Although he was seldom a favorite of mainstream critics, and veered widely between seriousness and satire, Larry Cohen staked his claim as one of the more successful screenwriters, directors, and producers to emerge from television in the 1950s. Born and raised in New York City, he attended City College (CUNY) and New York University, and broke into the entertainment business as a page at the NBC Building in Rockefeller Center. He wrote scripts for some of the television anthology shows of the late '50s, including Kraft Television Theatre, Zane Grey Theater, the U.S. Steel Hour, and Roald Dahl's Way Out, plus the suspense program Checkmate.
Cohen was treading water professionally, however, mostly because he was living on the wrong coast. Live television was disappearing rapidly at the end of the 1950s. Most of the best television had shifted to film, and was coming out of Los Angeles by the time Cohen was ready to move up from the anthology series. He was lucky enough, however, to get a shot writing for one of the last of the truly good, successful dramas out of New York, The Defenders. The weekly series, starring E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as a father-and-son team of defense attorneys, was easily the most critically acclaimed dramatic program on television during the early '60s, and Cohen got to write several scripts for the series. With that under his belt, he was able to move on to other top-quality programs on both coasts, including The Nurses, Sam Benedict, Arrest & Trial, and The Fugitive.