David Gerber, an Emmy and Peabody Award winner, is a television industry veteran who has earned the unique distinction of success as both a producer and studio executive.
Gerber’s accomplishments as an executive producer, studio chief and mentor have spanned over three decades of breakthrough, innovative, cutting-edge programming. Consider some of the many multi award-winning, classic television projects with which he has been involved: “Batman,” “Room 222,” “thirtysomething,” “Police Story,” “Police Woman,” the Peabody Award-winning “George Washington” miniseries and the award-winning “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case,” as well as the seven year running “In The Heat Of The Night,” and the critically acclaimed World War I story, “The Lost Battalion.”
David Gerber is also the Executive Producer of the “Flight 93” film, based on the real-life story of United Airlines, Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field on September 11. This story told of the heroic efforts of the passengers who prevented the airplane from crashing into the terrorist’s assumed target of Washington DC. “Flight 93” gave A&E its highest rated viewer audience within their network history.
Highly respected for his acumen in both series and longform, he is in a small elite group of producers who have been nominated for Emmys in both areas in the same awards year (“Police Story” and “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case”).
As an executive, he has revitalized two major television companies—Columbia Pictures Television in the late 70s, and, from 1986 to 1992, MGM Television.
The late John H. Mitchell, former president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the president of Columbia Pictures Television, described David Gerber as a “producer’s producer.” Gerber likes to go against the grain as he did with the Emmy-winning “Police Story” and “Police Woman” (the first successful series with starring a female lead); “That’s My Mama” (among the first all-Black cast comedies ); as well as a pilot entitled “To Sir With Love” (and, for the first time featured a Black leading man), “Viva Valdez” (the first all-Latino comedy); “Quark” (an off-beat science fiction comedy, created by Buck Henry, that was regarded by critics to be way ahead of its time); and the “Beulah Land” miniseries (a controversial Civil War program that became the 12th highest rated miniseries of all time) and “Needles and Pins” (one of TV’s first ethnic comedies, located in the garment district). “Police Story” was the first successful film anthology in primetime.
His efforts have brought him honors over the years including recognition by such groups as the NAACP and Nosotros for his outstanding dramas. Gerber has received virtually every type of important industry award possible, from the coveted Emmy to the prestigious Peabody and Christopher Awards to the Golden Globe. He also received the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Casting Society and the Publishers Guild.
If a niche can be applied to Gerber, it might be his penchant and passion for realism in his productions. Television critics and law enforcement agencies alike, unanimously applauded him for the realism of “Police Story.” He followed that up with such realistic dramas as “Medical Story,” another anthology and “The Quest,” a western series starring Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson, which continues to have a loyal cult following. TV Guide labeled the show the ‘Mean Streets of the West.’ Added to the list is the highly acclaimed 4-hour miniseries, Robert Daley’s “To Kill A Cop” (a story about terrorists in New York) and the 4-hour “Power” starring Joe Don Baker based on James Hoffa’s life, From the life-like blueprints of his work, one can see a pattern of a no holds barred filmmaker.
Born and educated in Brooklyn, New York, after high school Gerber entered into the Air Corp during World War II, whereas he served as a Radio Gunner Tech Sergeant, his B-17 airplane was shot down over Germany, resulting in Gerber becoming a prisoner of war in Stalag 17B. After the war ended he returned home to a civilian life and traveled to Northern California where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Pacific.
Following his graduation, Gerber joined the ad agency BBD&O as a television supervisor. The Famous Artists Agency heard about his ability and hired him as a television packager. From there he became Senior Vice President of Television at General Artists Corporation (GAC). While at GAC, Gerber came to the attention of Twentieth Century Fox Television, eventually moving there to become a Vice President responsible for packaging television shows. His first successful effort was the long-running “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and the critically acclaimed “Room 222,” a breakthrough in ethnic comedy.
After having been involved with the sales of more than 50 primetime television series, as well as selling television specials, animated programs and daytime series, Gerber started to produce his own productions, beginning with comedies “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (in which Hope Lange won 2 Emmys).
His “Follow the North Star” ABC After School Special, won him the first of his two Christopher Awards.
In 1972, Gerber formed his own independent television production company, and became affiliated with Columbia Pictures Television (‘CPT’- formerly Screen Gems). Through this association, Gerber was, in addition to “Police Story,” executive producer of several other series including “Needles and Pins,” the award-winning “Police Woman,” “The Quest,” John O’Hara’s “Gibbsville,” “Eishied,” “Born Free,” “Medical Story” and Lloyd Bridges’ “Joe Forrester.” He also produced the 3-hour Emmy-nominated “Lindbergh Kidnapping Case.” During his tenure at CPT, he was named Executive Vice President in charge of television production, a post in which he helped to re-structure the company’s programming from a comedy house to one of dramatic television. At the end of his own prescribed two year tenure, Columbia Pictures went from one hour on prime time to five hours.
