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September 01, 2009

James L. Brooks

James Brooks helped create some of television's most critically acclaimed and best-loved shows. With collaborator Allan Burns, he created Room 222 , The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. He also went on to produce Taxi, The Associates and The Simpsons.

Brooks was born in New Jersey, and spent his college years in New York. Brooks' career in television began with an apprenticeship at CBS News, where he was a writer. He then moved to Los Angeles to write and produce documentaries for David Wolper.

In Los Angeles, he met television writer Allan Burns, who gave Brooks a break rewriting a script for the show My Mother the Car. The rewriting job subsequently provided Brooks the opportunity to create the television series Room 222. The program broke new ground by focusing on the career of a black high school teacher, and tackled issues such as drug use and racial conflict. Room 222 won an Emmy for Outstanding New Series in 1970.

The next Brooks and Burns project was The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran from 1970 through 1977, earning the production team a number of awards. The Mary Tyler Moore Show possesses all the hallmarks of a Brooks and Burns comedy: witty humor, developed characters, and realistic situations. The series represented a break from the high-premise comedy ideas of The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres, which eschewed regular people with real problems.

In 1984 Brooks founded Gracie Films, his own production company, to oversee work on film and television projects. At Gracie, Brooks developed The Tracey Ullman Show, hiring cartoonist Matt Groening to create cartoon shorts featuring a dysfunctional family. These shorts later were developed into their own series: The Simpsons.

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