"Police Woman" TV producer David Gerber dies, age 86

Tue Jan 5, 2010 6:23pm EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Award-winning television producer David Gerber, who worked on a range of programs from series like 1970s hit "Police Woman" to 2006 TV movie "Flight 93," has died at age 86, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Gerber succumbed to heart failure at the University of Southern California Medical Center on January 2 with his wife of 39 years, actress Laraine Stephens, by his side.

Throughout a long career, Gerber earned Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody awards for TV shows and movies. His Emmy-winning "Police Story" became a groundbreaking crime series and "Police Woman," which starred Angie Dickinson, was among the first successful cop shows with an actress as the lead character.

His hits included the series "That's My Mama," which was among the first prime-time TV programs with an all-black cast, and he produced the TV version of racial drama "In the Heat of the Night." His final TV movie was "Flight 93," which looked at the United Airlines flight that was hijacked and crashed into a Pennsylvania field on September 11.

Born July 25, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York, Gerber earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Pacific and joined the military in World War Two. He became a prisoner of war when his plane was shot down over Germany.

Following the war, Gerber worked in advertising and later as an executive in the TV business where he ushered hits such as "Room 222" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" onto the air in the late 1960s.

In 1972, he formed his own production company and after a string of hits including "Born Free" and "Medical Story," he joined MGM Television in 1981, where he rose to chairman and chief executive of the company's worldwide television group.

Gerber served in numerous industry and community groups, and developed a vineyard in northern California which produces wines named after his wife, Laraine, who is his sole survivor.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)