Leonard Goldberg, Pioneer of the Made-for-TV Movie, Was a Rare Figure in the Industry

Friends and associates are mourning the loss of the beloved producer, who passed away at 85

Leonard Goldberg, the man credited with helping to create classic made-for-TV movies and some of the biggest sitcoms of the ’70s and ’80s passed away Thursday, December 5, at the age of 85. With a career that spanned over 60 years, Goldberg was one of the most accomplished—and adored—figures in the industry. Contrary to every bigger-than-life stereotype, Goldberg was the ultimate gentleman: graceful, a family man, soft spoken, and elegant, altering the cliché of the typical Hollywood producer.

Known for numerous blockbuster TV series and TV movies, Goldberg was president of 20th Century Fox from 1987 to 1989 as well as a former head of programming for ABC. While Goldberg ran Fox, the studio produced memorable hits Broadcast News, Big, Die Hard, Wall Street, and Working Girl. And that’s just a fraction of the wildly prolific producer’s output.

Goldberg began his Hollywood career in the research department at ABC, eventually working his way up to head of programming. In that position, Goldberg took the reigns of shows like The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and Dark Shadows, and is generally credited with pioneering the made-for-TV movie. He went on to become VP of production at Screen Gems (now Columbia Pictures Television), where he partnered with equally legendary producer Aaron Spelling on Spelling-Goldberg Productions, where they created television history with hits like Charlie’s Angels, T.J. Hooker, Starsky & Hutch, The Rookies, Fantasy Island, Paper Dolls, Hart to Hart, and Family.

Goldberg’s highly acclaimed television movies included the Peabody Award-winning Brian’s Song (1971) and The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), the latter of which is credited with kicking off John Travolta‘s movie career. Goldberg also produced the Emmy Award-winning television film Something About Amelia, which aired on ABC in 1984. The child-molestation drama was one of the highest-rated TV movies of that year, watched by between 60 and 70 million people.


Goldberg never stopped working. In 2011, he produced the film Unknown, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, and Frank Langella. His most recent TV series, Blue Bloods on CBS, starring Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, and Bridget Moynahan, is in its tenth season. Goldberg served on the CBS Board of Directors from 2007 to 2018, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Most recently, he was an exec producer on the 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels directed by Elizabeth Banks.

His friend and mentee Barry Diller told the Wrap about his mentor: “Though the word is so often misused, Leonard Goldberg was the mentor of mentors to me and so many others—he gave you confidence and support and the leeway to make mistakes and he had the sure sense of himself to let you shine. He gave me my first job and nurtured a wrangly kid into something of an executive, and….he was decent, kind, clever, and a first-class citizen.”

Samuel L. Jackson is quoted as saying: “Leonard Goldberg had that unique quality of making anyone feel comfortable & special in his presence. My wife, daughter & I are thankful for the joy of our friendship, we’ll miss him dearly!”

Goldberg’s cause of death is being attributed to injuries he sustained during a fall; he passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his family by his side. He and his wife, Wendy Goldberg, where both philanthropists and gave millions of dollars to health and medical causes. Wendy Goldberg’s sister is famed ICM agent Toni Howard, whose longtime clients include Michael Keaton, Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson. Leonard and Wendy’s daughter Amanda Goldberg Raskin is an actress, writer and producer, and her husband Philip Raskin is a WME agent. Leonard Goldberg is also survived by two stepsons, Richard Mirisch and Beverly Hills mayor John A. Mirisch.

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