NEW YORK (AP) — Anne Beatts, a groundbreaking comedy writer who was on the original staff of “Saturday Night Live” and later created the cult sitcom “Square Pegs,” has died. She was 74.
Beatts died Wednesday at her home in West Hollywood, California, according to her close friend Rona Kennedy. Kennedy, a film producer and a fellow faculty member at Chapman University, did not immediately know the cause of death.
Starting in 1975, Beatts was among a team of gifted writers that included Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Suzanne Miller and such cast members as Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase who helped make “Saturday Night Live” a cultural phenomenon. With Shuster, she would help develop the beloved family of nerds, the Loopners, and Beatts would later draw upon her own acknowledged background as an outsider in high school for her own series “Square Pegs.”
“Anne was a throwback to a time when words were weapons. R.I.P. Anne,” Zweibel wrote on Twitter.
Premiering in 1982, “Square Pegs” was then a rare sitcom centering on teen-age girls and starring Sarah Jessica Parker in an early role as a first-year high school student trying to fit in. “Square Pegs” lasted just one season but was praised for anticipating — and even topping — the teen comedies John Hughes would soon become famous for.
“The show was also just plain cool, speaking to teens with a shared interest in their interests that made young people feel seen before the Hughes movies would have a similar effect,” New York magazine’s Jen Chaney wrote in 2020. “No other show on TV back then would have focused an entire episode on a Pac-Man addiction or a New Wave-themed bat mitzvah that featured the actual band Devo performing ‘That’s Good.’”
Beatts was a native of Buffalo, New York, who later attended McGill University and got an early break writing comedy for National Lampoon, where numerous future “Saturday Night Live” performers and writers worked. At Lampoon, she began dating fellow writer Michael O’Donoghue, who was hired by producer Lorne Michaels for what became “Saturday Night Live.”
“I was never a real reader of Lampoon,” Michaels told Rolling Stone in 1983, “but Anne had been recommended to me by Michael O’Donoghue. She thought I was hiring her for the wrong reasons — because O’Donoghue was then her boyfriend — and when we met, she was a combination of friendly and wary. She was a little combative. But that was 1975. Everyone was a little combative in 1975.”
Beatts’ other credits included writing for “Murphy Brown” and “The Belles of Bleeker Street,” producing “A Different World” and helping to write the stage musical “Leader of the Pack.” She is survived by her daughter, Jaylene; sister Barbara Resucha; and nieces Jennifer and Kate Dreger.
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