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Bridget Loves Bernie and St. Elsewhere star David Birney dies at 83

  • Birney, who died Friday of Alzheimer’s disease, co-starred with his future wife Meredith Baxter in the controversial short-lived 1972-1973 CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie, about an interfaith marriage between a Catholic woman and Jewish man. "CBS gave it a plum time slot between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Saturday night; it consistently finished among the top 10 programs in prime time and was the highest rated new series of the 1972-73 season," explains The New York Times' Richard Sandomir. "But it attracted criticism from a broad spectrum of Jewish groups, which objected chiefly to its treatment of intermarriage between Jews and Christians as a positive outcome and complained that it used Jewish stereotypes. CBS publicly played down the criticism but, without an explanation, canceled Bridget Loves Bernie after 24 episodes." Birney went on to star as a doctor on the first season of St. Elsewhere. In 1974, Birney and Baxter got married and had three kids. They divorced in 1989 around the time of the end of her hit NBC sitcom Family Ties. In 2011, Baxter, who later came out as lesbian, wrote a memoir alleging that Birney had been abusive during their marriage. He denied her accusation, calling it an “appalling abuse of the truth.” 

    TOPICS: Bridget Loves Bernie, St. Elsewhere, David Birney, Meredith Baxter, Obits