Ground-Breaking TV Writer Rita Lakin was “The Only Woman in the Room”

by Herbie J Pilato

With her new book, THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM: EPISODES IN MY LIFE AND CAREER AS A TELEVISION WRITER, Rita Lakin writes so well what she knows so well about.

A ground-breaking talent, Lakin was one of the first female writers who graced the behind-the-scenes of the small screen.  Her first TV script, “A Candle in the Window,” an episode of Dr. Kildare, executive produced by David Victor (Marcus Welby, M.D.), was a fine precursor of what was to come:

Featuring former film star Ruth Roman, “Candle” told of the devastating loss a nurse experiences when her husband dies after she served for years as his primary caregiver.  The episode also featured a young Ronny Howard, then also appearing as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, as Rowman’s young son, and was directed by Sydney Pollack (as his first credit as well, years before Out of Africa, Tootsie  and Bobbie Deerfield, and countless other monumental gigs for both the big-screen and small).

As Lakin explains today, “It was my first assignment on TV. I was recently widowed and that’s why David Victor wanted me to write a story on that subject. Believe me, I knew a lot on that subject.”

Other TV assignments followed and were a diverse mix including segments of some of TV’s most beloved classics like The Invaders, Family Affair, The Mod Squad and The Rookies, Dynasty, and Nightingales, which Lakin created.  The varied episodes of these series allowed for Lakin’s prolific ability and unique perspective to shine, as it did with several well-known TV-movies, which helped to define the genre, such as Hey, I’m Alive (1975), starring Sally Struthers and Ed Asner isolated in the wilderness, and A Sensitive, Passionate Man (1977), starring Angie Dickinson and David Jansen (and based on the book my Barbara Mahoney)

Lakin writes about these and so much more in THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM.

As the press release for the book relays,Rita Lakin was a pioneer, a female scriptwriter in the early 1960s when Hollywood television was exclusively male.  For years, in creative meetings, she was literally the only woman in the room.  In this breezy but heartfelt remembrance, Lakin exposes us to a long-forgotten time when women were not considered worthy or welcome at the creative table.

Widowed with three young children, she talked herself into a secretarial job at Universal Studios in 1962, despite being unable to type or take dictation.  But with guts, skill, and humor she rose from secretary to free-lancer, to staff writer, to producer, to executive producer and show-runner, meeting hundreds of famous and infamous showbiz legends along the way during her long and unexpected career.  She introduced many women into the business and was a feminist before she even knew she was a feminist.

Unknown to the general public, she reached an audience of millions, week after week, year after year.  The relevance of her personal journey, charming yet occasionally shocking, will be an eye-opener to today’s readers who take for granted the abundance of female creative talent in today’s Hollywood.

A must-read, indeed, for any aspiring, novice or veteran television writer.

Learn more about Rita and get your own copy of The Only Woman in the Room HERE 

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

Herbie J Pilato Reads ‘Write Tight’

by Herbie J Pilato

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our bud Herbie J Pilato is a very picky person when it comes to recommending a TV show, film, or book. And a book about writing? Oh my! But here the dear boy is, returning to TVWriter™ to recommend this one book in particular. Take it away Herbie J!

It’s important to write tight.

Not, “It’s SO important to write tight.”

See the difference?

No need to add the “so” and certainly no need to capitalize it like “SO.”

Whether writing a book, nonfiction or fiction, or a TV show, movie or play, scripted, non-scripted, reality, or documentary, keep your dialogue to a minimum; even your stage directions.

Get your point across with less verbiage.  You know: less words.  In other words, cut to the chase…with each sentence, which each line, with each word.

Certainly, there are moments where it’s important to be generous when writing words, as with poetry, or if you’re quoting some great thinker in one of your books or scripts; or if you have created a verbose or arrogant character.

But in general, it’s best to say what you need to say in a short and sweet way – as a writer, a character, or in real life as a candlestick maker – or even if one of your characters in your TV show, movie or play is a candlestick maker.

Utilize your best judgment and discretion.

Or, just use discretion.

Or, use discretion.

Or better yet:

Use discretion.

You get me?

Here’s a wonderful book to help the cause:

Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean With Precision and Power by William Brohaugh.

Click on the link and order it.

As fast as you can.

Or just:

Order it.


Herbie J Pilato is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and right now his official title is Contributing Editor Emeritus. We’re pleased as all hell to have him back today and are sure you will be too. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

Mike Connors: Mannix and the Man

by Herbie J Pilato

There’s an episode of Seinfeld (NBC, 1989-1998) called “The Limo” (2-26-92) in which Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) and his neurotic friend George (Jason Alexander) are in a moving limousine attempting to escape from neo-Nazis. George suggests that he and Jerry leap from the moving vehicle and roll out onto the ground.

