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Overview for Tom Fontana
Tom Fontana

Tom Fontana


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Also Known As: Thomas Michael Fontana Died:
Born: September 12, 1951 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: Producer ... producer playwright TV series creator screenwriter restaurant-bar owner


While Tom Fontana was playwright-in-residence at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Jake and Gwyneth Paltrow saw his play "The Spectre Bridegroom" and insisted their father, producer Bruce Paltrow, give Fontana a job on his new show "St. Elsewhere" (NBC, 1982-88), the perfect prescription for jumping a struggling playwright's yearly income from $5000 to $90,000. As one of the three top writer-producers for that series, he made a name and the beginning of a sizable fortune pioneering the story structure that weaves several narrative threads together in one hour, a formula that still successfully powers shows like "ER." Three Emmy Awards later (all for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series), he is one of the most powerful television producers in the world. And yet . . . Fontana considers himself a writer, period. He produces so that he can have control over what happens to his words, and he does it well.

After "St. Elsewhere" went off the air, Fontana served as co-creator, writer and executive producer for the short-lived NBC series "Tattinger's" (1988-89) and the even briefer runs of "Nick & Hillary" (NBC, 1989) and "Home Fires" (NBC, 1992). Barry Levinson originally hired Fontana as executive producer for "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99) to fight the fights with network executives, but as the show progressed, even though Levinson's name provided a certain clout, it was Fontana (in Levinson's absence) that was getting the show ready and on the air every week. Often frustrated by the network's failure to see eye to eye with him over content matter, Fontana co-created (along with producing partner Levinson) a one-hour dramatic series set in an urban prison for HBO. Writing the first eight episodes entirely by himself, Fontana took the world of "edgy" TV one step farther with "Oz" (1997-2003), a show which has featured quality actors like Rita Moreno, Ernie Hudson and Terry Kinney, among others, happy to make a little less money in order to work with a writer of Fontana's stature.

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