Peg Lynch

'The lady who invented sitcom'

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The comedy of trivial day-to-day events — a lost set of keys, a misplaced letter or the wrong caption under a newspaper photograph — were not invented by the creators of Seinfeld.

Decades earlier, they were the foundation of "Ethel and Albert," a radio show and later a television sitcom from Peg Lynch, a Becket resident, who was the creator, writer and star of one of television's first sitcoms.

Lynch, who was dubbed "the lady who invented sitcom" by BBC Radio's Dick Vosburgh, wrote more than 11,000 radio and television scripts over the course of her seven-decade career. She first penned the husband-and-wife sitcom in 1938 as a three-minute radio dialogue.

"I wrote about what I knew. I wrote about real life," Lynch told The Berkshire Eagle in a 2014 interview. "I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. When I was 10, I won a newspaper contest. You had to write about 'What Thanksgiving means to me.' I didn't write about anything prolific; just turkey and gravy. I was probably the only one who entered. I don't remember getting a prize either. I think getting published was it."

Lynch died in July 2015. She was 98.

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"Ethel and Albert," which she created while working at Albert Lea, Minn., traveled with her, first to Charlottesville, Va., then to Maryland. It debuted as a 15-minute five-days-a-week evening sitcom in 1940 in Cumberland, Md., and finally to New York in 1944, where within a few months it had its own 15-minute five-days-a-week evening slot on ABC national radio. In 1950, it would transition to television, airing first as a 10-minute segment on "The Kate Smith Hour," before earning its own 30-minute time slot on NBC in 1952.

The show, which she owned the rights to, would later air on CBS and then ABC, before transitioning back to radio in 1957, as "The Couple Next Door." In 1963, it would be revived as part of National Public Radio's "Earplay," and be reborn in 1975 as "The Little Things in Life," for Radio Playhouse.

Born Margaret Frances Lynch on Nov. 25, 1916, in Lincoln, Neb., she married Odd Knut Ronning in 1948. Her husband died in June 2014. They resided in Becket for more than 40 years.

Lynch's sitcom legacy is kept alive through the website, peglynch.com and the Facebook page, A Funny Woman - Peg Lynch, which her daughter, Astrid Ronning King, uses not only to record her mother's career highlights, but also the more intimate stories involving family and friends.

Among those stories are tales that include Margaret Hamilton, best known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West, whom was Lynch's best friend for 40 years and also appeared as "Aunt Eva" on "Ethel and Albert." Other stories include her brushes with celebrities, such as the time the Andrews Sisters stopped singing to help her search for her earring or the time she sat next to Charles Lindbergh on the train.

— Jennifer Huberdeau, The Berkshire Eagle


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