To which Jerry replies, “Who are you – Mannix?!”

That reference remains a true testimonial to the immortal popularity of the classic TV detective series of the same name starring Mike Connors, which originally ran on CBS from 1966 to 1975.

Connors, who died of leukemia on January 27, 2017 (only one week after he was diagnosed), played private-detective Joe Mannix on what became one of the longest-running police crime dramas in TV history, and stood-out because it was the first to feature an Armenian male lead.

Along with NBC’s Star Trek (with Nichelle Nichols as communications officer Lt. Uhura) and that same network’s Julia sitcom (starring Diahann Carrol as a nurse), Mannix was also one of the first shows to feature an African-American actress on a weekly basis; as Gail Fisher played Joe’s trusted and loyal secretary and friend Peggy Fair (a role for which Nichols had auditioned).

Additionally, Mannix and Trek happened to be owned and operated by Lucille Ball’s Desilu Productions, which also supervised her Here’s Lucy CBS comedy (from 1968-1974), on which Connors made a guest-appearance as Joe Mannix.

Connors would reprise his most famous role twice more: in 1997 for an episode of CBS’ Diagnosis: Murder (starring his good friend Dick Van Dyke) and in the 2004 feature film comedy Nobody Knows Anything.

As detailed on, Connors was born Krekor Ohanian, of Armenian descent, on August 15, 1925, in Fresno, California. Tall, athletic, and handsome, he played basketball in college, during which time he was nicknamed “Touch” for his agility at the game.

He utilized “Touch Connors” as a stage name for early movie appearances like Sudden Fear (1952), The 49th Man and Sky Commando (both in 1953), Day the World Ended (1955), and The Ten Commandments (1956), among others.

He also used that pre-Mannix moniker for his first few television appearances on shows like The Ford Television Theatre (for an episode titled, “Yours for A Dream,” his small-screen debut), City Detective, The Lineup, and The Loretta Young Show, during which he as intermittently known as “Touch,” “Mike,” “Michael,” and one time as “Jay” (for a 1956 episode of State Trooper).

After that he was billed as Mike Connors for TV shows like The Untouchables, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, and more.

Then came Mannix, followed by TV-movies such as The Killer Wouldn’t Die (1976), Long Journey Back (1978), and Casino (1980), followed by one season of ABC’s 1981-1982 series, Today’s F.B.I., on which he played agent Ben Slater.

Other small-screen gems included an episode of Steven Spielberg’s reboot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1989), the hit mini-series War and Remembrance (1988-1989), the reboot of Burke’s Law (1994), The Commish (1993), Walker, Texas Ranger (1998), and a recurring role as Chipacles in the syndicated Hercules series starring Kevin Sorbo (1998-1999).

Connors last on-screen performance was for an episode of the CBS sitcom, Two and a Half Men, called “Prostitutes and Gelato” (2007), in which he portrayed a character named Hugo.

A private and dedicated family man, Connors had been married to the same woman, Mary Lou Willey, since September 10, 1949; a union that produced two children: Matthew Gunner Ohanian (born in 1958) and Dana Lee Connors (born 1960).

According to television and film archivist Robert S. Ray, “Mike Connors brought his own sense of style, bravado and intelligence to his portrayal of Mannix.”

Ray, who serves on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Classic TV Preservation Society, adds, “But I think the word that best describes his persona is ‘integrity.’  Joe Mannix was a ham-fisted guy brought up on the tough streets of LA.  He was an even match for all the thugs he ran up against in any given episode and could very easily have been one of their compadres.  But his integrity and sense of honesty kept him on the right side of the law, even if his take-no-prisoners demeanor made his connections in the local Police Department wary of him.”

Comparing the Mannix star with other legendary TV male stars such as Ed Asner, best known from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Ralph Waite, of The Waltons, Ray concludes, “Mike Connors presented a seemingly fundamental decent presence on screen.”

This tribute to the late Mike Conners is an edited excerpt from Dashing, Daring and Debonair: TV’s Top Male Icons from the 50s, 60s and 70s by TVWriter™ Contributor Herbie J Pilato, host of Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, a new classic TV talk show that will debut on the Decades network later this year.

Learn more about Herbie J HERE

Introducing All-Creative Consultants (aka Herbie J Pilato Himself)!


The creative world can be cold and harsh, but TVWriter™ bud is doing his best to change that for all of us. Here’s the scoop on Herbie J Pilato’s new biz, in his own write:

All-Creative Consultants is your one-stop shop!

