The Drama Kings

Robert Maxwell

Steven Bochco (34 noms, 10 wins), Joel Surnow (7 noms, 2 wins), Marshall Herskovitz (9 noms, 4 wins), David Milch (24 noms, 4 wins) and Matthew Weiner (15 noms, 8 wins)

It's hard to imagine an Emmy king like Matthew Weiner feeling unworthy of inclusion in the highest ranks of drama-writing giants. "Honestly, I thought this was some kind of prank having me here today," says the Mad Men writer/creator. "I'm happy to even be talking to these people, let alone taking a picture with them." The 46-year-old's  reverence isn't misplaced: Before Weiner's recent domination of the drama category, the genre's most outstanding writers were culled from a relatively small pool of old friends, whose collective history -- and more than 50 Emmy nominations -- stretch back 30 years. David Milch, 66, and Steven Bochco, 67, collaborated on the latter's Hill Street Blues (1981-87) and again on NYPD Blue (1993-2005) while Joel Surnow's (24, 2001-10) first TV writing gig was in their writers room. "It was 1983 on a show called Bay City Blues, and I knew nothing about TV," says Surnow, 56. "Watching David and Steven orchestrate the writers room and throw ideas around was my intro to television. I feel everything I needed to know I learned there." Marshall Herskovitz, whose ode to pre-midlife angst, thirtysomething (1987-91), turned the domestic drama on its ear, finds a common thread within the varied storytelling styles of his peers. "When I'm around these guys, I'm most in awe of their ability to create a unique voice, a worldview," says the 59-year-old. Bochco agrees they all have a shared approach of "characters first, with the logic of behavior dictating story." And Milch, for his part, reveals a particular reciprocal admiration for the newest member among the group. "Matt has really turned things around," he says. "I watch Mad Men with great admiration -- and not a little envy."

Photographed by Robert Maxwell on Aug. 27 at Pier 59 Studios in Santa Monica.