Peter Meyerson, who co-wrote the first episode of the wacky NBC series The Monkees and then developed for television the ABC comedy Welcome Back, Kotter, died March 11 of natural causes at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 82.
With Robert Schlitt, Meyerson penned the initial installment of The Monkees that aired Sept. 12, 1966. He wrote on his own the memorable 1968 episode in which Monkees bandmember Michael Nesmith switches places with iconoclastic rocker Frank Zappa.
Meyerson wrote or co-wrote eight of the 58 episodes of the series — third-most of any scribe — which starred Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Nesmith as members of a Beatles-like band. The show, from Screen Gems, lasted two seasons.
Kotter, which ran on ABC from 1975-79, starred Gabe Kotter as a high school teacher who returns to his alma mater in Brooklyn to preside over a bunch or remedial high school students. Those obnoxious teens, nicknamed The Sweathogs, were played by John Travolta, Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and others.
“I came up with the idea of Epstein, a Puerto Rican Jew (the character played by Hegyes),” Meyerson told The Wall Street Journal in 1999. “I came up with that phrase, ‘Sweathogs.’ ”
Meyerson received 5 percent of the profits from the show after it wrapped, he told the newspaper, and years later attempted to sell his share of future profits in an online auction.
A native of the Bronx, Meyerson was credited as a writer with Kaplan and Alan Sacks on the Kotter pilot, one of the 24 episodes he penned for the show from Wolper Productions and The Komack Co. He also served as a supervising producer on nearly 30 episodes. (Kotter and Sacks are credited as the creators of Kotter.)
Meyerson’s other TV work included a regular gig writing for Captain Nice, a 1967 superhero show created by Buck Henry that starred William Daniels. He also penned episodes of That Girl, Accidental Family, The Partridge Family and The Bob Newhart Show.
Survivors include his sons Lucas, Jason and Benjamin.