Al Burton, a television producer who began his long career in 1949 with a show about teenagers in Los Angeles and later helped develop programs as diverse as “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” died on Oct. 22 at his home in San Mateo, Calif. He was 91.
His daughter, Jennifer Werbe, confirmed the death.
Over nearly 60 years, the upbeat Mr. Burton started the Miss Teenage America pageant; worked on sitcoms like “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes” for the producer Norman Lear; and was the executive producer of “Charles in Charge,” a comedy series starring Scott Baio.
He began working with Mr. Lear in the late 1960s, booking dancers and musical acts for a variety special that he produced. A few years later, Mr. Burton pitched an idea for a half-hour comedy that Mr. Lear rejected. But, Mr. Burton recalled, Mr. Lear asked him to explore an idea that became “Mary Hartman,” the soap-opera satire that was briefly a five-nights-a week sensation, starring Louise Lasser as a neurotic housewife.
“He said, ‘I want people who like soap operas to get addicted to it,’” Mr. Burton was quoted as saying in “The Producers: Profiles in Frustration” (2004), by Luke Ford. Mr. Burton explained that Mr. Lear had wanted people “to call their friends after they see it and say, ‘There’s something here you’ve got to see.’”
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