television as she grew up in the 1950s in New York, Susan Harris
concluded, as do many viewers, that "anybody could write this."
Unlike most who make the claim, however, she persisted in preparing
work for television, and by 1969 found a way to present it to the
creator of Then Came Bronson, a short lived NBC series. The
show needed a script and she sold one. In 1970 Garry Marshall brought
her to the anthology series, Love, American Style for which
she wrote ten scripts. There she met Norman Lear and ended up writing
scripts for his breakthrough series, All In The Family, taking
her son with her to the story meetings. Following the Supreme Court's
1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Lear decided to address the highly
charged abortion issue in one of his television programs. Susan
Harris wrote the script for "Maude's Abortion," a sensitive and
sensible examination of a married couple's choices in light of the
court's decision. She received the Humanitas Award for her efforts.
The Catholic Church, expectedly, disapproved of the story, not the
last time Harris would hear from that institution.
those years she met producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas and
with them formed an independent television production company, Witt/Thomas/Harris,
in 1976. For the new company Harris created and wrote Fay, starring
Lee Grant, a series essentially canceled by NBC before it aired.
(Grant described the NBC executives as the mad programmers.) Harris'
next effort was no less controversial, but far more successful.
In 1977 she was the sole writer of the series Soap which
was attacked by Newsweek magazine, Southern Baptists, and Roman
Catholics, none of whom had seen it. The butler in Soap was spun
off in a new series, Benson and Harris then went on to create
and write I'm A Big Girl Now, Hail to the Chief, Golden Girls,
Empty Nest, and Good and Evil. After retiring from television
she commented in 1995 that her favorite series was Soap.
recalled that on most of the shows with which she was associated
before creating her own company men were writing about women. Maude,
she noted, had an all male staff. By the time she received the Emmy
award for Golden Girls in 1987 Harris had literally changed
the face of television comedy. Her female characters were well defined
and represented an array of personality types. Working alone, she
sparked a revolution as a woman writing about women while providing
insight into male personalities as well. On the cutting edge, she
drew the wrath of self-styled moralists even as she used wit, satire
and farce to provide a new kind of television.
the past 20 years Witt/Thomas/Harris has grown to become the largest
independent producer of television comedy in the United States.
Married to her partner, Paul Witt, Susan Harris is now active in
community projects and an avid art collector. Her future writing,
she believes, will be in feature films.
Photo courtesy of Witt/ Thomas/ Harris Productions
HARRIS. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.A. Married: Paul
Junger Witt. Writer for various television series from 1969; co-founder,
Witt/Thomas/Harris TV production company, 1976; creator, writer,
and producer, various TV series from 1977; assistant producer of
film Heart and Souls, 1993. Recipient: Emmy Awards, 1986-87.
Address: Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, Building 45, 4th Floor,
1438 North Gower Street, Los Angeles, California 90028, U.S.A.
1969-79 Then Came Bronson (selection; writer)
1969-74 Love, American Style
1971-79 All in the Family
1985-92 The Golden Girls (also creator and producer) 1988-95
1991 Good and Evil (also creator
and producer) 1991-94 Nurses (also creator and producer)
1992-93 The Golden Palace (also creator and producer)
also Soap; Thomas,