June 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM ET
Emmy Award-winning television producer and writer Gary David Goldberg died from brain cancer Sunday at his home in Montecito, Calif., his son-in-law and "The Colbert Report" writer Robert Dubbin confirmed to TODAY.com. He was 68 years old.
Goldberg mined his own life for some of the shows he created, including "Family Ties," the sitcom that made Michael J. Fox a star and ran from 1982-89. He later re-cast Fox in the political comedy "Spin City," which he created with "Cougar Town's" Bill Lawrence. That series ran from 1996-2002.
Initially a sports enthusiast, the Brooklyn-born Goldberg was expelled from two universities; when he met his future wife, flight attendant Diana Meehan, they hitchhiked around the world for a year with his black Labrador Retriever Ubu, a dog who became the symbol of his future production company, Ubu Productions. (The post-credits slate that ran after his shows featured a picture of the dog and Goldberg's voice saying, "Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog.")
He was 31 when he took a writing class at San Diego State, and encouraged to write for television he took jobs on series like "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Lou Grant." He won a WGA award for a 1978 episode of "M*A*S*H." In 1980 he formed Ubu Productions, and shifted between television and film, also writing and directing 1989's feature "Dad" with Ted Danson and 2005's "Must Love Dogs" starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. Over the years he won two Emmys (for "Lou Grant" and "Family Ties" and was nominated five other times; he also earned a second WGA award, six Humanitas Prizes and a Peabody Award.
In 2008 he penned a memoir: "Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went from Brooklyn to Hollywood With the Same Woman, the Same Dog and a Lot Less Hair." (He and Meehan eloped in 1990, over 20 years after they first met.)
Friends and co-workers began immediately Tweeting their condolences and tributes:
As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Goldberg said in his Archive of American Television interview that he would like to be remembered as "a guy who showed up for work and took the chance on finding out whether I could do it or not. ... I'd like to think I made my success not at the expense of anyone. Success was accidental."