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Family Man aired from March until April 1988 on ABC.

A routine family comedy with lot's of close-ups of cute kids. Shelly( Richard Libertini), was a tall, balding tv Comedy writer who worked at home, where he was evidently surrounded by comedy one-liners. Wife Andrea ( Mimi Kennedy) provided loyal support along with 2 children from her previous marriage , Rosie ( Alison Sweeney)and Josh ( Whitby Hertford), and one of their own Sara ( Keeley Mari Gallagher).

The seven episode series was produced by Universal Television, and was originally intended for the FOX network, which never picked it up.

An Article from The New York Times


Published: June 21, 1987

IT IS WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, first rehearsal, for the pilot episode of a new sitcom called ''Family Man.'' The show has been cast, the sets have been built, the jokes - more or less - have been written. As the actors, glancing furtively at their scripts, begin the run-through, one fact becomes startlingly apparent: Something funny has happened to David Steinberg's career.

Booga booga. The 45-year-old Mr. Steinberg, dressed distinctively - and expensively - in black slacks, canvas loafers and a wildly patterned wool sweater that could double as a wall hanging, is directing this domestic comedy. He is staring intently into a three-walled bathroom set.

''I think this is what the writer wants, Richard,'' he tells the veteran character actor Richard Libertini, star of the upcoming Fox Broadcasting Company series. Holding his nose and shaking it on the high notes, Mr. Steinberg demonstrates the proper way to sing a Willie Nelson song while shaving above one's upper lip (''You're always on my m-i-i-i-nd''). Later, he coaches 8-year-old Whitby Hertford, who plays Mr. Libertini's stepson, in his lines. ''Just try it as fast and casual as you can,'' he says gently, adding, ''You know what casual is?'' Whitby nods solemnly.

Still later, directing a bedroom scene between Mr. Libertini, who plays a TV comedy writer, and his on-screen wife, the actress Mimi Kennedy, Mr. Steinberg leads a serious discussion of its dramatic underpinnings. Words like ''rhythm,'' ''pacing,'' ''anger'' and ''commitment'' pepper his comments.

Each half-hour episode of ''Family Man,'' which is scheduled to make its debut in the fall, must be shot - like all sitcoms - in just five working days. By Friday afternoon, Mr. Steinberg must have his actors on top of a script that is being constantly rewritten; he must have his sets lighted and his four videotape cameras choreographed. By the next Tuesday evening, he'll have the show taped and ready for editing. Then he'll start the whole process all over again: He's been contracted to direct the first five episodes of the comedy series.

''This is,'' he tells a visitor, on the way from one camera set-up to another, ''some of the most challenging and enjoyable work I've ever done.''

That statement will no doubt shock many of Mr. Steinberg's older fans. In the late 60's and early 70's, he was one of the hottest comedians in America. More importantly perhaps, he was one of the most innovative and daring; drawing on an appealing personality and a seemingly limitless talent for improvisation, he held forth hilariously on such ''unfunny'' topics as philosophy, psychoanalysis and Richard Nixon. And these days? ''I've cut my live performances down to about one a month,'' says Mr. Steinberg over chamomile tea and a homemade health-food sandwich in the Universal Studios commissary. ''Just enough to keep my face familiar to valet parking attendants.''

About 85 percent of his time, he estimates, is spent in the low-profile profession of directing TV comedy. In the last few years he's directed episodes of CBS's ''Newhart'' and ''The Popcorn Kid,'' NBC's ''Golden Girls'' and the syndicated ''One Big Family''; the pilot and initial four episodes of Fox Broadcasting's ''Duet''; several unsold pilots, including one this spring starring Sid Caesar; a series of cable specials starring the comedian Richard Belzer; ''Casey at the Bat,'' part of Showtime's ''Tall Tales'' series; and commercials with a humorous edge for such clients as NCR Computers, Pizza Hut and Bob's Big Boy. Earlier this year, he taped a stand-up performance at Caroline's in Manhattan, for Showtime.

