Even twenty years ago fans of a television series would generally have no idea who were the creative forces behind their favorite television series. However, with the rise of the internet fans have been able to seek out the writers behind their favorite shows. In a way, showrunners — the executive producers who are in charge of television series — have become rock stars on the internet and convention circuits by fans who adore their shows. The documentary Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show reveals the challenges of what many fans would consider a dream job: being in charge of a popular television series.
Showrunners features interviews with the minds behind your favorite television shows: Kurt Sutter, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Joss Whedon, Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest), Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Janet Tamaro (Rizzoili & Isles), Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory), Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris), and many more. Each speaks his or her mind about the highs and lows (mostly the lows) of being the lead voice behind a television series.
The documentary covers about a dozen series and showrunners, but primarily focuses on Matthew Carnahan, showrunner of House of Lies as he tries to launch the show and Mike Royce, showrunner of Men of a Certain Age (which was canceled after its second season). The documentary focuses on several key issues that showrunners have to deal with during the production of a series, including working with actors, particularly ones who are particular about the writing, the sometimes difficult relationship between showrunners and studio executives, including the hilariously stupid notes they have gotten from executives, and, most of all, ensuring a quality show and great writing within the confines of budget and time. Mostly, the showrunners talk about just how time consuming and difficult it is running a show (although I have no doubt that it’s difficult, the talking heads really go to great lengths to talk about how rough it is that it seems to creep into hyperbole).
In addition, the documentary features a lot of great behind-the-scenes shots of writing staffs working together and of the various studio lots in Los Angeles and New York City. One of the drawbacks though is because there are so many talking heads a lot of the same ground is covered in this 87 minute documentary. I wanted to go more in-depth on a particular series, sort of like the South Park documentary 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park, but as an overall summary of what successful showrunners do this film does the job and should be required viewing for anyone interested in television production.
Rating: Though more of a general overview, Showrunners reveals the men and women who create your favorite televisions shows (7.5/10).