In 1981 Gerber was called to take over MGM Television where he was responsible for such series as “Today’s FBI,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “For Love and Honor,” “Lady Blue” and the miniseries “The Last Days of Pompeii” and the Peabody award winner “George Washington” miniseries.
In July, 1986, the newly reorganized MGM/UA corporation appointed as Gerber president of its television division. Gerber, in a short amount of time, turned the company into one of the industry’s leading suppliers of quality programming.
In September, 1991, he assumed expanded distribution responsibilities as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MGM Worldwide Television Group.
During the 1990-91 television season, the company held the distinction of being the number two leading supplier of network television programming. Heading the list was the return of three impressive series: the critically acclaimed and Emmy award-winning “thirtysomething” (ABC); “In the Heat of the Night” (NBC), an award winner for series lead Carroll O’Connor; and “The Young Riders (ABC), the Western Heritage and Emmy Award-winning hour-long series about the travails of the Pony Express during the wild 1860’s. The company also produced an hour long drama series for the FOX Broadcasting Company called “Against the Law” as well as the primetime version of the pop cult daytime drama, “Dark Shadows,” for NBC. For the 1991-92 season, MGM/UA Television boasted the return of “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Young Riders” as well as a new mid-season series for NBC, “Nightmare Café” from shock-meister Wes Craven.
Under Gerber’s tenure 25 MOWs were produced. Among them were several highly acclaimed movies-made-for-television including “Finding the Way Home,” starring George C. Scott and Hector Elizondo; “Tenth Man,” “Inherit the Wind,” starring Jason Robards and Michael Douglas. “Fatal Memories,” starring Shelley Long, was NBC’s highest rated Monday night movie of the season. Also produced were two “Dirty Dozen” movies starring Telly Savalas and Ernest Borgnine and “Police Story: The Freeway Killings” starring Angie Dickinson, Richard Crenna and Ben Gazzara.
In 1992, due to MGM’s organizational crises, Gerber took over all MGM development and started his own company, entering into an exclusive joint production venture with ITC Entertainment. Under the Gerber/ITC banner, they have produced a Showtime cable/ABC 2-hour movie entitled “Royce,” starring James Belushi, Miguel Ferrer and Peter Boyle. Also, for CBS Gerber produced a 4-hour miniseries entitled “Nothing Lasts Forever,” based on Sidney Sheldon’s bestseller, starring Lloyd Bridges, Brooke Shields, Vanessa Williams and Gail O’Grady as the three female leads, and a 2-hour controversial movie for the FOX network dealing with the problems of teenage street hustlers entitled, “The Price Of Love.”
In the Spring of 1995, David Gerber took over as President of All American Television Production, best known for the syndicated series “Baywatch” and its spin-off, “Baywatch Night.” Since Gerber’s coming on board, All American Television produces a 2-hour movie of the week franchise at ABC entitled “On The Line,” and a go-ahead order for the syndicated series “Sinbad” with Tribune. Also produced was, “We The Jury” starring Christopher Plummer and Kelly McGinnis. In the midst of his two year contract, All-American was sold to the English media conglomerate Pearson. Gerber then rejoined his former studio, FOX Television Studios to produce his own films, the WWI “Lost Battalion,” starring Rick Schroeder and “Flight 93” which received 6 Emmy nominations, for the 2006 season.
Gerber is a member of the University of the Pacific Board of Regents, a recipient of a 1988 Career Achievement Award presented by the Stockton Arts Commission, and in 1989 was the University of the Pacific’s Alumni of the Year. He served three terms as a member of the Executive Board of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, as well as serving three years as a member of their selection committee for the Hall of Fame.
During the early development of the Producers Guild Association, Gerber served many years on the guild’s Board of Directors, where he continues to serve as a member. Currently, he is an active member of the Caucus Steering Committee for producers, writers and directors. Mr. Gerber is also on the Board of Directors for the renowned House Ear Institute. David and his wife were honored with the “Laraine and David Gerber Chair in Ophthalmology” by the Jules Stein Eye Institute.
In March of 1997, he was honored with the “Humanitarian of the Year Award” given at a gala evening at the Beverly Hilton before 800 friends in honor of his many contributions to the Television Industry and to the House Ear Institute’s efforts on behalf of Otology Research. David and his wife Laraine were honored with a “Laraine and David Gerber” Research Center within the House Ear Institute.
One of David’s hobbies besides sports and books, is his 100-acre vineyard in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, which he says “grew from a hobby into a business.” The vineyard is supervised by his wife. As a tribute to her, the family’s award winning wines are produced under the label, ‘Laraine.’