Merrill Brockway, a producer and director of several PBS arts programs who was best known for his work on the Great Performances spinoff Dance in America, died May 3 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 90. Brockway was born in Indiana and began a career as a piano teacher and accompanist before entering TV at the age of 30. He wrote and directed for CBS affiliates in Philadelphia and New York before leaving commercial TV for PBS in 1975, when Dance in America launched. He worked on the program, produced by New York’s Thirteen/WNET, from 1975–88, capturing some of America’s most renowned dancers and choreographers on film. Dance in America spotlighted the work of Martha Graham, Thyla Tharp, and the New York City Ballet as choreographed by George Ballanchine, among many others.
Robert Kotlowitz, a pioneering public broadcaster at New York’s WNET who developed several public television series that became signature PBS programs — including a half-hour evening news show featuring Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil in 1973 — died Aug. 25 at his home in New York City after battling prostate cancer. He was 87. The New York Times described Kotlowitz as “a novelist and editor who reluctantly became a public television executive in 1971 and went on to help shape a lineup of homegrown and imported shows — including The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, Live at the Met, Dance in America and Brideshead Revisited — that represent a high-water mark in American television.”
Kotlowitz had just resigned from Harper’s Magazine in 1971 when John Jay Iselin, then the new president of WNET, offered him a job. Kotlowitz had never been inside a television studio.