Stuff You Don't Know About Writers You Might


Last week, we discussed notable strikes in American history. Today's topic: notable TV writers. The idea came from newcomer Matthew Smith, who collaborated with mental_floss veterans Stacy, David, Becky and Kara to dig up stories about some of TV's greatest scribes.

1. J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams, who is the co-creator, writer, director and executive producer of Lost, has written for some very-unLost-like movies including Armageddon, Taking Care of Business and Forever Young. He also created and wrote for the TV show Felicity.

2. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy also wrote the script for Britney Spears' bomb Crossroads. She got the inspiration for Grey's from working as a candy striper in high school.

3. B.J. Novak (===>)

B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard), writer/actor of The Office, went to high school with fellow castmember John Krasinski (Jim Halpert). Krasinski acted in one of Novak's plays while in school. Two of his on-screen co-workers are also writers: Paul Lieberstein (Toby, HR Director) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly, Ryan's enthusiastic ex-girlfriend). Three if you count Steve Carell, who wrote the season two finale.

4. Marc Cherry

Marc Cherry, writer/producer/creator of Desperate Housewives, received his first major writing credits on The Golden Girls. His first job in the industry was as a personal assistant to Dixie Carter of Designing Women. Ms. Carter's manageability came into question when Cherry cast her on Housewives as the wicked and maniacal Gloria Hodges.

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The first episode Ken Levine wrote for M*A*S*H was "Out of Sight/Out of Mind." He bought a VCR "“ which cost $1700 at the time "“ so he could record the episode at home, particularly his name in the credits. Mr. Levine, whose writing credits include Cheers, Frasier, The Simpsons, Wings and Everybody Loves Raymond, is keeping busy during the strike by covering it on his blog.

6. David Mirkin

David Mirkin has written for a number of hit shows, including The Simpsons, Newhart, Get a Life and The Edge. But it was his job at Three's Company "“ his first-ever writing experience "“ that earned him a cat. David took the cat home after it was used in an episode. He nicknamed it T.C"¦short for "Televised Cat."

7. Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano is not only a writer for Sesame Street, she is also one of the well-known human characters "“ Maria. Now, imagine walking into a production of The Vagina Monologues and finding Maria up on stage talking about her intimate anatomy. It could happen "“ Sonia has performed in the VM on the New York Stage.

8. Stephen Hillenburg

Stephen Hillenburg created Spongebob Squarepants. But before that, he was a marine biology teacher at what is now the Orange County Ocean Institute. He worked as a marine biologist from 1984-1987.

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Aaron Sorkin of West Wing and Sports Night fame delivered singing telegrams and drove a limo when he was fresh out of college and looking for steady writing and acting work.

10. Larry David (===>)

We could (and should) do a whole post on Larry David. But here are two fun facts: he was considered for Billy Bob Thornton's part in Bad Santa, and he doesn't like cowboys. One more: he played the man in the cape who met mysteriously with George's father.

11. Sam Simon

Best known as a co-creator/writer of The Simpsons and for writing credits on Cheers and Taxi, Sam Simon also manages former WBO heavyweight boxing champion Lamon Brewster.

12. Al Jean

Although Al Jean is probably best known for his work on The Simpsons, he also used to write for ALF. Yes, that ALF. Some of his Simpsons nicknames include Anachronistic Al Jean / Atrocious Al Jean / Avuncular Al Jean / Awful Al Jean / Mean Al Jean. (A new nickname is given to each member of the cast every year for the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode.)

13. Alan Ball

Six Feet Under and American Beauty writer Alan Ball wrote for Cybill Shepard's self-titled show (Cybill), and Shepard is rumored to be the basis for Annette Benning's self-absorbed character from American Beauty.