‘Happy Days’ Show Producer Thomas L. Miller Was Behind ‘Full House,’ ‘Family Matters’ and Many Other Iconic Sitcoms

by Josh Lanier

Thomas Miller, the producer behind some of the biggest sitcoms of the past six decades, died at his Connecticut home last year on April 5. The 79-year-old died of complications of heart disease, his longtime partner said.

Miller was a producer on shows such as Happy DaysFamily Matters, Full House, Mork & Mindy, Laverne & ShirleyPerfect Strangers, and Step by Step.

Happy Days stars Ron Howard wrote that he was “kind, smart and witty.” And Henry Winkler said that the executive “gave me, along with his partners, my Hollywood life.”

Thomas Miller’s Iconic Career

The Hollywood Reporter said his career stretched nearly seven decades. And though he was prolific and incredibly successful, his shows did not often win awards. That didn’t bother him, he told the LA Times in 1990.

“Our award is that 30 million people are watching,” he said. “To me, the goal is to entertain. And if you’re doing an 8 o’clock show, that means you also try to make them intelligent, you have them tell a story that has not a preachy moral necessarily, but something there so that it’s not a bad thing if you watch it. The fact that those [shows] don’t win awards means nothing to me if we continue to please that many people.”

Moreover, those that knew him said he was a consummate professional who knew how to create a something special.

“Thomas Miller was born to entertain, infused with irrepressible passion and love for bringing joy to others through his life’s work,” Warner Bros. Television Group, which distributed several of Miller’s TV series, said in a statement. “And what a skill set he possessed. He was at once a thoughtful and tasteful executive, an extremely talented writer, and a highly successful producer whose many hit series will live long in the collective memory of fans around the world.” 

Miller Used His Upbringing for Inspiration

Thomas L. Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1940. And had an early love for television and movies. After graduating college, he struck out to Los Angeles to work in the industry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said.

He found early work with director Billy Wilder. And later as an independent producer creating shows with Edward Milkis such as Love, American Style. It was inspired by his time growing up in Milwaukee.

But it wasn’t until he teamed up with Garry Marshall that his career took off. He helped produce some of the biggest shows of the late 60s and 70s such as Happy Days, and its many spin-offs.

As a matter of fact, his career continued for decades. He’d go on to make the hit sitcoms Perfect Strangers, Step by Step, and Full House.

He began producing plays later in his career but returned to streaming TV to work on Fuller House, the Full House spin-off.