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The creator of "Oz" wants to write for "Frasier"

But Tom Fontana tells EW Online that TV execs think he’s only good for crime and punishment

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Tom Fontana

Wednesday’s episode of “Oz” (HBO, 10 p.m.) ends the show’s third season on an edgy note, with Adebisi working his jaunty hat off to spark a prisonwide race riot. It’s typically hardcore stuff for creator Tom Fontana, who fills each hour with the brutal assaults, murder, and mental torture that network television wouldn’t allow on his last series, “Homicide.” But when asked what other show he’d like to pen, this lauded scribe has a surprisingly sunny answer: “I’d love to write a half-hour ‘Frasier,'” he tells EW Online. “The show is so smart, and the cast is so tremendous. But I’ve never written a half hour, so while it would be fun to try, my guess is it would be an ultimate disaster.”

Fontana says he’d even like to try creating his own sitcom, but “Oz” has given his dark side such a good name that no one believes he could play things strictly for laughs. “When I walk into a room at the networks, the words ‘gritty’ and ‘critically acclaimed’ are on my forehead, and [the executives] can’t see past it,” he says. “‘Oh, there’s Tom! He’s gritty!'”

For now, Fontana’s happy to stick with the one-hour-drama game and is currently producing “The Beat,” a new series about a pair of rookie New York City cops that will be a midseason replacement for UPN. Of course, since he’s on a network he’ll have to cut back on the “Oz”-worthy blood, guts, and nudity, but he’s willing to do that because he feels that “The Beat” won’t suffer from a little taming (”Homicide” sure didn’t) and should earn a bigger budget and a wider audience. Then there’s another motivation: his salary. “Listen,” says Fontana, “I’m a whore. I’ll work anywhere. I’ll spread my legs wherever they want.” What would Frasier think about that.