This shift in priorities by no means pleases all of Mr. Steinberg's friends and associates. ''David is one of the great performers of our time, and he's not performing,'' says Michael Brandman, who produced Mr. Steinberg's Showtime special and who has known him for 25 years. ''I'm certain he brings a lot to a show. I know he does a good job. I'm sure there'll be some laughs on the set. But, ultimately, so what? It's just a sitcom.''

Mr. Steinberg shakes his head and smiles at this criticism. He prefers, he says, being home with his family to honing his act in a comedy club. ''And I don't have that problem of believing that situation comedy is the retarded cousin of movies. Believe me, I would rather direct or watch a good 'Newhart' episode than much of what passes for art nowadays.''

Within the TV comedy community, in turn, there is enthusiasm about his switch. ''I first saw him direct a couple of years ago,'' says Earl Pomerantz, one of the creators of ''The Cosby Show'' and the writer-producer of the autobiographical ''Family Man.'' ''I had the feeling then that when I got this project off the ground, he'd be the first person I'd call.''

''I think he rates very high,'' says Barry Kemp, one of the creators of ''Newhart'' and the producer of ''The Popcorn Kid.'' ''There are shockingly few good sitcom directors. David is in that small group - with people like Jim Burrows, Jay Sandrich, John Rich and Will McKenzie - who can make a creative contribution as well as a technical one.''

''No, David isn't completely up to speed yet, technically,'' he adds. ''But that's not that important. You can teach anyone the technical end. What you can't teach is comedic instincts. And David has all the instincts in the world.''

Mr. Steinberg himself believes these instincts were developed by his years of performing. ''When you do stand-up comedy, your ears are tuned to the audience's reaction,'' he says. ''You can't work directly from the page. The audience has to let you know where the laughs are. A lot of times, they're not where you think they are. The audience actually molds the material. It's like a sand sculpture. The people who do them say they're not complete until the wind and water have their say.

''What appeals to me about directing is that you turn this around and become the audience for the actors. You can then guide the scene toward where it should go. 'Let's slow this down.' 'Let's speed this up.' I like this extension of myself coming through talented actors.''

In this, Mr. Steinberg goes against the grain of TV history. Traditionally, the situation comedy has been a writer-producer's medium; the director, a temporarily hired gun dropped amid actors and writers who have been working together for years, is often little more than a glorified traffic cop.

''So, the first thing I do is - I don't do that,'' Mr. Steinberg explains. ''I jump in, challenge the writers. Work with the actors in a way they haven't been worked with before - change a line if you feel it's weak.''

His creative contributions have not always been welcomed with open arms. Bea Arthur, handed a note recently by Mr. Steinberg during a ''Golden Girls'' rehearsal - ''Would you like to chase Betty [ White ] across the room with that line?'' it read - replied aghast, ''God, no!'' Replied Mr. Steinberg, jokingly: ''It's just a simple little note. You don't have to bring the deity into this.''

''The nice part of it,'' Mr. Steinberg recalls, ''is that by the end of the week we were in love. I've never known an actor to pass up a good idea, whether it was from the dirctor or the guy who brings the coffee.

''They know that I know things, that I have a point of view about comedy. It's like a piece of Talmud. You argue it out, and one person is going to have a clearer point of view. And that point of view is going to win.''

David Steinberg's assent to well-paid (reportedly close to $100,000 a pilot) anonymity has been atypical, to say the least. Born in Winnipeg and raised in a deeply orthodox Jewish home, he enrolled at age 15 in the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. The rabbinate, he soon discovered, was not his true calling. At age 19, he entered the master's program in English literature at the University of Chicago. He was the funniest, fastest-talking wise guy in the school cafeteria. In his early 20's, he was a member - along with performers like Mr. Libertini, Jack Burns, Avery Schreiber, Alan Arkin, Fred Willard and Robert Klein - of Chicago's Second City improvisational group.