Seeking editorial services for your TV or film script?  Your fiction or nonfiction book? Your business proposal?  Your website?

Is your production company, film studio, or television network remaking a classic TV show for the big screen or small?

Do you need to verify particular character or story mythology for any project?

Are you working on a classic TV documentary or any media-geared film or production?

Do you require pop-culture research, writing assistance, or editorial services in general for any particular project for any creative genre or business genre?

Then All-Creative Consultants is for you.

All-Creative Consultants is an entertainment consulting firm established by writer/producer Herbie J Pilato (author of top-selling media tie-in books, such asDashing, Daring and DebonairGlamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door, and Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, and more).

All-Creative Consultants works with film studios, TV networks, production companies and independent producers, writers and actors, and individuals of every vocation.

All-Creative Consultants partners with entertainment professionals, organizations, and companies to develop and produce scripted films and TV shows, documentaries for the big-screen or small, and “extras” on various DVD releases of classic TV shows or classic films, and more.

Our clients include film studios such as Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, as well as TV networks including Bravo, TLC, Syfy, and A&E, among other media organizations.

Whether for the big-screen or small, the live stage or the printed page…with original ideas or reimaginings – of music, performance or the written word…in whichever creative venue you choose, All-Creative Consultants will help you celebrate your vision.

Call or email today:  (310) 480-0067  –

And there you have it, kids. One less reason for not getting out there and, you know, conquering the Death Star we call The Industry!

Break a leg, Herbie J!

Herbie J Pilato: “I never gave up on my writing, and neither should you!”

by Herbie J Pilato

Herbie J Bewitched BookIn 1986, I began writing my first book, The Bewitched Book, about the classic 1960s TV show starring Elizabeth Montgomery.

After five initial rejections from several well-known magazines to have it first previewed as an article, I went on to find an agent.

After receiving over 25  rejection letters from various literary agencies of every level, I found an agent who believed in me and my idea.

At least for a little while.

After 40 rejection letters from every publishing house in New York (and beyond), my agent dumped me.

I then decided to serve as my own agent, and contact publishers directly.

I then went on to receive over 75 additional rejections for my book.

Finally, it was purchased by a publisher, in a heated bidding war between two major houses.

But then my editor was fired, and my book was cancelled.

I went back to the initial losing publisher, and sold the book to that second party.

My editor at that house then quit his job, and my book was cancelled a second time.

The Bewitched Book was actually purchased a third time in 1992, and sold-out quite swiftly all 15,000 copies of it’s first printing.

But then my third editor was, that’s right, fired.

Three years later, in 1995, when Elizabeth Montgomery died, I decided it was time to update, revise and rewrite The Bewitched Book as Bewitched Forever.

And you guessed, over 80 more rejection letters, the all-new Bewitched Forever was published in 1995.

But then my publisher got out of the publishing business.

Six years later, in 2001, I  resold Bewitched Forever to a new publisher.

Four years later, in 2004, I revised it once more, for a special 40th Anniversary Edition (Bewitched debuted on TV in 1964).

Every good thing that’s happened in my career, be it additional books, or writing and producing television shows, or forming my Classic TV Preservation Society nonprofit organization, or even the live entertainment events that I periodically host and produce…all of it happened because of The Bewitched Book.

I never gave up on my writing, and neither should you.

Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.

DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR book excerpt: Gene Roddenberry – “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Herbie J Pilato’s new book, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR: TV’s Top Male Icons from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, published by Taylor Trade Publishing, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield.

looks like a galaxy bird to us

The Great Bird of the Galaxy
by Herbie J Pilato

The Great Bird of the Galaxy.

That’s how the iconic Gene Roddenberry, who died October 4, 1991, is mostly remembered. As the creator of the original Star Trek, its initial TV follow-up, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and ultimately the subsequent and ongoing legacy of sequels and remakes for both the big and small screen, Roddenberry’s uplifting and majestic vision of the future will forever live long and prosper. A pilot in the US Army during World War II, Roddenberry would decades later become one of the first people to be “buried” in space. It all seemed to fit.

A genius of mind and spirit, Roddenberry created Star Trek, which became more than just a TV series or a multimedia franchise. The original and additional incarnations of the series have served as inspiration for countless TV viewers, moviegoers, Hollywood insiders, and humanity. As Roddenberry once said:

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. [. . .] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind—here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

Ann Hodges says Roddenberry “keyed into something that audiences were hungry for at that time”: the science-fiction/fantasy genre. “They loved Star Trek, and they loved what he had to say with that show, and how he said it. He was smart. He knew how to present the material, and he did it in a way that was believable. He also had an eye for casting. He knew how to cast particular characters that would appeal to the mainstream audience.”

