Family & Companions
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.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Producer (TV Mini-Series)
Wrote "Johnny Appleseed: A Noh Play", produced at Studio Arena in Buffalo
Became playwright-in-residence at NYC's Writers Theatre
Playwright-in-residence, Williamstown Theatre Festival; plays produced there include "This Is On Me", "The Underlings", "The Overcoat" and "The Spectre Bridegroom"
Wrote teleplay for ABC special "The Fourth Wise Man"
Executive produced and co-wrote the NBC movie "The Prosecutors" (a pilot on which everybody passed)
Co-creator (with Barry Levinson) and executive producer of HBO's "Oz", a gritty dramatic series set in an urban prison
Billed as 'creative concultant' on the Showtime series "The Hoop Life"
Executive produced the CBS miniseries "An American Tragedy" which focused on the murder trial of O.J. Simpson
Wrote the teleplay and executive produced the religious-themed TV-movie "Judas and Jesus" (ABC)
With Levinson, served as executive producer of the HBO series "Baseball Wives"