After a brief stint as a Broadway and Off Broadway actor, Mr. Steinberg took up stand-up comedy in 1968. Eventually, he was discovered by the people who ran television at the time. A regular on a ''Hit Parade''-like show called ''The Music Scene,'' he parodied an insipid hit called ''Sugar, Sugar'' by writing a skit in which fat ladies stuffed themselves with candy while the song played. ''Booga booga,'' his cry of triumphant anarchy, became a nationwide catch phrase. His now-famous appearance on ''The Smothers Brothers Show,'' in which he recited a mildly sacrilegious sermonette, was the beginning of CBS's censoring - and eventual canceling - of that comedy series.

Nevertheless, the sweetly smiling comedian was never really in television's doghouse: In 1972, the same network gave him a summer series. He was a frequent guest host of NBC's ''Tonight Show''; indeed, he was one of a long line of performers projected as Johnny Carson's eventual replacement. During that era, he did 100 comedy concerts each year. He might be doing them still, but by the mid-1970's, he found himself growing dissatisfied with the way his career and life were going.

''At 28,'' he says, ''being a celebrity was wonderful. But by 32, 33, it felt odd. I didn't feel my talent was moving forward. My observations weren't unique anymore. Really, what you do most of the time as a comedian is gather material from life. But as a celebrity, you're never where life takes place. You're in a limousine. You don't go to the supermarket. It's unnatural and unhealthy, and I didn't want to linger there.''

Newly married and with a growing aversion to smoke-filled nightclubs, hotel rooms and constant travel, he decided to get off the road. The options he was offered, however, didn't exactly thrill him: ''Mostly they wanted me to be in sitcoms, playing a sort of WASP version of myself.''

And the ''Tonght Show'' job? ''I don't think anybody ever considered me seriously to take over for Carson. No. 1, I'm Jewish - openly and maybe militantly. No. 2, I'm too political for that.''

For years, he says, he had been a fan of directors like Francois Truffaut and Preston Sturges. Directing film comedy, he decided, was what he really wanted to do, and he convinced Universal Studios to let him try. Neither ''Paternity,'' starring Burt Reynolds, nor ''Going Berserk,'' with John Candy, could even remotely be considered a critical or financial success. ''But I'm very proud of a lot in those films,'' Mr. Steinberg says.

After those box-office failures, movie directing offers dried up. Undaunted, he offered his services to the advertising community - a ''backwards'' move that went against conventional Hollywood wisdom. His commercials, particularly his NCR spots with the comic actor Dom DeLuise, earned him a shot at an MTM pilot called ''Man About Town.'' ''They wanted to make it offbeat and thought I was the guy to do it. We made it so offbeat that it wasn't sold,'' he says with a laugh.

Nonetheless, he had proved he could handle the customary four-camera technique of making situation comedies; since then, the TV directing offers have not let up. Among other things, he is currently negotiating a deal with MTM to direct and produce a TV series exclusively for that company. Mr. Steinberg plans to return to feature films - as soon as this fall, if negotiations to direct an adaptation of Joseph Heller's novel ''Good as Gold'' work out.

''But it's not a question of 'moving up,' '' Mr. Steinberg says. ''I'll always do sitcoms. I'll always do commercials.''

He leans forward and grins. ''Listen,'' he says mischievously. ''Ten years ago, my dream was to direct a romantic comedy. Two young people, in love, walk hand in hand down the streets of Paris. Today, my ambition is to direct the same movie - except that now they walk hand in hand down the streets of [ pause ] Encino.

''It'll be a great movie. And I can be home and in my jammies by 8 o'clock.'' IN THE BEGINNING

When David Steinberg started out on his own as a stand-up comic in the late 1960's (in photo above), he played such comedy clubs as Mr. Kelly's in Chicago, the Hungry i in San Francisco and the Bitter End in Manhattan. His act was an amalgam of satire, personal observations and graduate-level sketches developed during his years with the Second City troupe in Chicago.

