A man of considerable artistic skill and drive, Tom Gabbay was born in Indiana and raised in central New York state. He attended Colorado State University for a while but then moved to Europe where he moved about and studied painting and drawing. At 21 he returned to America for further study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
After graduating, he went on to study film and animation, a new passion that would lead to a new and successful career. This included award-winning shorts for Sesame Street.
In his 30s, he started work for NBC, first as the head of children's programming then as the head of the comedy department, helping to give the world Cheers and Family Ties.