As the all-inclusive companion to the kickstarter funded documentary, Showrunners; The Art of Running a TV show gives viewers a chance to capture the tips and tricks that didn’t quite make it into film. The book, featuring anecdotes from Hollywood’s most celebrated showrunners including Joss Whedon (Firefly) and Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), addresses every aspect of a showrunner’s vast responsibilities; from writing to scheduling, financing and beyond.
Those of us who spend our evenings glued to the screen – television or otherwise – typically put little thought into what makes a show both entertaining and logistically possible. We do not consider the long hours, writer’s quarrels, prop disagreements, and budget-happy executives that all come together to influence the creation and outcome of our favorite weekly programs. As viewers and readers come to learn, the Showrunner is essentially the person tasked with making all these parts come together, without going totally insane.
The Showrunner is typically a writer who’s put in years of marathon writing, probably for several shows, and has chosen to continue the climb to the top. I say chosen because many excellent writers will never make this choice. Much like reaching the peak of Everest, showrunning can be exhausting and even downright painful at points. Network limitations often a key point in the frustrations for showrunners like Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who explains that he has not and will likely never “do” a network show. Referencing his highly-successful drama, now in it’s last season Sutter explains that the larger networks often avoid breaking trend to retain higher ratings. He says, “I can take a step back and look at the landscape of what shows are on and the air and once in a while do you have a show that breaks the mould and is doing something original like Lost or unfortunately shows like Fox’s Lone Star. That was an original idea and it went away because the audience did not show up in time.”
In addition to the wealth of literal behind-the-scenes knowledge, Showrunners also focuses on providing lessons and tips for aspiring TV writers. Budding pop culture icon Joss Whedon has plenty to share, including the most important lessons he’s learned along the way. He explains, “I think the philosophy of my room for the writers has always been, ‘fall in love with moments, not moves.” It was the essence of everything, which was that every show needs to have a separate intent. It doesn’t have to be moral. It doesn’t have to be anything but intern; just this one little thing.”
The insight provided in this book, and in the companion documentary, could certainly be an invaluable tool for the aspiring TV writer. For regular viewers, this book could be hit or miss. The typical Netflix binge-watcher (not that there’s anything wrong with that) simply may not be interested in all the gory details of a show’s inner workings. On the other hand, die hard fans looking to soak up all the knowledge they possibly can before attending their next Comic Con panel will feel right at home.
more info: amazon.com