''I don't do political satire much,'' one of his routines went, ''because I don't feel you could ever top the political events of the day. But I will tell you something about President Nixon.

''President Nixon has a face that looks like a foot. I was walking by the television set and I said, 'Hey! Why isn't there a shoe and sock on that?' ''

Another popular bit involved relating his fondest wish - to appear on television's ''Dating Game'':

''I love the show. It's exciting in a surrealistic way. The girls have to take a test to get on, and if they have an I.Q. anywhere around that of [ pause ] an average plant, they're whisked to Hollywood and allowed the freedom to create metaphors on national television that would drive Dylan Thomas to drugs.''

He also portrayed a fiendish philosophy professor, who tormented his students by honking a horn in their faces if they gave the wrong answer to his questions.

''How are you?'' the professor would ask. ''Fine.'' Honk! ''Fine? From a Ph.D. candidate we expect a little better. Now try again. How are you?'' ''Well - I think, therefore I am.''

''Ah, Descartes. The French. Unfortunately, I sway toward the Germans.'' Honk!

Here is Richard Libertini's Obituary from the Hollywood Reporter

Richard Libertini, the Crazy Central American General in 'The In-Laws,' Dies at 82

11:22 AM PST 1/10/2016 by Mike Barne

The veteran character actor also was Chevy Chase’s boss in the 'Fletch' films and a Tibetan mystic in the Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin comedy 'All of Me.'

Richard Libertini, the busy character actor who played the insane Central American general Garcia in the 1979 madcap comedy The In-Laws, has died. He was 82.

Libertini, also known as the boss of newspaper reporter Irwin Fletcher (Chevy Chase) in the Fletch films and as the Tibetan mystic Prakha Lasa in the Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me (1984), died Jan. 7 after a two-year battle with cancer, his family announced.

Libertini, who often sported a thick beard, excelled at portraying characters of various ethnicities. A member of the famed Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, he was married from 1963-78 to Melinda Dillon, the two-time Oscar-nominated actress who starred in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Absence of Malice (1981) and The Christmas Story (1983).

In the 1970s, Libertini appeared as “The Godfather” on the sitcom Soap, played another criminal on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and was the fired WJM station employee Big Chicken on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Later, he showed up as the political activist father of Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) on Murphy Brown.

Libertini had the honor of marrying Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds in Best Friends (1982). A year earlier, he portrayed a surveillance pro opposite Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine.

His other notable movies include John Cassavetes’ Big Trouble (1986) — in a reunion with his In-Laws co-stars Peter Falk and Alan Arkin — Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978), Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980) and Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990).

A native of Cambridge, Mass., Libertini graduated from Emerson College and partnered with MacIntyre Dixon (another Second City alum) and Linda Segal in a coffee-house act they called “Stewed Prunes.”

In 1966, he made his Broadway debut in Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water, playing a magic-loving priest, then appeared on the big screen for the first time in William Friedkin’s The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968).

His film résumé also includes the 1969 film version of Don’t Drink the Water, The Out of Towners (1970), Catch-22 (1970), Friedkin’s Deal of the Century (1983), Going Berserk (1983), Unfaithfully Yours (1984), The Lemon Sisters (1989), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Nell (1994) and Dolphin Tale (2011).

On television, Libertini was on The Jeffersons, Baretta, The Bob Newhart Show, Barney Miller, Laverne & Shirley, Moonlighting, The Fanelli Boys, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jenny, The Drew Carey Show and Supernatural.

In 2011, Libertini made a final Broadway appearance in Allen’s Honeymoon Hotel, one of the three one-acts in the stage production Relatively Speaking.

Survivors also include his son Richard, sister Alice and brother Albert.

For more on family Man go to

For a biography of Richard Libertini go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Fri July 14, 2006 � Filesize: 65.6kb, 117.0kbDimensions: 771 x 1000 �
Keywords: Family Man: Cast Photo


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