The following analysis of television showrunners and how they operate, for better and for worse, has been making the interweb rounds. It’s a hell of an educational read, and we’re pleased to jump on the bandwagon with important info. (But if you think this TVWriter™ minion’s going to include his name here and get blackballed by all the VIPs who think this is about them, welp, no way, dudes!)
by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Upon finding this essay, any number of showrunners with whom Ihave worked in the past will assume it is a personal attack inthe language of a management lesson. No matter that what followsis a distillation twenty years of experience – and has been inthe works since I ran my first show, The Middleman.
I expect to be excoriated by some who will believe I am writing out of envy,or to avenge some perceived slight, or was just too cowardly to say it to their faces. It takes that level of ego to be a television writer/producer: the conviction that what you have to say matters so much that it is worth not only mastering the tropes of an entire medium, but also the risk that all the intermediaries required to create the finished product will ruin it all with some fatal blend of incomprehension, or incompetence.
For many, the undeniable triumph that is pitching a series idea,having a pilot ordered, successfully producing it, and then having it ordered to series is nothing less than a validation: not only of their voice and talent, but also their Way of DoingThings. This often translates to an intractable adherence to the notion that “my creative process” is so of the essence that all other concerns must be made subordinate lest the delicate alchemy that made success possible be snuffed. This often leads to incompetent and – whether through ignorance or ego – abusive senior management.
I’m not talking about “the lack of experienced showrunners” currently written about in industry publications, but rather that the management culture of television shows as represented by both experienced and novitiate showrunners is beset by a cult of idiosyncrasy overprofessionalism, and tolerance of toxic behavior; all enabled by the exigencies of getting the show on-air, and keeping it thereby any means necessary.
This is exacerbated by there only being two sins for which a showrunner pays with a pink slip: wasting time and squandering money. However, these contingencies are amply prepared for in studio plans and budgets; and an entire army of dedicated professionals stands beneath the showrunner day in and out to ensure neither occurs….