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Writers gild scribes for ‘Traffic’ & ‘Count’

Late 'Twilight Zone' creator wins for kids' screenplay

See the full winners list

The scribes behind a pair of edgy looks at contemporary life, “You Can Count on Me” and “Traffic,” took top honors in motion picture screenwriting Sunday from the Writers Guild of America.

Kenneth Lonergan won for his original screenplay on “You Can Count on Me” and Stephen Gaghan was honored for the adapted screenplay on “Traffic.”

And, in an unprecedented development worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode, the late Rod Serling shared the award for best children’s script, winning for Showtime’s “A Summer Storm,” while Paris Qualles won for Disney’s “The Color of Friendship.” Serling, who died in 1975, originally wrote the script for a 1970 Hallmark Hall of Fame program; the 2000 version was based on that script plus additional material from earlier drafts.

Lonergan’s screenplay for “You Can Count on Me” is the tale of a single mother reconciling with her brother. Lonergan, who also directed, previously took screenplay honors from the L.A. Film Critics Assn., the National Society of Film Critics and the N.Y. Film Critics Circle.

He topped Cameron Crowe for “Almost Famous”; Lee Hall, “Billy Elliot”; Susannah Grant, “Erin Brockovich”; and Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, “Best in Show.” He recently said his key task was giving characters an authentic tone, noting, “I always ask myself if this would really happen.”

Gaghan’s adaptation was based on the British TV series “Traffik” created by Simon Moore. Gaghan’s interwoven story of drug war tragedies had copped the Golden Globe for screenplay and tied with “Wonder Boys” for top adapted script from the Broadcast Film Critics.

Fellow scribes tapped Gaghan over Robert Nelson Jacobs for “Chocolat,” based on the novel by Joanne Harris; Wang Hui-Ling, James Schamus and Tasi Kuo Jung, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” based on the book by Wang Du Lu; D.V. DeVicentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg, “High Fidelity,” based on the novel by Nick Hornby; and Steven Kloves, “Wonder Boys,” based on the novel by Michael Chabon.

Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland took the episodic drama nod for the “In Excelsis Deo” episode of NBC’s “The West Wing,” winning over two other segments of “The West Wing” (one penned by Sorkin) and two from “The Sopranos.”

Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan took the episodic comedy trophy for the “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” segment of “Frasier,” marking the second consecutive win for the NBC series. It topped another “Frasier” episode penned by Keenan along with a pair of “Sex and the City” segments and a “Will & Grace” episode.

The 53rd edition of the awards were presented in joint ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Plaza Hotel in Gotham. Lonergan and Gaghan, both first-time winners, are solid candidates in their respective categories for the March 25 Academy Awards.

The WGA selections are a closely watched signal of sentiment among Oscar voters, although the two orgs have not matched since 1997, when “Fargo” won both trophies for original screenplay and “Sling Blade” took the adapted awards.

Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland took the episodic drama nod for the “In Excelsis Deo” episode of NBC’s “The West Wing,” winning over two other segments of “The West Wing” (one penned by Sorkin) and two from “The Sopranos.”

Previously announced honors were given to Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Screen Laurel Award; David Lloyd, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for TV; Paul Haggis, the Valentine Davies Award; George Kirgo, the Morgan Cox Award; and Doug Wright, the Paul Selvin Award for “Quills.”

And the winners are…

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Kenneth Lonergan, “You Can Count on Me,” Paramount Classics

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Stephen Gaghan, “Traffic,” USA Films

ORIGINAL LONGFORM

“Freedom Song,” written by Phil Alden Robinson and Stanley Weiser; Turner Pages, TNT

“Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (Part 1),” written by Tina Andrews, Ariel Acts, CBS

ADAPTED LONGFORM

“RKO 281,” written by John Logan, based in part on the documentary “The Battle Over Citizen Kane” from “The American Experience,” HBO Films/Scott Free Prods., HBO

“Tuesdays With Morrie,” written for television by Tom Rickman, based on the book by Mitch Albom, Harpo Films, ABC

EPISODIC DRAMA

“In Excelsis Deo” (“The West Wing”), written by Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, Warner Bros. Television, NBC

EPISODIC COMEDY

“Something Borrowed, Someone Blue” (“Frasier”), written by Christopher Lloyd & Joe Keenan, Paramount TV, NBC

COMEDY/VARIETY (MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES, SPECIALS)

“Saturday Night Live: The 25th Anniversary Special,” writing supervised by Tina Fey, written by Anne Beatts, Tom Davis, Tina Fey, Steve Higgins, Lorne Michaels, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Paula Pell, Paul Shaffer, T. Sean Shannon, Michael Shoemaker, Robert Smigel, Broadway Video in association with SNL Studios, NBC

COMEDY/VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK)

“Dennis Miller Live,” writing supervised by Eddie Feldmann, written by Jose Arroyo, David Feldman, Jim Hanna, Leah Krinsky-Atkins, Dennis Miller, David Weiss, Happy Family Prods., HBO

DAYTIME SERIALS

“All My Children,” written by Agnes Nixon, Jean Passanante, Craig Carlson, Frederick Johnson, N. Gail Lawrence, Victor Miller, Juliet Law Packer, Addie Walsh, Mimi Leahey, Bettina F. Bradbury, Caroline Franz, Charlotte Gibson, David Hiltbrand, Janet Iacobuzio, Royal Miller, John Piroman, Rebecca Taylor, ABC

CHILDREN’S SCRIPT

“The Color of Friendship,” written by Paris Qualles, Alan Sacks Prods., Disney

“A Storm in Summer,” written by Rod Serling, Showtime in association with Hallmark Entertainment, Renee Valente, Showtime

DOCUMENTARY (CURRENT EVENTS)

“John Paul II: The Millennial Pope” (“Frontline”), written by Helen Whitney & Jane Barnes, Helen Whitney Prods., PBS

DOCUMENTARY (OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS)

“George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire” (“The American Experience”), written by Steve Fayer and Daniel McCabe & Paul Stekler, Midnight Films, Big House Prods./The American Experience, WGBH, PBS

NEWS (REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN OR BREAKING REPORT)

“Sunday Morning Headlines,” written by Gail Lee, CBS

NEWS (ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY)

“Hurricane: Eyewitness to a Storm,” written by Glenn Steinfast & Darcy Bonfils, ABC

RADIO

RADIO DOCUMENTARY

“CBS News 20th Century Round-Up,” written by Paul Farry & Steve Kathan, CBS Radio Network

NEWS (REGULARLY SCHEDULED)

“CBS News on the Hour,” written by Steven Gosset, CBS Radio Network

NEWS (ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY)

“The Wedding Dress,” written by Mike Silverstein, ABC News Radio

ON-AIR PROMOTION

“ABC Promotions,” written by Scott X. Thompson, WABC

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