Monday, May 14, 2012
Help Wanted: Showrunners
In their quest to get new ideas and new voices, the networks have favored development with feature writers and actors and pretty much anyone who doesn’t have the stink of “knows how to do this” on them. In fact, writers on existing shows were often discouraged from taking time away from work to develop.
Is it worth it? We’ll see in September. Will the ideas and voices be that fresh? My guess is no. My guess is another reason inexperienced TV writer/creators are sought are because they’re much more willing to take network and studio notes. I’ve been in pilot situations where literally twenty suits are giving notes. You sit around a giant conference table like in DR. STRANGELOVE and get bombarded by mandatory “suggestions” – many of which conflict. Do the people giving those notes have fresh ideas and voices? What do you think?
And then the downside. You obviously can’t put someone in charge of a multi-million dollar production who hasn’t done it before. Yes, there are generally Pod Producers attached (non writing producers – former executives who get cushy production deals), but this only underscores how unnecessary they are since they can't write or direct and that's sorta what's needed to make television shows.
So now you have to orchestrate arranged marriages. How often do they work? Many times the original creator gets trampled under the feet of the experienced showrunner. You’re a chef. You’ve created this delicate soufflé. And now Gordon Ramsey is brought in to run your kitchen.
And for the showrunners themselves – let’s be honest – they sort of resent just being hired guns. And I don’t blame them. The networks weren’t interested in their original ideas. Instead, they're just offered a job. They’re saddled with partners they don’t feel they need, and you can understand if they don’t have a real emotional investment in the project. Should the show be a big hit, all of the articles will center on the creator and the wonderful story of how she was Paula Abdul’s personal shopper until a year ago.
It just seems odd to me that a network would order a show before knowing exactly who is going to be the creative force. Let me amend that – odd that they would order so many shows. One or two? Okay. But this year there are eight or ten. In all genres.
Does the practice pay off? Sure. Sometimes. You can win a big jackpot drawing on an inside straight. But I suspect most big game poker players would tell you that’s not the best strategy.
Hello from Boston, where tonight the M's begin a brief two-game series with the Bosox. Join me and Rick Rizzs for the action on 710 ESPN in Seattle and MLB.COM.