The idea of running a successful television can be incredibly appetizing to most of us. We could let our creativity go wild, work with talented actors and writers, and put together something that can be seen by millions all over. Sounds pretty great.
Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show by Tara Bennett dives into the world of showrunning, covering how the title has changed over the past few years with the rise of social media and heightened storytelling. The book includes interviews with showrunners such as Joss Wheden (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), J.J Abrams (Alias) and many, many more.
It should also be noted that this book is a study guide of sorts to go along with the Showrunners Documentary being released in the U.S. on October 31st.
Bennett takes interviews from numerous showrunners and organizes them incredibly well in the book. Each interviewee gives their own definition of what a showrunner is, which varies depending on who you ask. The common themes with each answer are that a showrunner controls the traffic of the show, acts as a buffer between actors and executives, and has to make a million decisions every day. Basically they’re a juggler keeping the balls of the show in the air and running smoothly.
One of the biggest struggles showrunners face is impatience and lack of understanding from network executives. Everyone wants a long-running show, but sometimes the path to get there isn’t seen eye to eye by those involved. This makes things difficult for showrunners, as network executives are the end-all to be-all and can shut down production at any time for any reason. In this case a showrunner has to keep the show fresh and headed in the right creative direction while appeasing the suits. Juggling at its finest.
The book also gives us a history of how some of the world’s best showrunners got their start. There’s basically a hierarchy most have followed to get where they are today:
Executive Story Editor
Normally this track can take years to accomplish, and it’s not necessarily every writer’s goal to become a showrunner. Some just don’t want that stress or responsibility, but for every showrunner interviewed, they’ve expressed love for the job and the personal satisfaction when things get accomplished.
The book dives into more details of course, and hearing the thoughts and opinions on modern day showrunners is incredibly interesting to anyone who enjoys going farther behind the lens about how a television show works and operates. There’s also an interesting section in the book about how social media has turned showrunners into household names, becoming as well-known as the lead actors in the show they’re running. Shows like Lost, Breaking Bad, and The Wire, have allowed the consumer to dig into shows as the writing has become more in-depth. People have realized that it’s not just the actors and writers who make the show what it is, and that focus has turned to the showrunners.
The book is a fun, easy read that’s full of information from today’s brightest and most creative showrunners. Getting the opportunity to dig deeper into the television show process, from start to finish, is something that anyone with even the slightest interest in television should check out. It gives the reader a deeper appreciation for just how much blood, sweat, and tears go into making a show, and then keeping it on the air. Combine this book with the documentary due out later this month for an all-encompassing understanding that’s as fun and entertaining as your favorite television show.
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