William Asher, the prolific writer-director of such groundbreaking TV sitcoms as I Love Lucy, Bewitched, Gidget and Our Miss Brooks, died today in Palm Springs, according to local reports. He was 90.
Asher’s first gig in the beginning days of TV was adapting his short stories for the anthology series Invitation Playhouse, which he also directed. In the early 1950s, CBS asked him to shoot a pilot starring movie actress Eve Arden that became Our Miss Brooks. (When the network came calling for the gig, according to Asher in a later interview, he asked, “What did a television director do”?) He soon was hired to try his hand on another sitcom that was struggling in its first season, I Love Lucy. He went on to direct more than 100 episodes of the series.
He eventually worked with pretty much every TV legend-to-be there was from Danny Thomas to Dinah Shore to Sally Field, on shows ranging from The Patty Duke Show, which he co-created with Sidney Sheldon, to The Thin Man, the Linda Lavin-starring Alice, Private Benjamin, and Harper Valley. He also wrote and directed several ’60s-era beach-blanket movies, including Beach Blanket Bingo starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. In 1963 he married his Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery, and they had three children together before splitting in 1973. He won the Best Director Emmy for the series in 1966. He retired in 1991.