By Alan Pergament
Not surprisingly, The Writers Guild of America list of the Top 101 best written television series announced a few days ago included a Who's Who of Western New York TV writers.
I say "not surprisingly" because when I attended the semi-annual Television Critics Association from 1983 through 2010, some of my colleagues in the TV critic fraternity would facetiously ask me if everyone writing in Hollywood was from Western New York.
It was a recurring joke because many of the best written series seemed to have a Buffalo connection. Those decades were the Golden Age for Buffalo TV writers, who now are in their 60s.
Buffalo native David Milch was on the writing staff and eventually became the executive producer of "Hill Street Blues," which was No. 15 on the WGA list.
Milch's own creation, HBO's "Deadwood," is No. 32. And "NYPD Blue," which Milch co-created with Steven Bochco, is No. 36.
Buffalo native Tom Fontana didn't create "Homicide: Life on the Street" or "St. Elsewhere," which tied for No. 46 on the list. But the WGA blurb on "Homicide" notes that Barry Levinson had Fontana turn the book of the same name into a TV series. He was one of the key members of the creative team. He also wrote or rewrote many of the episodes of "Homicide" and "St. Elsewhere" and was an executive producer of both series. In addition, the Fontana creation of HBO's prison series, "Oz," is No. 101 on the list.
Buffalo native Diane English, who, like Fontana, graduated from Buffalo State College, created "Murphy Brown," which is tied with "House" at No. 74 on the list.
Glenn Gordon Caron, who graduated from Geneseo State College, created "Moonlighting," which tied for No. 60 on the list.
As a story in Tuesday's Buffalo News noted, HBO's "The Sopranos" is No. 1 and "Seinfeld" is No. 2. Many current series are high on the list. Although many deserve it, I'm also guessing that more younger writers may have participated in the online vote than older writers with stronger memories.
One of my favorite series, NBC's little-watched "Friday Night Lights," is No. 22. Larry David's HBO's series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which I love because I share David's tendency to be easily annoyed, is No. 30. "The Wonder Years," another of my favorites, is No. 54. And one of my late mother's favorites, "The Muppets," is tied for No. 91.
The list is sure to lead to debates over what is deserving and what series were unjustifiably omitted. Take a look and decide how often you think the writers got it right.
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