After Ellen Morgan (Ellen Degeneres) came out on Ellen’s famous “Puppy Episode,” one of my many favorite things was the way her parents dealt with it. Harold and Lois, played by Steven Gilborn and Alice Hirson, were sitcom parents, to be sure, but through the comedy we saw a bit of the joy and pain of coming out to parents.
So, when I learned that Gilborn, 72, died last week of cancer, I felt like I’d lost a friend.
Harold reacted to Ellen’s announcement much like my own daddy did. He was angry, fearful and disappointed. But most of all, he was afraid that his daughter would never have the happy life and family that he wanted for her.
When you have 10 minutes, get a tissue and refresh your memory of Gilborn’s heartfelt — and funny — performance.
While real-life coming out stories don’t always resolve this neatly, watching Harold move from shock to support is the kind of happy ending we all want when we are open with our families.
Gilborn’s other memorable role was as Mr. Collins, Kevin Arnold’s math teacher on The Wonder Years. But as a character actor, he often showed up in movies and TV shows in a variety of roles, including a darker turn on last season’s Damages. He also appeared on stage in everything from Shakespeare to Wendy Wasserstein.
Rest in peace, Mr. Gilborn. Thanks for sharing your talents with us.