Monday, November 12, 2012

Bob Brunner Dead at 78

Bob Brunner, a writer and producer on HAPPY DAYS who both named Fonzie and also reportedly suggested that the character jump the shark, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 78.

Brunner died of a heart attack on Oct. 28 near his home in Northridge, California.

Brunner got his start in the entertainment industry as a publicist in the early 1960s when he worked with Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong. He then transitioned to TV writing for THE ODD COUPLE, executive-produced by his childhood friend Garry Marshall. The two frequently worked together, next when Brunner wrote for LAVERNE & SHIRLEY and then when he wrote 15 episodes and produced 37 episodes of HAPPY DAYS.

Brunner came up with both the nickname "Fonzie" for Henry Winkler's iconic character as well as his famous catchphrase "Sit on it!" Brunner was showrunner at the time of the now infamous "jump the shark" HAPPY DAYS episode where Fonzie travels to Hollywood and engages in a water-skiing challenge. Since then, the phrase "jump the shark" became known as the point where a TV show begins its decline.

Brunner went on to co-create and executive-produce BROTHERS AND SISTERS and WORKING STIFFS, and executive-produced DIFF'RENT STROKES, WEBSTER and THE BAD NEWS BEARS (starring future THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS Emmy winners Tricia Cast and Kristoff St. John).

He is survived by his three children, Robert Jr., Elizabeth and Jennifer, and six grandchildren. A private service was held Tuesday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where his wife Ann was laid to rest in 1987.

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