One of the few producer/director/writers to handle both movie and TV assignments with equal aplomb, James L. Brooks was born in Brooklyn and spent his college years in New York City. Following an apprenticeship with CBS news, Brooks went to work for documentary producer David L. Wolper. In 1969, Brooks broke into the non-documentary end of the business with his TV series drama Room 222, which, though dated and obvious when viewed today, was an important stepping stone in improving the racial balance on prime time television. Room 222 was a "serious" effort; thus, Hollywood insiders were surprised when Brooks formed a partnership with writer Allan Burns, formerly of such raucous projects as The Bullwinkle Show and My Mother the Car, to develop sitcoms.
Brooks and Burns knew what sort of programs they wanted to do, but they were forced to fight tooth and nail with the CBS higher-ups to get what they wanted on the air. Nobody, they were told, wanted to see a show about a single woman working at a television station. Further, nobody wanted to see anyone on TV who was Jewish, had a mustache, or came from New York City. All these "unwanted" elements would be present in the Brooks/Burns project The Mary Tyler Moore Show; the show that nobody wanted ran from 1970 through 1977, earning its production team a multitude of awards. Brooks would later be on the ground floor of such TV hits as Cheers and Taxi, which more than compensated for such relative failures as The Associates.