EW Staff
June 29, 2001 AT 04:00 AM EDT

IT PRO Marg HELGENBERGER

AGE 42 WHY HER? As CSI’s stripper-turned-forensic scientist, Helgenberger proves you can be steely, sexy, and smart even when scraping dried blood samples off the floor. CLOSEST BRUSH WITH CAREER IMMOLATION ”Speaking my mind to a reporter about a Jerry Bruckheimer film I was in a few years ago [Bad Boys] and then needing his approval for CSI [he’s an exec producer]. Thank God he’s a forgiving man.” CAREER LOW ”Having to sit through Species II.” BEST ADVICE ”To relax and let the game come to me.” HEROES ”James Dean, Chrissie Hynde, Gena Rowlands, Edward Hopper, Steve Earle, and Dr. Seuss.” NEXT A few months off before snapping on the prophylactics for CSI season 2.

IT CREATOR Anthony Zuiker

AGE 32 WHY HIM? One day you’re schlepping tourists on a Vegas shuttle, the next you’re kicking Must See TV butt with CBS’ forensics sleuther CSI. Well, it took three years, but the Sin City native, who sold his very first screenplay (1998’s The Runner) has since shot to the top of Hollywood scribes. WHAT HE WANTED TO BE WHEN HE GREW UP ”A toy maker. I still do. This is just a stepping stone.” CAREER LOW A 1998 sit-down with actor Michael Keaton. ”I knew of him, I just hadn’t seen his movies…. So he’s asking me about Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, and I’m like ‘Huh?’ I was dying!” BEST ADVICE ”Nobody in this town knows anything,” from screenwriter William Goldman. That was borne out as ABC, NBC, and Fox execs all rejected the CSI pilot before CBS bit. And thus the name of Zuiker’s company, Dare to Pass: ”If you pass on me, and somebody else picks it up, you’re going to get f — -ed.” NEXT An adaptation of Ralph ”Sonny” Barger’s Hell’s Angel, for director Tony Scott.

IT WRITERS Rob Burnett & Jon Beckerman

AGES 38, 32 WHY THEM? Former head writers for Late Show With David Letterman, Burnett (top) and Beckerman seamlessly segued to prime time as the minds behind NBC’s acclaimed small-town dramedy Ed. Says Beckerman, ”There are big differences between the jobs — this one’s harder.” Adds Burnett: ”The reason is, we don’t have Dave.” BEST ADVICE Burnett: ”My father always told me, ‘Keep your eye on the bagel, not on the hole.’ What that means, I have no idea.” Beckerman: ”My ninth-grade English teacher taught me how to avoid misspelling separate: It contains a rat.” INSPIRATION Burnett: ”I have the interns come in and strip naked. The stuff just flows.” Beckerman: ”While they’re stripping, we play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.” KNEW THEY’D MADE IT WHEN ”We scammed our way into the Playboy Mansion,” says Beckerman. Adds Burnett, ”We went to Hugh Hefner’s 74th and 75th birthdays. We actually hadn’t left in between.” NEXT Season 2 0f Ed.

IT TOUGH-LOVE GURU Dr. Phil

AGE 50 WHY HIM? Dr. Phillip C. McGraw’s quit-yer-damn-moaning approach to self-help has earned him a regular Tuesday slot on The Oprah Winfrey Show, two best-selling books (Life Strategies, Relationship Rescue), and the adoration of millions of needy Americans. CAREER LOW ”When I was practicing psychology, and I realized that I had another 30 years of one patient after another lined up outside my door to whine and bitch for an hour,” says McGraw, who left his practice in 1989 to cofound Courtroom Sciences, Inc., a Dallas-based litigation consulting firm. CAREER HIGH ”When [Life Strategies] hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.” BEST ADVICE ”My dad [psychologist Joe McGraw] told me, ‘Create your own experience. Make a decision and pull the trigger.”’ NEXT More Oprah, and his third book, Self Matters, due in January.

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