March 5, 2023

News Release: January 07, 2005

Writer/Producer Susan Harris to Receive Paddy Chayefsky Television Laurel Award at WGA 57th Annual Ceremony

2005 Award Recipient

Veteran television writer/producer Susan Harris will receive the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television from the Writers Guild of America, west at the 57th Annual Writers Guild Awards ceremony February 19, 2005.


"Of all genres of writing, comedy is the trickiest act to pull off. Perhaps more than any woman working in television, Susan Harris has made it look easy. Her ground-breaking contributions helped revolutionize TV's landscape, and demonstrated that comedy can open minds as well as entertain," said WGAw president Daniel Petrie Jr. "This richly deserved award confirms what many in the industry have known for years -- Susan's insight, vision, and sheer talent have made an extraordinary contribution to the popular culture."

As a single mother, Harris turned to television writing as a means of support that allowed her to stay at home with her son. After selling her first teleplay to the short-lived series Then Came Bronson in 1969, producer Garry Marshall brought Harris to the hit anthology series Love, American Style in 1971 -- which led to Harris contributing several scripts to the ground-breaking sitcom All in the Family, whose daring sociopolitical bent would inform much of her later work, as well as topical teleplays such as 1972's sensitive "Maude's Dilemma" episode from hit spin-off Maude. Following the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Harris wrote the sensitive "Maude's Abortion" episode to All in the Family, for which she received the Humanitas Award.

During this period, she met producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, soon forming Witt/Thomas/Harris, which would later emerge as the largest independent producer of TV comedy in the U.S. Among the company's first projects was the short-lived Lee Grant starrer Fay. Harris' next project was no less controversial but far more successful -- as creator, executive producer, and head writer for 1977 sitcom Soap, she garnered headlines as well as ratings, as the taboo-smashing sitcom (one of the first to feature a lead gay character) emerged as a three-time Emmy nominee for Outstanding Comedy Series. Keeping momentum, Harris soon spun-off Robert Guillaume's butler character, producing the long-running hit series Benson, as well as creating, executive producing, and writing for several hit TV series during the '80s, including I'm a Big Girl Now, Hail to the Chief, Empty Nest, Nurses (serving as producer), Good and Evil, and most notably, long-running favorite The Golden Girls, a six-time Emmy nominee for which Harris shared an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy in 1987.

Sparking a revolution in the entertainment industry that finally saw women writing about women, at a time when most TV series were filled with all-male writing staffs, Harris helped change the face of primetime television, adding her own unique and bitingly funny female perspective. Harris is married to her long-time partner Paul Junger Witt; they have five children and one grandchild.

Named after one of the most acclaimed writers in television history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel is the guild's highest award for television writing, given to writers who have advanced the literature of television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer. Previous award recipients include Steven Bochco, Jess Oppenheimer, Larry Gelbart, Rod Serling, Carl Reiner, David E. Kelley, and last year's honoree, Loring Mandel.