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Buffalo's Hollywood connection is starring in 'That (Almost) '70s Show'

Writing and working in television is widely viewed as a younger person’s game because of the hours required to produce a show.

But don’t tell that to the legends who are part of Buffalo's Hollywood connection; they are involved in their version of "That (Almost) '70s Show."

Buffalo native Diane English is actually 70. She called herself “a bit of a unicorn” in a telephone interview Saturday because she is a 70-year-old woman running a broadcast network show being revived this fall, “Murphy Brown.”

“Go find another one,” said English, a SUNY Buffalo State graduate.

That would be pretty hard.

Diane English ready to make some noise with 'Murphy Brown' revival

But it isn’t difficult finding another Buffalo State graduate and writing veteran still in the game.

Showtime announced last week in Los Angeles that Tom Fontana, who has 19 Emmy nominations and three wins and is best known for “St. Elsewhere,” “Homicide: Life on the Street’ and “Oz,” will be the showrunner on an upcoming, 10-part drama series, “City on a Hill," that will premiere in 2019. He also will be an executive producer and one of the show’s writers.

It stars Kevin Bacon and Screen Actors Guild award winner Aldis Hodge (“Underground”) and was created by Chuck MacLean (“Boston Strangler’), who wrote the pilot and is also an executive producer.

According to Showtime, the series is based on an original idea by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck and set in early 1990s Boston, “rife with violent criminals emboldened by local law enforcement agencies in which corruption and racism was the norm. In this fictional account, assistant district attorney Decourcy Ward (Hodge) arrives from Brooklyn and forms an unlikely alliance with a corrupt yet venerated FBI veteran, Jackie Rohr (Bacon). Together, they take on a family of armored car robbers from Charlestown in a case that grows to involve, and ultimately subvert, the entire criminal justice system of Boston.”

Affleck and his pal Matt Damon and Fontana’s producing partner Barry Levinson also are among the show’s executive producers.

Fontana, who turns 67 next month, and English are both working in New York City so they are in touch more often than they have been.

“We’ll never retire, put it that way,” said English. “What would we do?”

Buffalo native David Milch, best known for “NYPD Blue,” “Hill Street Blues” and “Deadwood,” also is still in the game at 73.

During the recent Television Critics Association meetings in Los Angeles, HBO programming president Casey Bloys announced the pay-cable network is finally moving forward with a “Deadwood” movie 12 years after the series prematurely ended to the disappointment of its fans.

“It’s been a logistics nightmare getting all the cast members’ schedules together, but we are there,” Bloys told critics.

Bloys said the movie is scheduled to air in the spring of 2019.

A year ago, Bloys praised Milch’s script.

“I wanted a script that would stand on its own,” said Bloys at the time. “I’m happy to say that David totally delivered on that. It’s a terrific script.”

The drama earned 28 Emmy nominations and eight wins over the three seasons and 36 episodes that it ran.

Patrick Hasburgh, the writer-producer from Amherst whose lengthy TV credits include “Hardcastle & McCormick,” “21 Jump Street” and “The A-Team,” no longer is involved in television. But he is still in the writing game.

The 68-year-old’s second novel, “Pirata,” a family drama set in the surfing world of Mexico, was recently published. While on a recent vacation at the Jersey shore, I found it to be an easy and enjoyable beach read with twists and turns. It would have been even more enjoyable if I was a surfer and better understood all the surfing elements in it.

But don’t just take my word for it. The novel has received some good reviews.

One of the best reviews was delivered by author Carl Hiaasen and is on the cover of the paperback.

“It’s rare to find a novel that’s so harrowing, funny and touching at the same time, but Patrick Hasburgh somehow pulls it off,” he wrote. “His surf-bum narrator is a new classic – think of Philip Marlowe, on a longboard.”

Peter Berg, best known for the television series “Friday Nights Light,” also praised the novel, with his words on the back of the book.

“There’s an authenticity that can only come from really living among and in the lives of your characters,” Berg wrote. “Hasburgh paddles us into the fresh yet classic world of ‘Pirata,’ and sets us up squarely to explore family, fatherhood, profound loss, and epic waves.”


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