Don’t Kill the Showrunner

” The only thing we enjoy more than making people stars is tearing those stars out of the sky afterward.” Old showbiz saying.


Steven Moffat enrages a lot of people. It’s simple fact. When you take over one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time and replace a beloved showrunner, the change is bound to stir up some feelings no matter what you do. This is made double true when among the changes to the show are issues that lend themselves easily to Internet ranting (read: most things, but most particularly those involving female companions and the like). This is madetriple true when you are the type of showrunner who likes to interact—some would say tease, some would say torture—your fans on said Internets, metaphorically poking them with a long stick and frequently reminding them how often you are going to make them cry.

Steven Moffat stirs up a lot of emotions in people, it’s true. Some people probably prickled at the first mention of his name in this article. It’s just his general presence. But Steven Moffat also deleted his Twitter account recently. And that has a lot more behind it than the man himself, a lot more that I’d like to explore.

In Commentary! The Musical, a memorable extra feature on the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long BlogDVD, Joss Whedon sings “Heart (Broken),” a song of lament from the point of view of the modern showrunner:

A caveman painted on a cave

It was a bison, was a fave

The other cave-people would rave—

They didn’t ask “why”

Why pain a bison if it’s dead

When did you choose the color red

What was the process in your head

He told their story

What came before he didn’t show

We’re not supposed to

Homer’s Odyssey was swell

A bunch of guys that went through hell

He told the tale but didn’t tell

The audience why

He didn’t say “Here’s what it means”

And “here’s a few deleted scenes”

Charybdis tested well with teens

He’s not the story

He’s just the door we open if

Our lives need lifting

The song is, somewhat melodramatically, a tale of loss: Television writers used to live behind a veil of anonymity, those mole people who’d secretly be controlling all the action while the actors looked pretty in front of the camera and the audience. The old ways hold true for some genres, but crashes and burns when talking about shows with a cult following—so, say, any show ever run by Joss Whedon or Steven Moffat.

This shift into a more visible world of television writers has been both gift and curse. The close relationship many fans feel with Whedon, for one, has elevated him from “Creator of Great Shows” to “King of Modern Fandom” in their eyes. But the very Internet-driven fan world that helped create that close relationship is also very new, and the long-term ramifications of it still very untested.

For those of us who consume our media with the passionate, sharply critical, analytical eyes of a fan, the dialogue opened up with the rise of the Internet age (Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, message boards, the ability to watch things belatedly and over and over again through Netflix) has been a gift bestowed upon us from the media heavens; we get to share our experiences with other members of the audience in a way that has never really existed before, and along with that there are more avenues that ever with which to communicate with the people who create those worlds that we so fervently attach ourselves to.

But for those people, the ones who stay up late editing and re-editing the syntax of a supporting character’s dialogue in hopes that it will foreshadow an upcoming event just enough, the relatively new open dialogue of the Information Age offers new and instantaneous ways through which to gauge audience reaction and interact with the people whose eyes ultimately make their shows possible…

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Steven Muffat doesn’t enrage us, but the more public he became the more we thought, “Hey, maybe I really should hate this dood.” We think he did the right thing by backing off the self-aggrandizement because even if that – self-aggrandizement – isn’t what he intended, that’s how it looked.

And what’s the point of aggrandizing yourself if it just makes you, you know, look bad?

Anyway, great article. Worth the click and the complete read.

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