U.S. Writer

Ernest Kinoy is one of U.S. television's most prolific and acclaimed writers. His career spans five decades, from the live anthology dramas of the 1950s to the made-for-television movies of the 1990s. His best-known works--like scripts for The Defenders and Roots--have dramatized social and historical issues. Outside of television, Kinoy is less well-known than some of his contemporaries from the golden age of television, like Mel Brooks and Paddy Chayefsky. Within the industry, however, Kinoy has always been recognized for his well-crafted television dramas. He has also written successfully for radio, film, and the stage.

Kinoy wrote for many shows in the 1950s, including The Imogene Coca Show and The Marriage, a series for Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. He was best known for contributing to live anthology dramas like The duPont Show of the Week, Studio One, and Playhouse 90. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an inquiry into the decline of the live dramas, Kinoy and other writers offered damaging testimony about network unwillingness to broadcast "serious" drama. CBS, under scrutiny, resurrected a weighty dramatic series that would soon showcase Kinoy's talents--The Defenders. Kinoy won two Emmy awards writing for the series, which was created by his colleague Reginald Rose. The show followed two idealistic lawyers, a father and son, who confronted controversial issues and moral paradoxes on a weekly basis. In "Blacklist," one of Kinoy's most celebrated episodes, Jack Klugman played a blacklisted actor who finally received a serious part after ten years, only to be harassed by vehement anti-Communists. In another well-known Kinoy episode, "The Non-Violent," James Earl Jones played a black minister thrown in jail with a wealthy, white civil rights activist. Like Dr. Kildare, another series that Kinoy wrote for, The Defenders was sometimes described as a New Frontier character drama for its exploration of social ethics. During this same period, Kinoy also wrote for the series The Nurses and Route 66.

In the 1970s, Kinoy shifted to made-for-television movies and feature films. He often had two or more scripts produced in a year. Notable accomplishments included Crawlspace (1972), a CBS movie about a family adopting a homeless man, and Buck and the Preacher (1972), an action-packed black Western directed by Sidney Poitier for the big screen. Kinoy's television career took a new turn in 1976 when he wrote two docudramas for producer David Wolper: Victory at Entebbe, about the Israeli rescue operation in Uganda, and Collision Course, based on Harry Truman's struggles with Douglas MacArthur. Kinoy subsequently worked on Wolper's blockbuster docudrama Roots (1977), winning an Emmy for an episode he co-wrote with William Blinn. Kinoy served as Wolper's head writer on Roots: The Next Generations (1979). In 1982, he received an Emmy nomination and Writer's Guild of America award for another of his television docudramas, Skokie, about street demonstrations attempted by Neo-Nazis in the Jewish neighborhoods of Skokie, Illinois.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Kinoy's made-for-television movies continued to receive praise. His scripts included Murrow (1985), about the famous broadcaster, and TNT's Chernobyl: The Final Warning (1990). Kinoy is a rare presence in contemporary television. A writer known for quality drama, he has enjoyed success during each of television's five major decades.

-J.B. Bird

ERNEST KINROY . Born 1 April 1925. Educated at Columbia University, New York, U.S.A. Began writing career in radio; staff writer for NBC Radio, 1948-60; writer for numerous television shows since the 1950s; president of the Writers Guild of America, East, 1969-71; writer of several made-for-television movies and motion pictures. Recipient: three Emmy Awards, 1963, 1964, 1977.

Ernest Kinoy
Photo courtesy of Broadcasting and Cable


1948-58 Studio One
1954-55 The Imogene Coca Show
1954      The Marriage
1948-58 Studio One
1956-61 Playhouse 90
1960-64 Route 66
1961-64 The Dupont Show of the Week
1961-65 The Defenders
1961-66 Dr. Kildare
1962-65 The Nurses


1972 Crawlspace
1973 The President's Plane Is Missing
1974 The Story of Jacob and Joseph
1976 Victory at Entebbe
1976 The Story of David
1976 Collision Course
1977 The Deadliest Season
1977 Roots
1979 Roots: The Next Generation
1980 The Henderson Monster
1981 Skokie
1986 Murrow
1990 Chernobyl: The Final Warning


Brother John, 1972; Buck and the Preacher, 1972


Something About a Soldier: A Comedy-drama in Three Acts. New York: Samuel French, 1962.


Bogle, Donald. "Roots" and "Roots: The Next Generations." Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1988.

Harris, Jay S., editor. TV Guide: The First 25 Years. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.

Sheuer, Steven H. Who's Who in Television and Cable. New York: Facts on File, 1983.

Stempel, Tom. Storytellers to the Nation : A History of American Television Writing. New York: Continuum, 1992.

Sturcken, Frank. Live Television: the Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New York. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

Watson, Mary Ann. The Expanding Vista: American Television in the Kennedy Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Wilk, Max. The Golden Age of Television: Notes from the Survivors. New York: Dell, 1977.


See also Anthology Drama; Defenders; Golden Age of Television Drama; Playhouse 90; Roots; Route 66