Kalish’s son, writer-producer Bruce Kalish, confirmed his death in a Facebook post Thursday. “He squeezed every bit of life he had out of his 95 years here on this planet,” Bruce Kalish wrote. “You may not have known him but you watched his shows.”
Austin “Rocky” Kalish and Irma Kalish wrote one of the most talked-about episodes of comedy in primetime history, the 1973 “Maude’s Choice” episode of the Bea Arthur comedy in which the titular character wrestles with the decision to have an abortion after an unexpected pregnancy. Airing in the same year that the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the episode brought the polarizing issue squarely into America’s living rooms.
The couple penned four episodes of “All in the Family,” of which “Maude” was a spinoff. The pair were in demand throughout the 1960s and ’70s, working on such as shows as “My Favorite Martian,” “My Three Sons,” “Family Affair,” “F Troop,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Good Times,” “Too Close for Comfort,” and “The Facts of Life.” The couple co-wrote the pilot for “Gilligan’s Island” with Elroy Schwartz, brother of series producer Sherwood Schwartz, according to the Archive of American Television.
Married in 1948, Austin and Irma Kalish were collaborators for a half-century, starting out in radio and penning scripts for “The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Hour.” The Kalishs followed Martin and Lewis to television, which set them on course to prosper along with the new medium.