Wednesday, February 3, 2010

He Gave the World Uniblab

Daily Variety is reporting Emmy winner Barry E. Blitzer, who wrote on the first half-hour Hanna-Barbera shows, has died at the age of 80.

He was interviewed by Earl Kress about his work on Top Cat. It’s on the Top Cat DVD set but if you don’t have it, you can see it here.

Barry’s background was different from that of people like Warren Foster, Mike Maltese and Tony Benedict. They all could draw storyboards as they had been artists at one point. Barry was like Joanna Lee, Harvey S. Bullock and a few others—he was a sitcom writer, not a cartoonist. Barry stated he was hired to write for the Bilko-like Top Cat because he had been a writer for Phil Silvers on the Bilko show, but he stayed with the company and wrote a couple of Jetsons the following year. In fact, he put together the script for my favourite Jetsons episode with Uniblab. He continued to write sitcoms after being hired at Hanna-Barbera, joking how he got pegged as a “service comedy” guy because of Bilko, thus finding employment on McHale’s Navy and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Barry Blitzer also had experience in that one-time television staple—the variety show. It seems everyone who could sing but couldn’t do sketch comedy, or everybody who could do sketch comedy but couldn’t sing, was handed a network variety show, requiring them to both sing and perform sketch comedy. Blitzer and partner Ray Brenner were head writers for The Jimmie Rogers Show, which was basically a place for Carol Burnett to park her supporting cast (minus Harvey Korman) in the summer of 1969. There’s always the possibility he penned the immortal opening screech “Hi! I’m Glen Campbell!” since he wrote for Campbell’s variety show, too. Blitzer also had experience in that one-time record industry staple—the comedy album. He and Brenner created one in the ‘60s about how Jews deal with Christmas.

Not only did he work on Bilko—and you had to be good to write on that show—no less than the picky Sid Caesar hired him and Brenner to develop a comedy called “Our Man Schmidlap” in 1970.

In Barry’s later years, he turned to newspaper work and was a humour columnist for the Post in Pacific Palisades, where he died. In one column, he joked “the parking situation has gotten so bad around St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church that even St. Matthew himself has a problem.” Not boffo, yuck-it-up humour, but a gentle play on words nonetheless.

You can read his Variety obit here.

5 comments:

  1. A pity that there are apparently no preserved episode-specific credits of TOP CAT. I'd have been very curious to see which ones Mr. Blitzer wrote. (For years I thought Kin Platt wrote every episode!) But his tendency towards intricate plots and satirical dialogue and situations- observed in the FLINTSTONES and JETSONS episodes he wrote- are very noticeable in TOP CAT as well.

    And Mr. Blitzer was very versatile. He also worked for Norman Lear, Kroft, Filmation (on the UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK cartoon shorts) and Aaron Spelling, being credited on THE LOVE BOAT. And he continued to write for H-B at least into the late eighties on such diverse properties as ROMAN HOLIDAYS, PARTRIDGE FAMILY 2200AD, FOOFUR, the 1988 Yogi Bear revival shorts and even TOM & JERRY KIDS!

    And he's contributed many catchphrases I've used in regular conversation long before I read writers' credits: "Get to work! Work-work-work!"; "Yeah, yeah- I'm hip!"; " My electric bill is gonna be murder!"; "What a gal- she can do everything but whistle Dixie!"

    R.I.P. Mr. Blitzer. You gave sitcom and cartoon fans many memorable moments and years of entertainment.

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  2. Howard wrote:
    > "Yeah, yeah- I'm hip!"

    That was Barry Blitzer? That's a great episode. It's got a classic story structure; you don't know how Fred's going to put it all together at the end and your interest is held wondering what's going to happen. (Incidentally, one of the reasons I hate Gazoo is that you know before the cartoon starts he'll say some words, wave his arms, and everything will be fixed. It's lame Deus Ex Machina writing).

    I hope I don't get my facts wrong here, but it seems to me Blitzer was one of the first breed of TV comedy writers who didn't come out of radio like a lot of those guys (more or less because radio comedians simply moved their whole staff into television with them).

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  3. Uniblab, of course, gave George Jetson a lotta problems, like even showing up at his pad, and being TOO HARD for GEORGE to KICK!!
    [Don Messick and Geo.O'Hanlon were VERY funny there..] "I'm Hip" was spoken by another of the types of people that this blog exists for...forgotten HB voices-a fellow named Elliot Field. That was in the 1965 "Superstone" episode. There were two episodes with uniblab of the original. Nice to see two Jetsons-related posts, both in the same month!

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  4. where is that saying from (yeah yeah I'm hip I'm hip) my husband says it all the time and thinks it's from the Flintstones and after reading this I'm thinking he's right, but do you know what episode? Can you describe the episode?
    thanks Lisa

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  5. Hi, Lisa. It's from a late Flintstones episode. Read about it HERE. If I remember correctly, Allen Melvin was the "hip" guy.

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