In the early years of Hollywood's TV dramas, Alan Armer and his colleagues made it up as they went along, working to create characters that viewers could root for and stories they could get involved in. "TV was a baby then," Armer, '47, once said. "We expanded the boundaries. We did what TV hadn't done before."
Armer, a producer on series including The Fugitive, The Untouchables, Lancer and Cannon, died December 5 of colon cancer in his Century City home. He was 88.
A Los Angeles native, Armer served in World War II and then went to Stanford, where he majored in speech and drama and helped start the school's first radio station.
It was in producing the gangster/FBI series The Untouchables that Armer learned to grow a series by looking for elements of the characters or stories worth building on. When the audience started to relate to the flashy bad guys, for example, the writers capitalized on that, Armer said in a 2008 interview with the Archive of American Television. Against all expectations, his next series, The Fugitive, succeeded week after week with the story of a man running from the police because it combined a lead character driven by a goal with forces keeping him from reaching that goal. Armer co-wrote the final episode, one of the most-watched in TV history.
With several series under his belt, however, Armer wanted something different and got a job teaching at Cal State-Northridge. Teaching—like television—put to good use his talent for storytelling, says his son Michael Armer, '74. "His challenge in TV was developing great stories. Once he got to the classroom, he was a natural." Of Armer's awards—including a 1966 Emmy—the honor of which he was most proud was being voted teacher of the year by Northridge students.
Armer is survived by sons Michael and David; daughters Ellen King and Aimee Greenholtz; six grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. His wife of 53 years, Elaine, died in 2002.
—Wendy Jalonen Fawthrop, '78