WITT, PAUL JUNGER

U.S. Producer

New York native Paul Junger Witt, took his first television position with Screen Gems in Los Angeles immediately following his graduation from the University of Virginia. At Screen Gems, one of Hollywood's most active television production companies he worked as an associate producer and director of The Farmer's Daughter and Occasional Wife. In 1971, Witt produced the enormously successful and influential--and Emmy winning--made-for-television movie, Brian's Song. On that project he worked for the first time with his future partner, Tony Thomas. He then assumed producer-director duties on The Partridge Family.

In 1971 he moved on to become a producer with Spelling-Goldberg Productions where he was involved in several films. A year later, he joined Danny Thomas Productions as president, serving as executive producer of five movies for television and two series, including Fay, which was created and written by Susan Harris.

In 1975, Witt joined with Tony Thomas, son of the legendary comedian, Danny Thomas, to form Witt-Thomas Productions and a year later the two men teamed up with Susan Harris to form Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions. Their first venture, Soap, was both a critical and popular success, although it was roundly attacked by religious and cultural conservatives. Witt found the criticisms particularly disturbing since no one in the groups making the attacks had ever seen the series. Yet several ABC affiliates responded to the critiques and either refused to air Soap or relegated it to late hours. It is Witt's belief that the unfair depictions of the show by those bent upon removing it from the air continued to have a chilling effect on advertisers for all the remaining years the program was on ABC.

A unique television event, Soap set in motion a long string of major television hits for the three partners including Benson, The Golden Girls, and Empty Nest. Of these series Soap and Golden Girls reflected a continuing emphasis on strong female characters. The company also produced at least five other shows with modest success that focused upon women. In addition Witt/Thomas produced Beauty and the Beast, Blossom, and The John Larroquette Show.

The huge success of the company solidified Witt/Thomas/Harris as a powerful force in the television industry. Witt observed that their reputation gives them significant access to network time slots. In 1984 Witt/Thomas began production of feature films with Firstborn Dead Poets' Society, and Final Analysis.

-Robert S. Alley


Paul Junger Witt
Photo courtesy of Witt/ Thomas/ Harris Productions

PAUL JUNGER WITT. Born in New York City, New York, U.S.A., 20 March 1941. Educated at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, B.A. in fine arts 1963. Married: Susan Harris; one son, Oliver; one daughter and two sons from a previous marriage. Associate producer and director, Screen Gems, Hollywood, California, 1965-67, producer and director, 1967-71; producer, Spelling/Goldberg Productions, Hollywood, 1972-73; president and executive producer, Danny Thomas Productions, Hollywood, 1973-74; founder and executive producer, Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, Hollywood, 1976-81, executive producer, since 1975; executive producer, Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, Witt/Thomas Productions, Witt/Thomas Films, 1992. Recipient: Emmy Awards, 1972, 1985, and 1986. Member: Board of Directors, Environmental Defense Fund; National Board, Medicine Sans Frontiers; Directors' Guild of America; Writers' Guild of America. Address: Witt/Thomas Productions, Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, 1438 North Gower Street, Hollywood, California 90028, U.S.A.

TELEVISION SERIES (selection)

1972-76 The Rookies
1977-81 Soap
1980-81 I'm a Big Girl Now
1980-82 It's a Living
1982-83 It Takes Two
1983 Condo
1985 Hail to the Chief
1985-92 The Golden Girls
1987-90 Beauty and the Beast
1988-95 Empty Nest
1991-95 Blossom
1991 Good and Evil
1991-93 Herman's Head
1991-93 Nurses
1993 Whoops
1993- The John Larroquette Show
1995 Muscle
1996 Local Heroes
1996 Pearl

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES

1972 Brian's Song
1972 No Place to Run
1972 Home for the Holidays
1973 A Cold Night's Death
1973 The Letters
1973 Bloodsport
1974 Remember When
1974 The Gun and the Pulpit
1975 Satan's Triangle
1976 Griffin and Phoenix
1976 High Risk
1980 Trouble in Big Timber Country
1996 Radiant City

FILMS

Firstborn, 1984; Dead Poets Society, 1988; Final Analysis, 1992; Mixed Nuts, 1994.

 

See also Benson; Golden Girls; Harris, Susan; Soap; Thomas, Tony