseries "Amerika" (ABC, 1987), and the true-crime drama "Blind Faith" (NBC, 1990), as well as co-starring opposite Faye Dunaway in the short-lived CBS sitcom "It Had to Be You" (1993). Urich hosted "National Geographic Explorer" on the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) from 1991-1994, earning both an Emmy and a CableACE Award for his efforts. Following his bout with cancer, he hosted ABC's short-lived medical anthology "Vital Signs" and the 13-part PBS documentary series "Boatworks" (both 1997). He was back in the saddle as Captain of "The Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN, 1998-99), moving past Harry Morgan as the actor with the most regular series roles (12),
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Feature acting debut in "Magnum Force"
TV debut in the short-lived ABC sitcom "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"; played Bob
Co-starred in the ABC police series "S.W.A.T."
Played recurring role of tennis instructor and gigolo Peter Campbell on the ABC sitcom "Soap"
Played the title character on the NBC series "Gavilan"
Acted with Timothy Hutton in Bob Clark's "Turk 182!"
Co-starred opposite Faye Dunaway on the short-lived sitcom, "It Had to Be You" (CBS)
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 12
Announced he was suffering from a rare form of cancer (synovial sarcoma) and would undergo chemotherapy; though producers cancelled "The Lazarus Man", Ralston Purina stuck by him as their spokesman for their Pure One dog food company; later underwent surgery as treatment for the cancer
Hosted the short-lived ABC reality-based series "Vital Signs"
Hosted 13-part PBS documentary series "Boatworks"
Received the Gilda Radner Courage Award (from Roswell Park Cancer Institute) in recognition of his successful battle with cancer
Starred as Billy Flynn in the touring company of the stage musical "Chicago"
Briefly returned to series TV as co-star of the fall NBC sitcom "Emeril"; cancelled due to low ratings