December 18, 1955 |
Detroit, Michigan, USA
|Spouse(s)||Wendy (?-?; 2 children)
Colleen Surnow (1989-present; 3 children)
Life and career 
Joel Surnow is of Lithuanian descent. He was raised in Michigan, and later Los Angeles. Surnow attended the University of California, Berkeley for two years, and eventually graduated from UCLA film school in 1976.
Soon after graduation, he began writing for film; he then switched to television. His breakthrough came when he began writing for Miami Vice, in 1984. By the end of the year, Universal Studios, which owned the show, assigned Surnow to The Equalizer, as Supervising Producer, about a CIA officer turned vigilante.
He has five daughters, two from a previous marriage and three with his current wife.
Surnow was the co-creator and executive producer of the 1997–2001 television series La Femme Nikita, which was the top-rated drama on basic cable its first two seasons. In addition to being Supervising Producer and writing for The Equalizer and serving as executive story editor on the first season of Miami Vice, he has written scripts for a number of other TV series, including Nowhere Man and Wiseguy.
Following Le Femme Nikita, Surnow's most successful work was on the TV series 24, which he co-created and also executive produced with Robert Cochran. In 2006, 24 won Emmy awards for Outstanding Drama Series, accepted by Surnow and his fellow producers, including Robert Cochran, and Outstanding Lead Actor Kiefer Sutherland, who also won a Golden Globe. Surnow and Cochran had previously won an Emmy for 24 in 2002, for their writing of the series' pilot episode. Surnow quit his role as executive producer of the series on February 12, 2008.
Surnow also created The 1/2 Hour News Hour, a comedy show described by Surnow as "The Daily Show for conservatives,". The first episode aired on February 18, 2007, receiving historically poor reviews. Although the initial ratings were very good, subsequent ratings dropped dramatically. The show was cancelled six months later, after airing only seven episodes.,
Surnow has described himself as a supporter of the Republican Party, donating money to the campaign of Rick Santorum, Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign and expressing particular admiration for former President Ronald Reagan. He is also a close friend of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Surnow is a self-described "isolationist" and has stated that he has "no faith in nation building." He is the owner of an American flag that flew over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was sent to him as a gift from one of the regiments stationed there.
- "Fox News Preps News Satire Show". Forbes. 2006-11-20.
- 11 Most Disappointing TV Shows of the 2000s - 7.
- "1/2 Hour News Hour: 'Most Watched Program' On Cable News Sunday Night" mediabistro.com
- "Half Hour News Hour Shelved" mediabistro.com
- "Whatever it Takes: The Politics of the Man Behind '24' " by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker (19 Feb. 2007)