Co-Winner: Tom Kapinos, Gina Fattore and Eric Weinberg, Californication, Showtime

It would be easy to label Californication a dark comedy, and salute its hilarious writing. Like when Hank’s (David Duchovny) precocious preteen Becca (Madeleine Martin) emerges from his bedroom and matter-of-factly asks, "Why is there a naked lady in your bed?" And her follow-up: "She has no hair on her vagina. Do you think she’s OK?" But we can’t ignore Hank’s deliciously jaded soliloquies: "[People] seem to be getting dumber and dumber…The Internet was supposed to set us free, democratize us, but all it’s really given us is Howard Dean’s aborted candidacy and 24-hour a day access to kiddie porn…It just seems to [be] a bunch of stupid people pseudo-communicating with a bunch of other stupid people in a proto-language that resembles more what cavemen used to speak than the king’s English."

Co-Winner: Matthew Weiner, Mad Men, AMC

It seems strange to honor Mad Men creator Matt Weiner for writing. Not that season one of his expertly nuanced 1960 drama about a Madison Ave. ad agency wasn’t compellingly scripted and fastidiously accurate. Not that his characters weren’t complex. Problem is that he doesn’t write, The NY Times Magazine tells us. Instead of sitting with a laptop, the peripatetic former scribe for The Sopranos dictates scenes as he dashes around, speaking whole lines of dialogue just as he wants his characters to say them. It’s someone else’s job to translate Weiner’s oral tradition into a script. OK, so we salute Weiner for creative brilliance while standing and talking.

Honorable Mentions:
Stephanie McMahon Levesque, World Wrestling Entertainment: As EVP, creative writing, talent relations and live events, McMahon Levesque oversees the team that has plotted WWE’s Monday Night RAW into one of cable’s top-rated series. And talk about mangling Freud’s Oedipus complex, perhaps her most memorable storyline involved dad Vince McMahon being killed in a limo explosion (see page 31). What, you didn’t realize wrestling was scripted? Sorry.

Nancy Miller, Saving Grace, TNT: Is Saving Grace yet another cop show? Well, Holly Hunter’s Grace Hanadarko is a detective. But Grace’s multi-vice life is perfect fodder for the series’ spiritual component. Grace’s encounters with Earl, who looks like a tobacco-chewing ranch hand but actually is an angel, produce excellent dialogue and allow writer Nancy Miller to fulfill a vision. "I’ve wanted to do a series that explores God, faith and sin for a long time," Miller says. Who cares if this faith series is disguised as a cop show?

Jeff Sarokin, Consider Wimbledon, ESPN: You don’t normally get excellent writing on a sports broadcast, but Sarokin’s words, recited by Sir Ben Kingsley, and accompanied by music and footage, were a literate intro to Wimbledon coverage. "Ideals are invisible, values can’t be held, nor principles touched," Kingsley says, "they are revealed by example, by the way we live, the places we love." So what is quintessentially English? "For a clue, consider Wimbledon…" Sir Ben says. "Posh yet understated, beholden to custom…a green and elegant citadel to civility."

Return to 2008 CableFAX Program Awards table of contents.

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