From Wikipedia: "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."