Charles Andrews, 88, Writer for TV Pioneers
By DOUGLAS MARTIN/The New York Times
Charles E. Andrews, a writer at the dawn of television who helped create an informal, intimate approach to programming for Dave Garroway, Studs Terkel and other early stars, died on Friday at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was 88.
The cause was acute pancreatitis, his wife, Amy Greene-Andrews, said.
Mr. Andrews helped originate what has become known to historians as the Chicago school of television. Inspired by neither the theater nor the movies, as New York and Hollywood's television pioneers were, Chicago's early TV producers strove to maximize the unique properties of their new medium, of necessity televising programs live, often from a warehouse with little scenery.
"It was sort of like jazz in a way," Mr. Terkel said in an interview with National Public Radio in 1997. "It was improvisational. People thought it was actually real."
As the writer for Mr. Terkel's show, "Studs' Place," which chronicled the activities at a mythical bar and grill, Mr. Andrews, who indeed loved jazz, wrote just an outline of the plot. Actors then made up their own lines. "Dialogue by the Cast," the closing credits read.
Mr. Andrews worked for WNBQ, the NBC affiliate in Chicago. Within two years of its founding, in 1949, it was producing half of NBC's television network schedule. "Garroway at Large," a variety show written by Mr. Andrews, was the biggest commercial success in a lineup that included the puppet show "Kukla, Fran and Ollie," "Ding Dong School" and a precursor to "Wild Kingdom" with Marlin Perkins.
In "The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1920-1961" (Viking, 1995), written by Jeff Kisseloff, Mr. Andrews said that the Garroway show was intended as one of the first exercises in "pure television."
"In other words," he said, "do what the camera indicates you should do rather than make the camera sit in the theater and look at a stage."
One way of doing this was allowing the camera to view what would usually be hidden equipment: for example, when dancers dived into a swimming pool, Garroway immediately showed up and called for an overhead camera so viewers could see a pile of mattresses.
A skit about a visit to a dentist's office was shown with the camera peering up at the dentist working, giving the viewer the distressing feeling of sitting in the chair.
Mr. Kisseloff said that as far as television was concerned, Mr. Andrews "virtually invented the visual pun." For example, after a performance by a harmonica quartet, Garroway appeared on camera gnawing an ear of corn.
Not that Mr. Andrews neglected old-fashioned verbal playfulness. He once wrote a lecture, delivered deadpan by Garroway, about constructing 11-foot poles "for touching people you wouldn't touch with 10-foot poles."
Charles Edward Andrews was born in Fond du Lac, Wis., on July 2, 1916. His boyhood loves were reading books at night and listening to the radio. After graduating from high school, he went to Chicago and worked in advertising.
He was entranced with Garroway's low-key radio show and he managed to become friends - eventually best friends - with Garroway. His responsibilities included fetching the performer, an avid mechanic, from underneath his car when he was late for a show.
When Garroway moved to New York to become the first host of the "Today" program in January 1952, Mr. Andrews continued to work with him. Later, Mr. Andrews wrote for Sid Caesar and produced "The Arthur Godfrey Show," "The Steve Allen Show" and "Candid Camera," among other programs. He also produced television specials like the Emmy Awards and the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe contests. He retired in 1985.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Andrews is survived by his stepsons, Joshua Greene of Florence, Ore., and Anthony Greene of St. Augustine, Fla., and a step-grandson.
Mr. Andrews believed that what was sometimes called the Chicago touch had an enduring effect on television. "In a small way," he said, "what we did opened up what you can do in a studio."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times
Submitted by Gail DePoli