LOS ANGELES — Henry Bromell, a novelist and short-story writer who brought a literary quality to some of the most acclaimed dramatic TV series of the last two decades, including “Homeland," “Northern Exposure" and “Homicide: Life on the Street," died Monday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. He was 65.
He was believed to have had a heart attack, said his longtime friend and agent Peter Benedek.
Bromell spent the last 23 years writing, producing and directing TV dramas noteworthy for their resonant characters and sharp dialogue. He shared an Emmy last year as a writer and executive producer on “Homeland," the Showtime series about a CIA agent who suspects an American war hero is a terrorist-in-waiting.
One reason he was hired on “Homeland" was his personal history: His father had been a CIA station chief in the Middle East in the 1950s. His background also inspired him to write “Little America," a 2001 novel about a son who struggles to ferret out the truth about his father’s life as a spy.
“He was really a wunderkind," veteran writer-producer John Falsey, who co-created “Northern Exposure" and “St. Elsewhere," said of Bromell on Tuesday. “His humor was never broad, always moving. He had a natural ear for dialogue."
“Homeland" was Bromell’s latest credit in a career that developed in association with “The Family Tree," an eminent group of TV “auteurs" who can trace their roots or training to “St. Elsewhere" and another standout show from the early 1980s, “Hill Street Blues." Television historian Robert Thompson has written about the group as the pioneers of a new kind of literary drama that later attracted mainstream popularity with shows such as “The Sopranos."
“This is all coming from a group of people who have been doing this their entire adult lives — aiming ... for this kind of literary drama," Bromell told the Baltimore Sun in 2012, when he also won a Writers’ Guild Award for scripting “The Good Soldier" episode of “Homeland."
His television career began on a fluke in 1990, when Falsey, whom he’d never met, called to thank him for his help getting into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop a dozen years earlier. He asked Bromell to help him write his new show, “Northern Exposure."
“I didn’t even have a television set then," Bromell recalled in a 2001 New York Times interview.