Anne Beatts, groundbreaking comedy writer, dead at 74

NEW YORK — Anne Beatts, a groundbreaking comedy writer who was on the original staff of “Saturday Night Live” and later created the cult sitcom “Square Pegs,” has died. She was 74.

Beatts died Wednesday at her home in West Hollywood, California, according to her close friend Rona Kennedy. Kennedy, a film producer and a fellow faculty member at Chapman University, did not immediately know the cause of death.

Starting in 1975, Beatts was among a team of gifted writers that included Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Suzanne Miller and such cast members as Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase who helped make “Saturday Night Live” a cultural phenomenon.

In 1982, she developed her own series, what was then a rare sitcom centering on teen-age girls and starring Sarah Jessica Parker in an early breakthrough role. “Square Pegs” lasted just one season but was praised for anticipating — and even topping — the teen comedies John Hughes would soon become famous for.

“The show was also just plain cool, speaking to teens with a shared interest in their interests that made young people feel seen before the Hughes movies would have a similar effect,” New York magazine’s Jen Chaney wrote in 2020. “No other show on TV back then would have focused an entire episode on a Pac-Man addiction or a New Wave-themed bat mitzvah that featured the actual band Devo performing ‘That’s Good.’”

Beatts was a native of Buffalo, New York, who later attended McGill University and got an early break writing comedy for National Lampoon, where numerous future “Saturday Night Live” performers and writers worked. Her other credits included writing for “Murphy Brown” and “The Belles of Bleeker Street,” producing “A Different World” and helping to write the stage musical “Leader of the Pack.”