Gene was born Eugene Wesley Roddenberry on August 19, 1921, in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Los Angeles, California. He joined the Army Air Corps after studying law enforcement at Los Angeles City College and flew several missions during World War II. While stationed in the South Pacific, he contributed stories and poetry to publications. After the war, Roddenberry took a job as a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airlines before moving back to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a television writer.

Roddenberry had worked as a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman and as a speechwriter for Chief William H. Parker in the early 1950s as he attempted to gain a foothold in the entertainment industry. Fortunately, the LAPD regularly consulted for fellow male-icon Jack Webb’s police series Dragnet, giving Roddenberry the chance to develop his writing style. His first TV credit was for a segment of Mr. District Attorney, followed by episodes of West Point, Naked City, and Have Gun, Will Travel, for which he won the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic TV Script.

Before Star Trek’s famed writer/story producer D. C. Fontana began working on Roddenberry’s historic space series, she had served as his secretary during the production of another of one of his ground-breaking, if short-lived, shows: The Lieutenant. This series, which starred Gary Lockwood, who Roddenberry would later utilize in his Trek universe, originally aired on NBC from fall 1963 to spring 1964. As Fontana recalls, that’s when she “saw the initial pages for Star Trek … when The Lieutenant was in its last stages and we knew it would not be renewed. “

As she continues to explain, since MGM, proprietor of The Lieutenant, had a “first look agreement” with Roddenberry, he initially brought Trek to that studio, but they turned it down. “Imagine where MGM might be today if they had said yes,” she suggests with a smile.

That said, Fontana recalls Roddenberry pitching Trek as “Wagon Train to the Stars,” in reference to the classic TV western Wagon Train, which aired on NBC and then ABC from 1957 to 1965). “Wagon Train wasn’t about the journey,” she relays. “Every episode was about someone ON the journey in the wagon train … their problems, their crises, their relationships, successes, and failures. Gene’s pitch was that the spaceship [on Trek] was just a vehicle to cross space. The real stories were in the crew, the new worlds, new civilizations that would be encountered in space. And I think we accomplished that. Big time.”

Roddenberry’s original unaired Trek pilot titled “The Cage,” which featured Jeffrey Hunter (who played Jesus in the 1961 movie King of Kings) as a pre-William Shatner captain, was rejected by NBC as “too cerebral.” Roddenberry then made another attempt at the concept with a second pilot called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which guest-starred The Lieutenant’s Gary Lockwood and replaced Hunter with Shatner, now paired with Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, who was held over from “The Cage.”

The series aired only seventy-nine episodes over three seasons on NBC, before becoming nothing less than a sensation in syndication—and on to the mammoth expansion in all media that it has turned into.

After this initial Trek was cancelled in 1969, Roddenberry stuck with the science-fiction theme as a writer and producer for TV-movie/pilots like Genesis II (1973), Planet Earth (1974), and The Questor Tapes (1974). Meanwhile, Star Trek was enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to syndicated reruns and an animated version, and in 1975 Roddenberry was tapped to revive the franchise under the name Star Trek: Phase II. But due to the popularity of the first Star Wars movie, which premiered in 1977, Paramount Studios, owner of the Trek franchise, was prompted instead to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the big screen. Five sequels with the original cast followed, though Roddenberry had limited involvement after the first film as an “executive consultant.”

Renowned writer Larry Brody worked for Roddenberry on the animated Star Trek series, original episodes of which NBC aired from 1973 to 1975 (ultimately completing the historic “five-year mission” of the Enterprise that commenced on the original live-action series, where it was aborted after only three years).

Says Brody:

“Gene was amazing. Huge energy and the biggest ego of anyone I’ve ever met—but it seemed completely justifiable in light of his talent and influence and totally unassuming. That is, he wasn’t pretending to be better than anyone else, he was better at what he did than almost everyone else—and he loved being so damn good at it that you couldn’t help but admire him for it.

“If I had to compare Gene Roddenberry to a fictional character, it would be to the Doctor on Doctor Who. A supreme manipulator whose goal was to solve his problems utilizing the talents of those around him—which meant that he had to help them become the absolute best they could be. The great thing about Gene was that even when he messed with you or screwed you over you didn’t care . . . because it was so much fun watching him do it.”

Herbie J Pilato is a TVWriter™  Contributing Editor. You can learn more about him HERE. Click HERE to order your copy of DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR: TV’s Top Male Icons from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, by Herbie J Pilato.

Herbie J Pilato: Clarifying the Criteria for Classic TV Re-Imaginings

Which of us would you rather be saved by?

Which of us would you rather be saved by?

by Herbie J Pilato

It’s all over the recent Bionic press:

Mark Wahlberg will take the lead in The Six Billion Dollar Man, a theatrical motion picture based on the original 1973-1978 ABC-TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, which featured Lee Majors as the super-human cyborg Col. Steve Austin.

In recent years, television remakes appeared on the big and small screens.  Reimaginings of Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, The Munsters, and Ironside, among others, have failed to win-over home-viewers, while a new Wonder Woman did not make it past event the pilot stage.  At the movies, classic-TV-to-feature-film adaptations have done hit (Mission: Impossible, Charlie’s Angels, The Fugitive), and miss (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, the latter two featuring Johnny Depp in heavy white-face make-up).

Only a few in this unique genre have triumphed, both at the home and theatre box office, as well with the critics, such as the new TV edition of Battlestar: Galactica, and the numerous big and small-screen extensions of Star Trek (which itself is once more returning to television – in January 2017 – on the CBS All Access network, as is a new FOX-TV edition of ABC’s Greatest American Hero).

One of the most popular TV-to-film remakes in the history of the genre remains The Brady Bunch Movie, released in 1995.  Because of the satiric nature of this film, many big-screen TV-remakes have since presented themselves as comedies, even when the original TV shows from which they sprang were originally-conceived as dramatic in nature (Starsky & Hutch, The Lone Ranger).

Most classic TV remakes in any form, however, do not succeed, mostly because they fail to cater to pertinent criteria; germane vital concepts that made the original material a success.  Many would like to follow in the footsteps of the Star Trek franchise (on all platforms), as opposed to the insubordinate performance of, for example, the not-so successful 1996 feature film, Sergeant Bilko (Steve Martin’s big-screen redo that was based on the classic Phil Silvers TV sitcom).

The issue is this:  once an image has been created and embedded in the psyche of American pop-culture, said image should then be nurtured, embraced and celebrated throughout eternity, utilizing said image as a marketing tool for an all-new feature film or TV show based upon the beloved original creation; as opposed to making a poor attempt at re-creating said image with a completely different vision that no one will care about or “buy” into.

The most important thing to remember when “re-emerging” a TV show for the small screen in particular: The home viewers must not be cheated.  However, the creative team behind (or in front of) the cameras of any TV-remake, for the big-screen or small) must not only cater to the initial fans who fell in love with the concepts that made the original given TV program a hit, but succinctly comprehend the reasons why those fans fell in love with the original TV show in the first place.

Any new adaptation must respect the memories of the original show, while adding fresh, winning elements into the fold.  Into this mix it’s best to in some way bring back at least some of the original actors who were involved with the TV series for cameo roles in the updated edition.  Original and new audience members love to see a glimpse of them (i.e. Lee Majors could play Walhberg’s father or uncle in the new Six Billion Dollar movie).

Conversely, popular new actors from today’s thriving talent should of course always be utilized, along with a top-notch director and team of writers.  Success is always attained from a solid combination of factors.

Some years back executive producers Aaron Spelling and David Ladd disregarded such criteria with 1999’s TV-to-big-screen transfer of The Mod Squad.  Spelling (who produced the original television Squad) and Ladd (once married to Cheryl Ladd, who Spelling hired to replace Farrah Fawcett on his an original Charlie’s Angels TV series) opted to ignore the vital concepts theory in bringing Mod to the movies.  Original Mod stars Peggy Lipton, Michael Cole, and Clarence Williams III were nowhere to be seen in the new Squad.  The fun, pulsating musical theme from the TV show was silent.  The plot was not up to snuff.

The Hollywood Reporter said it best in 1999, claiming the Mod filmmakers churned out “a dull, stone-faced, listless approximation of the original minus the Nehru collars, the Afros, the groovy music and other happening touches that gave the otherwise generic comedy series its pop flavor…Stripped of its spirit and weighed down with countless scenes of mind-numbing introspection, this Mod Squad will likely have to amend its old no badges, no guns creed with the words, no audience.”

Is the same fate destined for Mark Wahlberg as the new big-screen Bionic man?

Will the new TV Trek go as boldly where previous Stars, for the big screen and small, have gone before?  Will the new Greatest American Hero trip over his cape as pristinely as the original Greatest American Hero?

Only time will tell.  But it certainly wouldn’t hurt if, when producing these new re-dos, the creative powers at hand retain the original mythology, with key plotlines and characters each falling into place logically within the logic (or illogic) of the given platform and precepts established by the original and beloved material.

Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.